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When the third edition of Art Basel Hong Kong opens to the public on Sunday, the atmosphere at Asia’s hottest contemporary art fair will be noticeably cooler — for reasons that have less to do with the region’s overall economic slowdown than the shift in the fair’s dates from humid May to balmy March.

But the show’s organizers hope the real draw of the date change for collectors and galleries will be more distance in the international art world calendar from the fair madness of May and June.

“Because of the timing, we weren’t reaching the potential we thought we could reach,” said Marc Spiegler, director of Art Basel.

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Thursday, 11 September 2014 11:20

Phillips to Open Saleroom in Hong Kong

Phillips is planning to open a saleroom in Hong Kong “as soon as possible”, says Edward Dolman, who joined the auction house as its chairman and chief executive in July. Dolman, who worked at Christie’s for 27 years where he launched salerooms in Paris, New York and Hong Kong, says he has spent “a lot of time” over the past ten years developing the auction business and recruiting in Hong Kong. “It’s a very exciting market,” he says.

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Wednesday, 21 August 2013 19:10

Sotheby’s to Sell Rare Blue Diamond in Hong Kong

Sotheby’s will sell a rare round cut diamond dubbed “The Premier Blue” at the auction house’s bi-annual public sale in Hong Kong on October 7, 2013. The stone, which weighs 7.59 carats, is much larger and more vivid than other colored diamonds. Sotheby’s expects the gem to garner about $19 million, which would set a world record for the highest price paid for any diamond, per carat.

The Premier Blue will be previewed in Beijing, Shanghai, Bangkok, Singapore, Jakarta and Taiwan along with other items from the sale. According to the New York Times, Quek Chin Yeow, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s in Asia, said, “Since about 2006, 2007, Hong Kong has ranked alongside Geneva and New York as a center for jewelry sales. It is now the third pillar of the global jewelry market.” In addition, Asian buyers tend to favor round cuts in color, which could have influenced Sotheby’s decision to auction the diamond in Asia rather than Europe or the United States.

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Wednesday, 16 January 2013 15:23

Art Basel Releases Exhibitor List for Hong Kong

From May 23-26, 2013, Art Basel will host 245 exhibitors at their first show in Hong Kong, which will replace the region’s biggest art fair, Art HK. Held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, Art Basel Hong Kong will feature works from emerging artists as well as 20th century masters from both Asia and the West. While Art Basel currently runs two major international shows in Switzerland and Miami Beach, the organization is striving to maintain an emphasis on the Asian region for the Hong Kong fair.

Top galleries from 35 countries will meet at Art Basel Hong Kong, which is divided into four categories: Galleries, Insights, Discoveries, and Encounters. Galleries will present over 170 modern and contemporary exhibitors; Insights will feature galleries solely from Asia and the Asia-Pacific region; Discoveries presents a showcase of one and two-person exhibitions by emerging international contemporary artists; and Encounters features large-scale sculptural and installation works by artists from around the globe.

Exhibitors at the upcoming Art Basel Hong Kong show include Dominique Levy Gallery (New York), Cecilia de Torres, Ltd. (New York), Wentrup (Berlin), Galeria Pedro Cera (Lisbon), Leo Xu Projects (Shanghai), Blindspot Gallery (Hong Kong), and Schoeni Art Gallery (Hong Kong).

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Friday, 28 December 2012 17:14

Affordable Art Fair Expands to Include Hong Kong

The Affordable Art Fair announced that it will launch a version of its popular show in Hong Kong next year. Taking place from March 15-17, 2013, the fair will bring together 80 local and international galleries at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The Affordable Art Fair launched in 1999 and strives to make the art world and collecting more accessible. There are currently 16 Affordable Art Fairs that take place worldwide. Since its inception, Over 1 million visitors have attended Affordable Art Fairs and art sales at the various shows total over $275 million.

The Affordable Art Fair in Hong Kong will present emerging artists alongside well-known names. In an effort to promote buying, all works will be priced around $130 to $13,000 with 75% of offerings under $10,000. Camilla Hewitson, Director of Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong said, “With Hong Kong’s position as the leading contemporary art market in Asia, we feel it is without a doubt the ideal city in which to launch an Afford Art Fair.”

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Considered one of the world’s most groundbreaking contemporary artists, Cy Twombly evaded classification while remaining culturally and artistically relevant from the early 1950s to the present. On Thursday, Gagosian Gallery mounted the dual tribute exhibitions, Cy Twombly: Last Paintings and Cy Twombly: A Survey of Photographs 1954–2011. The show will remain on view through December 22, 2012.

The eight untitled paintings are closely related to the Camino Real group that appeared at Gagosian Paris’ inaugural exhibition in 2010. Featuring bold colors and sweeping, gestural brushwork, the paintings exude the raw energy that typified Twombly’s work. Last Paintings opened in Los Angeles earlier this year and traveled to Hong Kong before opening in New York.

A Survey of Photographs features everything from early studio images taken in the 1950s to a group of landscapes taken in St. Barths in 2011, the year of Twombly’s death. While mainly regarded as a painter, Twombly’s photographic work has been the subject of a number of major exhibitions since 2008. Gagosian’s exhibition is the most comprehensive of its kind to take place in the United States to date.

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Sotheby’s hosted a number of sales in Hong Kong this past week. On October 7th, the Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian paintings sale achieved $15.5 million, soaring past the pre-sale estimate of $5.8 million. The sale achieved the highest auction total for this category and the painting Fortune and Longevity by Lee Man Fong, an Indonesian modern master, set a record for any Southeast Asian painting when it sold for $4.4 million. The final price for the painting was almost three times the pre-sale estimate.

The Contemporary Asian Art sale totaled $15.1 million and Tiananmen No. 1 by Chinese symbolist and surrealist painter, Zhang Xiaogang, was the top lot at $2.69 million. Liu Wei’s Revolutionary Family Series – Invitation to Dinner was the second highest sale at $2.24 million, a world record price at auction for the Beijing-based artist who works in various mediums including video, installation, drawings, sculpture, and painting.

The 20th Century Chinese Art sale brought in $24.6 million and sold 90% by lot. Works from Europe, the United States, and around Asian sold well and many were above their pre-sale estimates. The top lot was Potted Chrysanthemums by the Chinese modern art pioneer, Sanyu, which sold for $3.99 million.

The following day, the Fine Chinese Paintings sale totaled $53.2 million, the highest of the four art auctions. Offering many works from private collections, the total sale was more than double the pre-sale estimate and sold 97.2% by lot. The two top lots at the auction, Zhang Daqian’s Swiss Peaks; Calligraphy in Xingshu and Fu Baoshi’s Lady at the Pavillion, both sold for $2,974,278.

Last year China beat out the United States as the world’s largest art and antiques market and the autumn sales reflect that power swap. There was a bit of controversy when a 60-year-old Taiwanese Buddhist sister demanded that a $1.65 million sale be halted at the Fine Chinese Paintings auction. Sotheby’s canceled the sale of a painting by Zhang Daqian after Lu Chieh-chien requested a court hearing to prevent bidding on Riding in the Autumn Countryside (1950) which she claims was the property of her family and had been consigned without consent.

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Old Masters take centre stage in New York this week with a number of auctions as well as the dealer event, the week-long Master Drawings New York. This opens on Saturday with all 23 galleries staying open in the evening. While US dealers are in the majority, some foreigners also participate – including Londoner Lowell Libson showing at Mitchell-Innes & Nash and the Madrid-based José de la Mano at Arader Galleries. Libson always has lovely things, including a portrait of a boy by Sir Thomas Lawrence priced in the region of £120,000. And the French dealer Laura Pecheur, participating for the first time, is bringing a show of 40 watercolours and drawings by Dora Maar, Picasso’s lover and muse, famously known as la femme qui pleure (the crying woman).

As for the Old Master auctions, the offerings are far stronger in New York than they were in London last December. Christie’s kicks off on Wednesday with an evening sale featuring one of the last two Memlings in private hands: “The Virgin Mary Nursing the Christ Child”, estimated at $6m-$8m. Also attracting a lot of interest is Gerrit Dou’s “A Young Lady Playing a Clavichord”, estimated at $1m-$2m. This is a rediscovery, having been sold by Duveen in 1927, and in the same family ever since.

Sotheby’s holds its Old Master sale on Thursday: among the standouts is a piece by the top Dutch flower painter Jan van Huysum (est $4m-$6m), which comes from the estate of Lady Forte of Trusthouse Forte. But the real buzz is about another still life – a crisp, gorgeous arrangement of flowers set in a niche by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder from about 1618, estimated at $1m-$1.5m but tipped to soar much higher, despite having been cleaned by the auction house. It was deaccessioned from the Hermitage museum in 1932: a stellar provenance.

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Wine valued at up to $8.3 million, including a 300-bottle collection of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild spanning every year from 1981 to 2005, is scheduled for sale at Christie’s in Hong Kong this week.

The London-based house estimates the 25 cases of the Bordeaux first-growth wine, which it says have been kept in pristine condition, may fetch as much as HK$4.5 million ($575,400), or almost $2,000 per bottle. At that price, it would be the most expensive single lot of wine auctioned this year.

Demand from Asian collectors and investors has helped boost values of investment-grade vintages as wine has rebounded from losses sustained during the 2008 financial crisis. The Liv-ex 100 fine wine index has held on to the 6.8 percent gain it made in the first quarter of this year amid volatility in other markets, and is up 19.3 percent over the past 12 months.

“I’m struck each time I go to mainland China by the groundswell of demand,” Charles Curtis, Christie’s head of wine sales for Asia, said in a telephone interview from New York. “There’s nothing but upside to this trend.”

Christie’s is also offering a 3-liter jeroboam of Romanee- Conti DRC 1971 Burgundy which it says may sell for as much as HK$320,000.

A six-liter imperial of Lafite 2003 carries a high estimate of HK$100,000 while six bottles of 1911 Moet & Chandon Champagne are also being included as a single charity lot, with the potential to fetch as much as HK$500,000. The auction is taking place on Sept. 3 and Sept. 4.

Lafite Imperials

At a separate Hong Kong sale being mounted by New York- based house Zachys on Sept. 9 and Sept. 10, a collection of Lafite imperials covering the years 1995 to 2003 is up for sale, along with Chateau Mouton-Rothschild from a California collector.

Bonhams in London will feature two lots of Romanee-Conti Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Burgundy in its Sept. 8 sale. One, comprising 12 bottles of the 1990 vintage, carries an estimate of as much as 120,000 pounds ($196,500) while 12 bottles of the 1988 carry a top estimate of 80,000 pounds.

At Sotheby’s (BID) London sale on Sept. 14, Romanee-Conti and Lafite also top the bill. Two cases of Romanee-Conti 1988 DRC are on offer at a top estimate of 70,000 pounds each while two cases of Lafite are also on sale carrying a top estimate of 40,000 pounds. The auction also features Lafite 1986 and Chateau Latour 1982.

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Last week the massive Hong Kong Exhibition Center hosted a triple header—the four-year-old art fair Art HK; a luxurious Christie's auction preview; and a Christie's-sponsored exhibition of new work by Chinese painter Zeng Fanzhi—that provided a window into the state of the art market in China.

The fair now draws a good portion of the world's major galleries as well as many of its better small ones. It's something of a gold rush: dealers come seeking the few heavyweight Chinese clients who have been spending millions of yuan recently at New York auctions. Majority control of the fair was recently purchased by Art Basel, which runs the most prestigious art fairs in the world, further confirming the art world's hunger for growth in an emerging market and its continuing need for new sources of collector dollars.

Although some dealers will always claim to have sold every artwork in their booths during the fair's opening hours, a few key questions asked after midnight in Hong Kong's raging nightclub district revealed to me that as the event's second day drew to a close, many hadn't yet sold a thing—but admittedly that information was obtained after several doses of vodka and Red Bull.

Galleries brought higher-quality pieces than I'd expected; their booths were filled with choice contemporary artworks of manageable size, presumably selected to fit into smaller-scale urban Chinese apartments. But if these works weren't by marquee-name artists like Damien Hirst, they were likely to be passed over by the local clientele.

Ironically, this made Art HK a great place for Westerners like me to shop. New York dealer Marianne Boesky hung an entire suite of hard-to-find Barnaby Furnas paintings; elsewhere in the fair, one could snap up desirable pieces by Rudolf Stingel or Piotr Uklanski, and ask for a discount—which is precisely what I did. At Art Basel, or its sister fair in Miami, those same works would have sold within minutes.

In Hong Kong, the pace is different: a disciplined crowd arrives after work, around 6 p.m.; locals told me to expect the biggest crowds over the weekend. But even then, the Chinese don't seem interested in a long learning curve. Many appeared to get impatient when artworks required too much explanation; frankly, I don't see them "learning" the ins and outs of the broad range of Western art for at least a decade or more. 

Why, then, are Western dealers so eager to pack up their inventory and ship it, at great cost, to China? The answer is that the need for fresh clients is pressing because the ones they have at home have bought so much that their appetite has slackened. Even if things aren't moving quickly now, dealers are optimists; they won't easily give up their belief in Hong Kong's field of dreams.

And some business was done. Hong Kong is full of transient private bankers from the West who relish a chance to see what they're missing at home. And some Chinese who hail from Taiwan—or the mainland, as well as the occasional new collector from Indonesia or Singapore—are prepared to step up for a medium-size and medium-priced work ... as long as it's by a brand-name artist. Hong Kong is plastered with luxury brands: Hermes, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dunhill. Chinese buying of Western art seems to be in keeping with this: they'll opt for Damien Hirst or Takashi Murakami, and pile into a Richard Prince show at the new Hong Kong branch of the Gagosian Gallery, because Gagosian, with 11 outlets around the world, represents the premier global art brand. Buying art there is like buying an Hermès bag: it comes with a stamp of status and credibility.

That's the theory, but not the reality. I saw many Chinese collector-types frown at the "Girlfriend" photos—bare-breasted biker chicks—in Richard Prince's show at Gagosian, and Prince's medium-size Nurse painting had too much blood-red paint and perversity to appeal to a conservative Chinese sensibility. Nevertheless I heard rumors that other brand-name galleries from the West, like London's White Cube and New York's David Zwirner, are looking to open Hong Kong branches. 

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