The Marvelous Four on the Auction Block

Four remarkable lots that impressed bidders in recent auctions are featured in this month’s Look Section, including a flawless diamond ring, a likely singular timepiece, a masterpiece of splashed-ink art and six of Messi’s football jerseys.

Fancy In Pink: Flawless diamond rings supreme

The largest fancy intense pink internally flawless diamond ever to appear at auction set pulses racing at Christie’s in Hong Kong. ‘The Pink Supreme’ took centre stage at a series of sales spanning more than 110 lots of magnificent jewels. While an array of coloured and colourless diamonds and gemstones and other superb creations emanating from prestigious jewellery houses came under the hammer, it was this 15.48-carat fancy intense pink cushion brilliant-cut diamond ring which shone the brightest. It fetched HK$83.87 million (US$10.8 million), representing a price per carat of HK$5.41 million (US$700,000).

The Pink Supreme diamond is considered a true rarity. The phenomenal and unparalleled beauty, size, internally flawless grading and splendid craftsmanship of this stone have combined to produce a bejewelled masterpiece coveted by collectors.

Vickie Sek, Chairman of Jewellery at Christie’s Asia Pacific, said: “We were truly delighted to showcase a diverse selection of magnificent jewels at our Hong Kong 2023 Autumn Sales, and the superb result realised for The Pink Supreme is a testament to the unwavering market demand for this category.”

One To Watch: Likely singular timepiece clocks a fortune

A previously unknown and possibly unique Patek Philippe ref. 3974 Grand Complications wristwatch made a timely appearance at Phillips auction house in Hong Kong, generating much enthusiasm among watch admirers. Eventually selling for HK$14 million (US$1.8 million), the timepiece was part of a successful watch auction in which a total of 208 lots were sold, reaching an overall value of HK$181.7 million.

This Patek Phillippe ref. 3974 minute repeater perpetual calendar watch in platinum (possibly manufactured in or around the year 2001) went to a bidder for well above the pre-sale low-end estimate. Indeed, the auction showed strong sales performances for many of the lots and attracted more than 1,700 collectors participating from 61 countries and regions.

Thomas Perazzi, Phillips’ Deputy Chairman and Head of Watches in Asia, said: “The top 10 lots beautifully demonstrate how varied the market is with the Patek Philippe ref. 3974 in platinum flying way above its pre-sale estimate, while a Rolex ‘Stelline’ ref. 6062 in yellow gold achieved 40% more than its previous sold price at auction, and a number of independents established strong results.”

Autumn Glow: Yosemite colours make a splash

Works by Zhang Daqian are eagerly awaited by the auction community and when a masterpiece of splashed-ink art made its way onto the block in Hong Kong, the final price of HK$199.37 million (US$25.6 million) did not disappoint. Indeed, such was the anticipation in the runup to the sale of Autumn Mountains in Twilight that Sotheby’s bestowed upon it the highest estimate ever for a splashed-ink-and-colour landscape by the artist.

Born in Sichuan in 1899, Zhang had turned to bold abstract artistic representations in the later part of his career when his eyesight began to falter. The roving and prolific Chinese artist was inspired to paint Autumn Mountains in Twilight after a visit to Yosemite National Park in California during the summer of 1967, and in this work, his mastery of the medium is seen to reach new heights.

It was a sentimental journey as his brother had stopped at the park years previously and a treasured photograph he had been given from this visit had been lost in a fire. The sheer magnificence of the sunset views of Half Dome or El Capitan stirred Zhang’s creative juices, and returning to his home in Brazil he set to work. The golden hues of the cliffs and valleys cover almost the entire canvas.

Messi Magic: Six shirts score the lot

Half a dozen football jerseys worn by Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi during the 2022 World Cup have been auctioned for an incredible US$7.8 million. Held by Sotheby’s in New York, the sale sparked intense interest from lovers of sporting memorabilia and the final price was the highest achieved by a sports item at auction last year. It also surpassed the previous record for a Messi collectible – a shirt worn at the 2017 El Clásico between Real Madrid and Barcelona that went for $450,000 in 2022.

Messi wore the six World Cup shirts during the first half of the final, semi-final, quarter-final, round of 16 and two of the group stage matches at the Qatar tournament, where the spotlight was trained upon him throughout. His country’s victory in the epic final with France merely cemented a widely considered reputation that he is the greatest footballer of all time.

“These historic shirts are not only a tangible reminder of one of the most important moments in the history of sports, but are principally connected to the pinnacle moment in the career of the most decorated football player in history,” said Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s Head of Modern Collectibles.

Encore Values: Get front and centre for the Hong Kong Arts Festival, shaper of the cultural landscape

The Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF) has been a cornerstone of the city’s cultural scene for over half a century. Celebrating its 52nd edition this year, it continues to captivate audiences with diverse and world-class performances. The month-long cultural feast will see more than 1,400 outstanding international and local artists delivering over 150 performances of music, theatre, dance, opera and more. Additionally, Festival Plus as well as outreach and education events account for another 350 engaging arts activities.

The festival proper begins with the classics, as the Bavarian State Opera performs Richard Strauss’s 1912 opera Ariadne auf Naxos on 22 February, and closes on 22 March with a modern ballet, A Sigh of Love, devised by a Sino- French creative team for the Shanghai Ballet. As Kingman Lo, Vice-Chairman of the Hong Kong Arts Festival Society, says: “The 52nd edition of the HKAF will continue our legacy of offering a broad spectrum of the world’s best artists and performances, enticing the Hong Kong audience with an irresistible blend of timeless classics and groundbreaking new works.”

One of the key highlights of this year’s festival is the appearance of five-time Grammy Award- winner Angelique Kidjo. Over the course of a remarkable career spanning more than 40 years, the powerhouse diva has introduced the world to the essence of Africa. For her outstanding musical accomplishments and efforts, she was most recently granted the Polar Music Prize. With the promise of an evening filled with joyful music and the beautiful sounds of the African diaspora, Kidjo’s Mother Nature tour is now making its way to Hong Kong.

HKAF Executive Director Flora Yu also underscores the importance of showcasing contemporary pieces at the annual festival. “We make it our mission to introduce to Hong Kong audiences a fascinating line-up of daring and innovative new works which hold the promise of becoming canonical works of tomorrow,” she says. “In addition, we continue to present a variety of brilliant local works featuring some of the best Hong Kong artists.”

By putting the future on the canvas of the past, Van Gogh in Me is an immersive audio-visual experience that significantly pushes the limits of the conventional concert experience. Van Gogh and Klimt’s brushstrokes are transformed into a state-of-the-art performance experience by the Netherlands Chamber Choir’s resonant purity of sounds and emotions combined with real-time technology.

Back at Full Volume

This year’s festival marks a return to form after several lean cultural years that left Hong Kong arts enthusiasts starved of live international performances. “We are pleased to be able to present our 52nd Festival on a large scale after emerging from a three-year pandemic and staging the previous 51st Festival in semi-recovery mode,” notes Yu. This ramp-up is reflected in the HKAF’s overall budget which is anticipated to be about HK$150 million in the 2023-2024 financial year.

The festival has historically relied heavily on fundraising, and its goal for 2024 is that contributions and pledges from institutional and individual donors and benevolent foundations will account for about 48% of its total revenue. The Hong Kong Jockey Club, for example, has consistently supported the event since its inception. A further 25% of funds will come from the box office, while a recurring subvention of HK$18.89 million from the Hong Kong Government equates to about 12% of the yearly revenue. A possible additional government grant to match donations and sponsorship, and other revenue streams will comprise the remaining 15%.

Lasting Legacy

The Hong Kong Arts Festival was founded in 1973 with the aim of showcasing exceptional artistic talent from around the world while nurturing local creativity. Over the years, it has become one of Asia’s premier arts events, consistently attracting renowned international artists and troupes and earning a reputation for excellence.

By bringing together artists from diverse cultures and genres, the festival has fostered a vibrant exchange of ideas and artistic collaborations. It has encouraged local artists to push boundaries and experiment with new forms of expression, leading to the emergence of unique and innovative performances. Moreover, the festival’s influence extends beyond its annual program to actively engage with the community. Through educational initiatives, workshops and masterclasses, it nurtures the next generation of artists and cultivates an appreciation for the arts among students and the general public. These efforts have contributed to the growth of Hong Kong’s artistic ecosystem and the development of a discerning audience.

Expanded Reach

Running alongside the main performances is the Festival Plus program that aims to enrich the experience of culture buffs from all walks of life. A diverse range of activities like talks, masterclasses and meet-the-artist sessions in performance venues and community locations boosts audience engagement. Highlights this year include a backstage tour of the Ariadne auf Naxos production as well as a fun-filled exhibition titled Unboxing Chinese Opera. In addition, there are outreach events and education programmes targeted at students to foster the younger generation’s interest in, and knowledge of, the arts.

Founded in 1992, the Young Friends of the Hong Kong Arts Festival initiative offers a variety of seminars, lectures and backstage visits to full-time students up to the age of 25, reaching a remarkable 820,000 budding arts lovers thus far. Members of Young Friends can experience two chosen performances and rehearsals during the festival.

In an effort to make the arts more accessible, the HKAF has expanded its presence across multiple venues throughout Hong Kong. Beyond the traditional theatre spaces, performances are held in parks, community centres and heritage sites. This approach aims to bring the arts closer to the public, breaking down barriers and reaching audiences who may not typically attend formal concerts or plays.

Embracing the Future

Organisers are focused on ensuring HKAF’s continued relevance and accessibility to the public by embracing new technologies and formats. Key initiatives include expanding the festival’s digital presence and incorporating digital elements like virtual reality experiences and immersive installations into its programming. Live streaming, on-demand performances and interactive online platforms enable individuals who may be unable to attend in person or prefer the convenience of experiencing the arts from their own homes to engage with the festival offerings.

With a storied past and a vision for the future, the Hong Kong Arts Festival continues to shape the artistic landscape of Hong Kong. As the curtain rises on the 52nd edition, it remains an indispensable platform for artistic expression and cultural exchange, exciting audiences and inspiring generations to come.

Discover the most incredible auction items that broke records with their jaw-dropping prices 

Four items that particularly stood out at this season’s auctions include an 11.28-carat fancy vivid blue diamond ring, a zitan ‘dragon’ compound cabinet, Sam Josefowitz’s masterpiece and Francois-Xavier Lalanne’s art. See how each attracted ground-breaking bids.

Brilliant Blue

Infinitely irresistible diamond ring

A superb 11.28-carat radiant-cut fancy vivid blue diamond set the auction house buzzing with its dazzling elegance, notching up one of the highest prices ever achieved for a diamond in Asia. The prized lot at Sotheby’s Hong Kong 50th Anniversary Autumn Sales fetched HK$198.2 million (US$25.3 million), with the house securing the three best-ever sales prices in Asia for blue diamonds – this one coming in third.

Praise for The Infinite Blue diamond, mounted in a diamond ring with brilliant-cut white and pink-tinged diamonds, was effusive, with Wenhao Yu, Chairman of Jewellery and Watches at Sotheby’s Asia, commenting: “[Its] beautiful blue hue, elegant cut and unique physical properties make it one of the most irresistible diamonds to appear on the market. It’s been an honour to have been entrusted with the opportunity to offer a diamond of such breathtaking beauty, its price attesting to the resilient demand for top-quality coloured diamonds amongst global collectors.”

Undoubtedly, part of the appeal of this magnificent diamond stems from its rarity, with less than 0.1% of diamonds sourced exhibiting a high-grade blue.

Household of the Blue Dragon

Emperor’s cabinet commands sky-high price

A massive zitan ‘dragon’ compound cabinet likely used by the Kangxi Emperor (1654-1722) attracted a dramatic two- way bidding war between a collector on the phone and an admiring fan at Sotheby’s auction house in Hong Kong. This superb example of early Imperial Qing furniture, which stands at a massive 3.7 metres high, finally went for HK$54.6 million (US$7 million).

The cabinet is infused with imagery carved into the silky zitan wood that adds to its allure. Dragons soar through the clouds in a display of symbolism that had deep meaning at the time, signifying imperial presence and power. Such is the quality of the workmanship displayed on the cabinet that only the most skilled artisans from one of the palace workshops under the command of the emperor’s household would have been tasked with the job.

Another reason for the impressive price – and the ferocious bidding – is that this sale represents the first time since at least the early 1940s that all components of the cabinet have been sold as one unit. The top left- and right-hand compartments had earlier been separated from the main body of this majestic piece and possibly passed inside the members of the same French family.

Quiet Reverie

Fauvist sensual embrace woos collectors

A strikingly colourful masterpiece from the art collection of the late tycoon Sam Josefowitz caught the eye at Christie’s auction house in London. Following frenzied bidding, the final price of Kees van Dongen’s La Quiétude was inflated to an astonishing £10.78 million (HK$102.3 million). This represented over twice the higher end of the estimate, such was the interest amongst enthralled onlookers in this oil on canvas laid down in 1918.

La Quiétude hit the block during Christie’s evening sales of 20th and 21st-century art in London, part of contemporary art fair Frieze Week. Typical of the Dutch-French artist’s Fauvist use of colour, the work was influenced by a 1913 visit to Egypt, where Van Dongen travelled down the Nile to Luxor and was struck by a sculpture of Ramesses II. Orientalism was in vogue, and the imagery of curvaceous bodies locked in perfect harmony draws on the erotism evoked in the Western mind at this time by the culture and civilisation of North Africa and the Middle East.

Dongen developed a great admiration for fashion designer Paul Poiret, who acquired La Quiétude direclty from Dongen.

Rare Beast

Lalanne sculpture smashes records

François-Xavier Lalanne’s masterpiece, Rhinocrétaire I, broke the world auction record for the artist at a recent sale by Christie’s in Paris. The eventual price of the almost life-size rhino sculpture-cum-functional furniture rose to €18.3 million (about HK$151 million), doubling the previous sum paid for a work by the artist.

François-Xavier Lalanne first exhibited this 1964 sculptural work in the presence of his partner and fellow artist, Claude Lalanne, at an exhibition called Zoophites. Made of patinated brass and bronze, zinc, brass, silvered brass, leather and natural wax, Rhinocrétaire I was considered by many as the standout item on display. Part of its charm is a homage to the fondness in 18th-century France for discreet drawers and hiding places. For instance, the beast’s hand-welded brass flanks contain a hidden safe as well as an illuminated desk.

Such was the enormity of the sale that the auctioneer, Cécile Verdier, Chairman of Christie’s France, commented: “A historic moment in Paris for this unique piece, which establishes François- Xavier Lalanne as one of the great sculptors of the second half of the 20th century.”

Strokes Of Genius: 50 years after his passing, the art world muses on Picasso’s magic and missteps

The man, the myth, the misogynist – just three of the few words that best describe Pablo Picasso, one of the world’s most celebrated artists of modern times. The many sides of his life and work come under the spotlight this year as institutions around the globe mark the 50th anniversary of the Spanish artist’s death.

Given that he was originally thought to have stolen the Mona Lisa, it’s safe to assume that the co-founder of Cubism endured early troughs among the peaks of his path to fame. Improbable though it may sound, Picasso was a prime suspect when Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece vanished from the Louvre in 1911. The picture was later found to have been stolen by a former museum employee, but not before Picasso was cast in a doubtful light. It was a low point in what would become a dazzling, high-profile career.

Ever prolific, Picasso created tens of thousands of works of art, experimented with a bewildering variety of styles, and never stopped innovating. His legacy is still exciting and inspiring to artists and art enthusiasts everywhere, and tributes abound half a century after his passing.

The governments of Spain and France, where he spent most of his adult life, have partnered for Célébration Picasso 1973-2023, which embraces some 50 exhibitions and events in Europe and North America. Hong Kong joined in the remembrance by showing a glistening selection of his masterpieces in an intriguing medium.

Sotheby’s, which has championed some of the happenings in this timely retrospective of his work and life, highlights Picasso’s formidable influence as the resident artist of the 20th century – an idiosyncratic eye refracting the turbulence, traumas, dreams and visions of his times into stunning visual statements that challenged convention and still pulsate with energy today.

Naturally, the Musée National Picasso-Paris is central to the year-long salute; it has already held one tribute show masterminded by British designer Paul Smith, while another from French conceptual artist Sophie Calle begins in October. It also opens a Centre for Picasso Studies in the prestigious and newly renovated quarters of Hôtel de Rohan, a short walk from the museum’s equally storied building in the Marais district. This unique resource for the artist and his subjects combines documentation, a library and archives around a research centre and a digital gateway.

Period pieces

When Picasso passed away in 1973, at the age of 91, it was discovered that he kept pieces from all his periods in his 78-year oeuvre. It took seven years to complete an inventory of his works in all media, and many held by his family landed in the hands of the French authorities as payment for inheritance taxes. It was this initial body of work that enabled the Musée National Picasso-Paris to open its doors nearly 40 years ago.

Olivier Widmaier Picasso, the artist’s grandson, gathered exclusive testimonies, historical records and personal photos from this time to make a new documentary entitled Picasso, The Legacy. Sponsored by Sotheby’s, it is an intimate exposure of the man and the splendour of his artistry.

Bohemian romance

Another way to glean more about the artist’s life is through ‘Picasso’s Montmartre with Le Meurice, Celebrating 50 Years’, an experience that combines an overnight stay at the grand hotel in Paris with a guided walking tour that propels art enthusiasts back in time to the hedonistic, bohemian era of the Belle Époque. When Pablo Picasso married Russian ballerina and early muse Olga Khokhlova in 1918, the wedding reception was held at the hotel and it was the season’s biggest affair.

Le Meurice’s expert guide succeeds in opening minds to the romance and derring-do of the youthful non-conformist in the early 1900s. When he first arrived in Paris, Picasso was regarded with suspicion as a foreigner and watched by the French police for his supposed anarchist leanings. During the walk, anecdotes are shared and landmarks are highlighted while tracing his ootsteps through the cobblestone alleyways of Montmartre where he once lived and painted.

Changing with the ages

More than five decades later, in 1961, Picasso married Jacqueline Roque, the face that launched more than 400 portraits completed in the dozen years before his death. Museum Casa Natal Picasso in Málaga, Spain – the artist’s hometown – stages The Ages of Pablo, a chronological and stylistic overview of works from his formative years to the time spent with his second wife.

Picasso is revealed through his paintings, sketches, sculptures, ceramics and photographs, all of which have enduring value. Demonstrating his dynamic ability to convey life and emotion, the exhibition is divided into eight sections corresponding to the major phases of his art, including ‘Blue and Pink’, ‘Cubism’, ‘Classicism’, ‘Surrealism’, ‘Wartime’ and ‘The Joy of Living’.

Glass act

Here at home, Hong Kongers were able to join the momentous commemoration as a summer exhibition, Pablo Picasso: Paintings in Glass, threw light on some of his most-known painterly compositions. A collaboration between the University Museum and Art Gallery of the University of Hong Kong and the French May Arts Festival, it paid tribute not only to the iconic artist but also to the art form of gemmail.

A type of stained-glass mosaic developed by French painter Jean Crotti and perfected in the workshop of Roger Malherbe-Navarre, gemmail involves the expert assembly and melting of meticulously chosen pieces of glass. When Picasso first witnessed the gemmistes’ endeavour in 1954, he exclaimed, “A new art is born!” Enthused, he proceeded to layer shards of glass into graphical representations of more than 50 of his existing paintings.

The 50th anniversary of Picasso’s passing is, above all, a tremendous opportunity to honour his creative legacy while also challenging key events in his life, particularly his relationships with women who became his muses and lovers. “People were happy to be consumed by him,” his daughter Paloma Picasso, the jewellery designer, has said. “They thought it was a privilege. If you get too close to the Sun, it burns you. But the Sun can’t help being the Sun.” As evidenced by many of his life documentations, Picasso cared primarily for his creations, but what creations they were!

Photos: University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong

Discover the most incredible auction items that broke records with their jaw-dropping prices

From a portrait painting that was discovered around the time of the painter’s death to a magnificent ruby that was mined from Mozambique last year, many highly valuable items were auctioned off. The four items that particularly stood out at this season’s auctions include the 55.22-carat Estrela de Fura, Gustave Klimt’s Dame mit Fächer, Tipu Sultan’s bedchamber sword and Antonio Canova’s Bust of Helen. Get to know how each attracted ground-breaking bids for being a unique masterpiece.

Red Light

Huge Mozambique ruby outshines all

A magnificent ruby unearthed in Mozambique last year has surpassed the world record for its type of precious stone – or indeed any coloured gem – sold at auction. The 55.22-carat Estrela de Fura, the largest gem-quality ruby in existence, stirred up frenzied interest from collectors ahead of its highly anticipated appearance at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels auction in New York. The eventual selling price reached an astonishing US$34.8 million, surpassing the previous record of US$30.3 million held by Sunrise Ruby, a 25.59-carat Burmese stone auctioned in 2015.

Discovered as a 101-carat rough, Estrela de Fura was cut and faceted by a team of artisans who transformed it into a beautiful cushion-shaped ruby of outstanding clarity and vivid red hue. Rich in chromium, it radiates a fiery red fluorescence when exposed to ultraviolet light. Since traditionally Myanmar (Burma) has been the birthplace of spectacular rubies, the Swiss Gemmological Institute singled it out for particular praise. It stated: “A natural ruby from Mozambique of this size and quality can be considered very rare and thus an exceptional treasure of nature.”

Lady Luck

Hong Konger clinches Klimt’s final portrait

An amazing bidding war during Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary Evening Auction in London for a work of art found at the time of the artist’s death has resulted in a new European record. The painting by Gustave Klimt, entitled Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan), set the auction house abuzz and a four-way battle for the masterpiece ensued, pushing up the prized lot to £85.3 million (HK$850.5 million). The triumphant bid – by a Hong Kong collector – also achieved a record price for the artist and the second highest ever paid for a portrait at auction.

Klimt’s female portraits have taken their place among the iconic images of modern art. Lady with a Fan dates from 1917-18 and represented a new approach to colour and form for the Austrian, combining rich patterns and oriental motifs with the delicate and luminous touch of an artist at the height of his powers. Prior to this final portrait – Klimt died in 1918 – he had earned a reputation for his erotic representations of women.

“Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) is an absolute testament to Klimt’s artistic genius,” said Helena Newman, Auctioneer and Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe.

Prize of the Tiger

Sultan’s sword slashes sale estimate

A bedchamber sword that belonged to Tipu Sultan, the ‘Tiger of Mysore’, has slashed its way into the record books at Bonhams, selling for a whopping £14 million (HK$142.45 million) after ferocious bidding. This is the highest price achieved at auction by an Islamic and Indian object and the best ever for a sword. It also represented a huge markup on the estimate of up to £2 million.

The masterpiece of late 18th-century Indian manufacture was part of Bonhams’ Islamic and Indian Art sale in London. Dubbed ‘The Bedchamber Sword’, it has huge historical significance as an emblem of the Anglo-Mysore Wars (1767- 1799). Tipu Sultan – the Muslim ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in south India – was long a thorn in the side of the British East India Company. After he was killed during the siege of his stronghold, Seringapatam, in 1799, the sword was discovered in his private apartments and became symbolic of the transfer of power. An English inscription on the blade explains how it was found and presented to the leader of the conquering Company army, Major-General David Baird.

Immortal Beauty

Helen of Troy bust wows bidders

A magnificent marble bust emanating from Greek mythology has gone for £3.55 million (HK$36 million) at auction. Sold during Christie’s Old Masters sale in London, Bust of Helen attracted fierce bidding. Carved by Antonio Canova in Venice from 1816-17, the beautiful head of Helen of Troy was on the auction block for the first time in its history.

Antonio Canova (1757-1822) is deemed a titan of neo-classical sculpture, and his marble carving of Helen is a classic example of his ability to portray exquisite beauty with remarkable realism. The bust was gifted to British aristocrat Robert Castlereagh in recognition of his efforts to secure the return of works of art to Italy after the Napoleonic Wars, imbuing the piece with added historical significance. When Byron gazed at the smooth white surface of Canova’s first Bust of Helen, created some five years previously, he was inspired to write a poem ending in the line, “Behold the Helen of the Heart!”

Donald Johnston, Christie’s International Head of Sculpture, noted: “There has been increased interest in neo-classical marbles over the last five to eight years.”

Palace of Year: One year in, the Hong Kong Palace Museum has forged its own identity as a world-class cultural landmark

Enchanting and enriching 1.3 million visitors in its first year, Hong Kong Palace Museum is an unmissable addition to the Kowloon cityscape. From afar, the grandeur of its distinguished façade draws the eye. Inside its breathtaking space, 12 outstanding exhibitions have held court in as many months, each displaying a wealth of multimedia components, an innovative approach to curating, and a distinctive cultural perspective.

Also Read: Colour Harmony: Andrew Yuen’s Evolution From Boyhood Treasure Hunter To Guardian Of Culture

art and culture

On the occasion of its first anniversary, the HKPM is well into its stride and looking confidently to the future. Since it opened its doors to the public on 3 July 2022, the museum has cultivated strong partnerships in the areas of academic and cultural exchange, in addition to showcasing some of the finest artefacts from its namesake in Beijing and other significant cultural institutions around the globe. Its presence has strengthened the dialogue between world civilisations and Hong Kong’s status as an East-meets-West cultural hub.

art and culture

We are delighted to celebrate this important milestone. In the past year, the museum has brought moments of delight and amazement to the viewing public. We would like to express our deep gratitude to the Palace Museum for loaning such precious objects for display in Hong Kong, and to our donours and patrons for their generous donations and support. Kudos must go to our curatorial and operational teams for their professionalism and dedication. The museum has been empowered by the overwhelming support of the general public and visitors from around the world,” says Winnie Tam Wan-chi, Chairman of the Hong Kong Palace Museum Board. “We vow to continue to present exceptional exhibitions and programmes at the HKPM with the aim of promoting Chinese culture to a global audience, in accordance with the National 14th Five-Year Plan to develop Hong Kong into an East-meets-West centre for international cultural exchange.”

art and culture

Beijing Assistance

The Palace Museum in Beijing, which houses an immense collection of classical Chinese art and artefacts, and the West Kowloon Cultural District joined hands to create the Hong Kong Palace Museum in 2015-16. The cooperation was announced in December 2016 and billed as a gift from the central government to mark the upcoming 20th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China.

As a result of the partnership, the Beijing museum lends items to the Hong Kong museum for both long- and short-term exhibitions. For those counting, a total of 914 items from the former’s 1.86-million-strong collection were secured for the HKPM’s inaugural shows.

The loan is the biggest granted by the Beijing institution since its founding in 1925 and features pottery, jade, bronze, costumes, jewellery, paintings, calligraphy and other national treasures – the majority showing in Hong Kong for the first time. The most priceless pieces appear for three months before being returned home to rest in accordance with established exhibition practice.
Hong Kong Exclusive

art and culture

Despite the connection between the two organisations, the Hong Kong museum has forged its own identity. The HKPM team arranges loans from other esteemed institutions besides the Palace Museum. Upon its opening in July last year – one day later than planned due to a typhoon – more than 100 works borrowed from other museums and institutions in Hong Kong, as well as 13 pieces on loan from the Musée du Louvre in Paris, were invitingly in situ.

Multimedia creations from six local contemporary artists were also presented in its first exhibition, and ongoing efforts have been made to attract young people and foster an understanding of Chinese culture on a global scale.

The HKPM’s 84,000 square feet of exhibition space are spread across nine galleries over the seven-storey building designed by local architect Rocco Yim. Each gallery has a different topic, such as life, architecture, design, or art in the Forbidden City, where its Beijing counterpart is housed.

hong kong palace museum

Now Showing

In the fifth three-month rotation of treasures on loan from the Palace Museum, 51 splendid works will be exhibited in Galleries 1, 2 and 5 until September 2023. Most pieces in this impressive display have not been seen in Hong Kong before and they aptly mark the HKPM’s first-anniversary milestone. They include two Grade One national treasures: a Ming-dynasty ewer resembling a pine tree and a Qing-dynasty brush pot shaped like a Chinese cabbage by renowned bamboo carvers Pu Cheng and Feng Xijue respectively. These extraordinary works headline the must-see show ‘The Quest for Originality: Contemporary Design and Traditional Craft in Dialogue’ in Gallery 5.

A recently acquired scene from The Grand Imperial Wedding of the Guangxu Emperor called “Presenting the Empress’s Investiture Book and Seal at the Hall of Union” is one of the highlights of ‘Entering the Forbidden City: Collection, Architecture and Heritage’, the presentation in Gallery 1. It is joined by the only surviving gold seal of an empress in the Palace Museum collection.

hong kong palace museum

In Gallery 2, ‘From Dawn to Dusk: Life in the Forbidden City’ includes “The Maze”, a print from the Twenty Views of European-style Mansions in the Garden of Perfect Brightness series that showcases the magnificent scenery at Yuanmingyuan Park (the Old Summer Palace). This set of Qing-dynasty prints of the famed imperial garden reflects the integration of European and Chinese painting styles and landscaping features at the time.

A Gift that Keeps on Giving

A portion of China’s imperial treasures is housed at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, having been removed from the mainland during the civil war in the 1940s. The HKPM has been looking into potential collaborations with the Taiwan museum, but due to the latter’s rigorous policies regarding the loan of artworks and artefacts abroad, there are presently no plans to share collections.

However, for the recently minted Director of the HKPM Board, Andrew Yuen, introducing Chinese arts and culture to a wider audience fits his broader vision. “My hope for the Hong Kong Palace Museum still is to be the bridge between the other two ‘Palace-tinians’, between China and Taiwan,” he says.

hong kong palace museum

Alluding to the museum’s genesis as an anniversary present to Hong Kong, Yuen adds: “I hope that Hong Kongers can make time to appreciate our rich Chinese culture. After all, the HKPM is built as a gift for us here in Hong Kong, so we should treasure it and feel special about having such a venue.

“From the moment you step foot in the museum, you will feel its grandeur and importance. This is really one of a kind. The plan, after all, is not to be a branch of the one in Beijing. The Hong Kong Palace Museum is really distinct from its namesake and we plan to keep it that way.”

Ultimately, the Hong Kong Palace Museum is a public venue that aims to incorporate art into everyday life rather than only being a place for those who study art and culture. It goes beyond.

Click here to visit the museum.

Top-selling collectibles: The hottest auction highlights of this spring

Many valuable articles were auctioned during the recent Spring auctions and though every single object was unique in its own way, four items certainly stood out and impressed the bidders the most, thus achieving jaw-dropping hammer prices. Check out the latest roundup of auction lots that made history and the interesting stories associated with each of them.

Flawless Fancy

3 rings hold collectors in spell

spring auctions

A trio of flawless pear-shaped coloured diamonds fetched a combined total of HK$132 million (US$17 million) at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels Spring Auction. Dazzling at the centre of three exquisite rings, they captivated the audience and ignited fervent bidding for more than 15 minutes.

The sale was led by a breathtaking 4.83-carat fancy vivid blue internally flawless diamond ring, for which an anonymous bidder paid an astonishing US$8.84 million. This extraordinary natural blue diamond is considered a symbol of wisdom, truth and devotion, and its exceptional rarity and vivid blue hue place it in a league of its own. The internally flawless designation emphasises the stone’s remarkable clarity and further enhanced its allure to excited bidders.

Besides this triumvirate of spellbinding coloured diamonds, Vickie Sek, Chairman of Jewellery at Christie’s Asia Pacific, was thrilled by the auction’s overall success. “Our Magnificent Jewels sale received an excellent response from collectors for the diverse selection of exquisite colourless and coloured diamonds and gemstones presented, with almost half of these lots selling above their high estimates,” she said.

Dragon High

Qianlong moonflask shines at auction

spring auctions

An extremely rare Qianlong moonflask was the highlight of Christie’s ‘The Imperial Palette – Three Qianlong Treasures’ auction held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Bidders were impressed by this extraordinary Chinese craftsmanship such that the final sale price topped HK$108 million (US$13.8 million).

Marco Almeida, Head of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art at Christie’s Asia Pacific, expressed his enthusiasm for the fine porcelain collectible: “This magnificent and very rare Qianlong doucai moonflask embodies the superb artistry and craftsmanship of the Qianlong period [1736-1795]. The significant historical and cultural importance, rarity and outstanding quality of this work of art make it a true gem for collectors and enthusiasts alike.”

The circular body of the imposing flask is finely pencilled and enamelled on each side in iron-red, yellow, aubergine and shades of green. A green five-clawed dragon emerges from waves to confront an ascending dragon in iron-red amid cloud-scrolls and flames. The large rising dragon symbolises the Qianlong Emperor, while the smaller serpent represents the heir apparent.

Emperor’s Gift

Puyi wristwatch clocks world record

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A watch of huge historical significance sparked frenzied bidding at a recent Phillips auction in Hong Kong. The Patek Philippe timepiece is the former property of the last Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, Aisin-Gioro Puyi, and sold for HK$48.85 million (US$6.26 million).

The sale of this rare Patek in platinum with moon phases, triple-date calendar and silvered dial had been much anticipated in the watch-buying community. Part of The Imperial Patek Philippe Sale, the wristwatch was subject to a bidding war by at least six collectors and was claimed after a considerable mark-up of HK$9 million on the final nod. The price is a record for the Ref. 69 Quiantieme Lune, as well as the highest achieved by a watch previously owned by an emperor.

The simple, clean silhouette and large unsigned crown express the aesthetics of Bauhaus and understated functionality, while the rose-gold ring, silvered dial and enamel Arabic numerals in a ‘roulette’ configuration underscore a supreme elegance. Purchased in 1937, the watch was kept in its original untouched condition and has a rich patina consistent with its age.

Le Mans Magic

Awesome Aston accelerates off auction block

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A 2007 Aston Martin racing car has sold for 2.23 million euros (US$2.4 million) at an auction held by RM Sotheby’s. The DBR9 GT1 was one of 24 sports competition cars that lined up for the Le Mans Centenary sale.

First purchased by Gigawave Motorsport team founder Henry Barczynski, the car is thought to be one of just 18 DBR9 chassis constructed by Prodrive between 2005 and 2008. It subsequently had just two other owners, while among the professionals who have sat in the driving seat are Stefan Mücke, Darren Turner, Peter Kox and Tomáš Enge.

The Aston Martin notched up third-place finishes in both the 2008 Silverstone Tourist Trophy and 2008 24 Hours of Spa. Further success was achieved at the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it was third in the GT1 class and 22nd overall. The following year it secured four podium finishes in the FIA GT1 World Championship, winning in Beijing.

The successful bidder also received three spare sets of wheels, as well as the original Pectel/Pi electronics and all relevant operating and computer software materials.

Record-breaking bids: Auction items that fetched the highest figures

Fame and rareness are two of the repeating reasons for some items to fetch many millions at auction houses because these factors add significant value to the pieces. Four such creations that wowed ardent collectors recently include a rare and high-quality green jade bangle, a mystical animal sculpture by François-Xavier Lalanne, a renowned painting by Marsden Hartley and a vintage Chrysler car.

Bangle FLAME

One-of-a-kind jadeite bangle shines

A magnificent bangle carved from full green jadeite was sold for HK$60 million by Poly Auction recently. Wowing bidders at the Magnificent Jewels and Important Watches Sale in Hong Kong, the cylindrical jewel represented a new high for the jadeite bangle category.

Encircling the wrist, the deep green hue of this beautiful gemstone is reminiscent of clear water, highlighting nobility and elegance. Jadeite is a natural mineral, and finding a whole piece of high-quality green jade is incredibly challenging. This particular bangle features precious old pit jadeite and the intricate natural patterns inside the jade exude a unique and primitive beauty. For many jadeite collectors, owning a full green, high-quality jadeite bangle is undoubtedly a dream coming true.

According to Fung Chiang, Head of Magnificent Jewels and Important Watches at Poly Auction Hong Kong, the headline lot is one of a kind in the market. “This extraordinary result solidifies its superior market position, reaffirming the timeless collection value and impeccable charms of jadeite,” he says. Total sales at the auction fetched nearly HK$108 million.

Also Read: All About Jadeite: A Symbol of Wealth and Status

Animal MAGIC

Surreal animal figure woos buyers

An enchanting animal sculpture by François-Xavier Lalanne struck a chord with buyers at an auction held by Phillips in London. The mythical Grand Bouquetin (1999), a majestic Alpine ibex, roamed far above its estimate to reach a peak price of £1,112,800 (US$1,389,000).

The late French artist is considered one of the most important animalier sculptors of the Western world. His animals are often imbued with a touch of fantasy and have captivated collectors for decades. “There are hundreds of years of animal representation encompassed in the Grand Bouquetin,” says Elie Massaoutis, Head of Design at Phillips, France. “If you look at the almond-shaped eyes, it is reminiscent of the Egyptian sculptures. And then you suddenly have his mouth, which is just a simple horizontal line, which is almost invisible. What I like is that there is a real alertness.”

He adds: “The Grand Bouquetin is very representative of François-Xavier Lalanne. Phillips’ recent auction results for 20th-century French design demonstrate the unwavering strength of the market and [Lalanne’s] enduring appeal.”

Bathing BLISS

Beach masterpiece reaches tidy sum

A famous painting by Marsden Hartley fetched US$1,865,000 when auctioned as part of Christie’s sale of Modern American Masterworks from the Ted Shen Collection. Combining powerful figural compositions with dynamic seascape, On the Beach (1940-41) is a masterful example of maturity from Hartley’s later career. The Maine-born artist, who died in 1943, refined and reengaged with styles and forms of expression throughout his life – a trait which earned him a legacy as one of the foremost American modernists.

Some scholars believe Hartley’s late figurative paintings of male bodies to be related to his own homosexuality. However, On the Beach is unique within this category due to his addition of a female figure – a motif possibly employed to make his painting more accessible to a wider audience.

Talking of the sale of his collection, musical theatre composer and former investment banker Ted Shen says: “I am grateful that my collecting enabled me to discover the beauty and greatness of the American modernists’ work and to understand their contribution to the evolution of art [in the US].”

Chrysler CLASS

Classic roadster roars into record books

Perhaps among the most beautiful American automobiles of the classic era, a bespoke 1932 Chrysler CG Imperial Custom Roadster recently sold for a whopping US$1.6 million, setting a record price for the marque. The auction of the Estate of Mark Smith conducted by Gooding & Company also set two other world records.

Garaged by five known caretakers over nine decades, the car was largely in its original condition albeit with some distinctive period modifications. The first owner, Philadelphia otolaryngologist William Whelan, had steadily fine-tuned its appearance to suit his taste. This incredibly sleek, tapered look reminiscent of the 1928–1929 Auburn Speedsters, with performance to match, has since been preserved in the same patinated condition.

The technical specifications of the vehicle include a four-speed manual gearbox, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes, front solid axle and rear live axle, both with semi-elliptical leaf springs. Sympathetic improvements included the replacement of the deteriorated front seat upholstery with distressed leather.

Also Read: The Great car clubs of Hong Kong

Breaking Records: The Latest Auction Bids

A jadeite necklace that is an ode to the Qing emperor, a unique luminescent moon jar, a painting that beautifully depicts Indian mythology or Yayoi Kusama’s famous pumpkin sculptor – all these latest history makers at auction houses have proved that a masterpiece that exudes rareness and creativity will receive unhinged appreciation.

Heavenly gem

Jadeite necklace nod to Qing emperor

A magnificent jadeite bead, ruby and diamond necklace sold for US$7.8 million at a recent evening sale at Sotheby’s. Bidding was frenzied for this superb decorative piece called The Emperor’s Treasure, and it went for the top amount in The Exceptionals section at the Hong Kong auction. Named after Gems of Heavenly Favour, a collection of rare manuscripts beloved by the Qianlong Emperor (1711-1799), the necklace is composed of 43 slightly graduated jadeite beads varying in size from 11.55mm to 13.05mm. The best jadeite has fine translucency and a deep emerald-green hue. These beads attain these high standards, earning the right to be called ‘Imperial Green’ in an association of nobility and majesty befitting an emperor. Their intense, lustrous green is juxtaposed by the colour and sparkle of the clasp that secures them around the neck. Crafted from 18-karat white gold, the bejewelled fastening is highlighted by a central cushion-shaped ruby surrounded by calibré-cut rubies and rose- and brilliant-cut diamonds. In 2014, a Hutton-Mdivani Imperial Green jadeite necklace sold for HK$214.04 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, setting the auction record for jadeite jewellery.

Glaze gazing

Korean moon jar rockets to astronomical figure

An important white porcelain moon jar set a new record for this distinctive and collectible category of Korean pottery, with the final bid rising to US$4.56 million at Christie’s sale of Japanese and Korean art in New York. The jar originates from the 1700s during the culturally rich Joseon dynasty. It notched up the highest price – far exceeding its $1 million estimate – during a special Asian Art Week at Christie’s, which also saw a buyer ride off with Hokusai’s Great Wave woodblock print for US$2.8 million, a record for the legendary Japanese artist. Large for a traditional moon jar at 46cm high, the prize lot is considered a superb example of its type from the 18th century, which is extremely rare. The gentle white sphere is covered with a translucent glaze from its everted mouth to its high, narrow foot. On close examination, areas of crackle are discernible, especially around the central seam where the two parts of the jar have been joined together. Minute traces of impurities in the glaze have produced variations in the smooth surface. Christie’s sales of Japanese and Korean Art achieved a total of $11,413,992, with registered bidders from 22 countries in total.

Goddess of Might

Painting of Durga a roaring success

Manjit Bawa’s Untitled (Durga) went under the hammer for US$1.98 million at Christie’s recently, setting a new global auction record for the artist. In this monumental and imposing painting from 2004, Bawa presents the goddess Durga, the supreme female deity of the Hindu pantheon, mounted on the back of her vehicle or vahana, a lion. Durga is also known as Shakti or Devi, the protector of all that is good and harmonious in the world. However, this goddess is perhaps most renowned as Mahishasuramardini, the slayer of the invincible buffalo demon Mahishasura, created by the demon king Rambha. Although Durga is instantly recognisable here, Bawa’s version of the emblematic goddess embodies a delicate purity and all-pervasive truth, reflected through the meditative qualities of his own aesthetic and technical prowess. The artist died in 2008, and this painting was last sold at auction in 2014. Greatly inspired by Indian classical artistic traditions, his work often incorporated elements from various genres and periods. Bawa visited specific mythological themes throughout his career, depicting iconic gods and goddesses like Shiva, Krishna and Durga.

Pumpkin high

Record price for polka dot bronze

Yayoi Kusama’s bronze Pumpkin (L) fetched the highest price realised for a sculpture by the artist at Sotheby’s 50th Anniversary Contemporary Art Evening auction last month. Imbued with her trademark polka dots, this impressive example of Kusama’s highly coveted sculptural pumpkins – the eighth and final of an edition completed in 2014 – went for US$8 million. Beautifully materialised in bronze, the Japanese artist’s iconic striations of multi-sized polka dots meticulously encase the pumpkin from stem to base. One of the most admired and universally recognisable images of contemporary art today, the pumpkin is central to the 94-year-old’s widely celebrated oeuvre, appearing throughout her work from flat canvases and abstract paintings to gallery-wide installations. The bronze Pumpkin (L) is a prime example of Kusama’s unique ability to collapse the division between her own consciousness and the external world. Widely considered the most important artist to have emerged from Japan in the post-war period, Kusama was a contemporary of Andy Warhol and her pop art influenced his. Hong Kong’s M+ Museum retrospective of her work concludes on 14 May.

Your guide to purchasing an art piece that you won’t regret

For most people, art is a decoration complementing the interior architecture of their house and an investment piece so it is necessary to make a thorough and careful selection while picking an art canvas that you will most likely hang in your living space. It is important that it is something that fits your personal taste and also has significant value to it so Gafencu has put together a step-by-step guide to purchasing an art piece that you won’t regret.

buying art

Start by exploring the art world

The art world is a never-ending vast ocean with so much to explore, so it is important to start by gaining exposure to the art scene to discover different options available in the market. Fortunately, it is fairly convenient to examine the art scene these days. You can attend some important art events like Art Basel, Art Central or Affordable Art Fair that happen on an annual basis or you can visit art exhibitions that happen in local galleries. Besides, the internet is also a resourceful place for it, given the list of art-related content like these artistic Instagram pages that you can come across in browsers and social media.

buying art

Get to know what art resonates with you

The more art you see, the more you will get to know what you like. Affordable Art Fair Director Regina Zhang says that when you walk into a gallery with the intention of buying art, it is important to keep an open mind. By having no predetermined notion, it becomes easier for you to note what sort of art you are attracted to. Do you seem to be drawn to a specific style of painting, a particular theme or a certain art period?

buying art

Do your research

Once you know what you find appealing, it is time to do some research especially if your art purchase is going to be an investment. Try reading art magazines, and official websites of artists or galleries to learn more about the art you like. You can also talk to industry experts to clarify all your doubts. Having a good knowledge of the subject will entail you to make an informed decision about what you want. Plus, reading further or talking to more art aficionados would also give you more options or will lead you to filter your decision and help you settle on what you are exactly going to buy.

Consider your interior design

If you are buying art, you are probably planning to have it framed on your wall so it is important to check a few things before making the purchase. The first and most important thing is finding out how small or big it can be because you can always repaint the walls and redecorate the entire room to coordinate with your art if you want but nothing can be done about the size of the wall. You should also ensure that it will be possible to get the frame or the sculptor through the doors.

buying art

Buy the art

So, you have funnelled down to the exact artwork you want. It is time to go ahead and check their prices especially if you have a certain budget in mind. It is perfect if the rates fall within your allotment or you are willing to pay a couple of extra thousands above your budget because you absolutely love the art piece you selected. If not, you can go for the other options in mind.