Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chinese Art Continues to Soar!

A detail from Zhang Xiaogang’s “Bloodline: The Big Family No. 3.”

While ARTmostfierce continues event party planning, please enjoy this article by David Barbosa of the NY Times.
Got any Contemporary Chinese Art already?...lucky you! If you don't get on it!
Chinese Art Continues to Soar at Sotheby’s

Published: April 10, 2008
BEIJING — Sotheby’s sold $51.77 million worth of Chinese contemporary art in three auctions in Hong Kong on Wednesday, allaying concerns that the global economic slowdown would depress the prices.

Chinese Contemporary Art Auction The highlight of the day was the highly anticipated afternoon sale of more than 100 works from the Estella Collection, which Sotheby’s has called the largest and most important collection of Chinese contemporary art ever to come to auction.

That sale brought in nearly $18 million from aggressive bidders who crowded into a Hong Kong convention center and from others who called in bids.

The star of that auction was a 1995 painting by Zhang Xiaogang, one of China’s most prominent artists, which sold for just over $6 million, the highest price ever paid for a painting by a Chinese contemporary artist.

That oil on canvas, “Bloodline: Big Family No. 3,” depicts a family of three during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution in China, when children were sometimes led to denounce their parents. Three collectors bid feverishly for the piece, which sold for far above its high estimate, about $3.4 million.

Sotheby’s identified the buyer, who bid by telephone, as a Taiwanese-born collector now living in the United States.

The price was a bit above the record set at Sotheby’s auction house last October, when a Yue Minjun painting called “Execution,” inspired by the 1989 crackdown on student demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, sold for about $5.9 million.

Collectors also offered high bids on works by other well-known Chinese artists like Zeng Fanzhi, Cai Guo-Qiang, Ai Weiwei and Sui Jianguo.

The most sought-after artists are mostly in their 40s and 50s and came of age in the 1980s and early 1990s, when contemporary art was just beginning to blossom in China after broad economic and political changes. An installation and sketches based on Chinese characters by the artist Xu Bing sold for nearly $1 million. And “Two Wandering Tigers,” a gunpowder-on-paper work by Mr. Cai, sold for over $973,000.

In an equally ebullient evening session, a set of nine paintings by the realist painter Liu Xiaodong sold for $7.9 million.

The works, “Battlefield Realism: The 18 Arhats,” portray soldiers from Taiwan and China.

A colorful painting by Yue Minjun, known as a cynical realist artist for his toothy, delirious self-portraits, sold for $2.6 million.

The soaring prices of Chinese contemporary artists over the past few years has jolted the global auction market, setting off a building boom in arts districts in Beijing and Shanghai and turning many Chinese artists into multimillionaires.

Just a few years ago works by Mr. Zhang sold for less than $50,000. But last year Mr. Zhang, 50, was one of the hottest living artists in the global auction market, just behind Damien Hirst and Gerhard Richter and ahead of Jeff Koons, according to the Artprice publication Art Market Trends 2007.

That report also said China surpassed France last year as the world’s third-biggest auction market, behind only the United States and Britain.

Among the biggest winners on Wednesday was Sotheby’s, which along with William Acquavella, the Manhattan dealer, had recently acquired the Estella Collection. It originally belonged to a small group of investors and collectors, including Sacha Lainovic, a director of Weight Watchers International, and Ray Debbane, the chief executive of the private-equity firm the Invus Group. The Manhattan art dealer Michael Goedhuis helped them amass the collection.

A few years ago Sotheby’s did not even hold auctions of Chinese contemporary art. But last year it sold nearly $200 million worth of Asian contemporary art, the bulk of it by Chinese artists.

Christie’s auction house has also benefited with record-breaking sales of Chinese contemporary art in recent years.

In September Sotheby’s plans to sell more works from the Estella Collection at a New York auction.

The $51.7 million raised over all on Wednesday was far above the auction house’s high estimate of $46 million, and about 90 percent of the works sold. The $18 million from the sale of the Estella Collection was far above a high estimate of $12 million.

Estimates did not include Sotheby’s commission and buyer’s premium, which are incorporated into the final prices.

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