After Sotheby’s successful Hong Kong modern evening auction on Wednesday, the house’s contemporary evening sale on Thursday brought in 595 million Hong Kong dollars ($76.8 million) across 39 lots with only three lots failing to find with buyers. That works out to a 94 precent sell-through rate.
Overall, Hong Kong demonstrated solid demand for high-value art, with the previous day’s sale keeping totals near last year’s levels. Today’s sale followed suit. David Hockney’s 30 Sunflowers (1996), one of two large-scale floral paintings made by the artist, sold for $14.8 million, making it the second-most expensive work by a Western artist to sell in Asia.
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The still life, which has previously only had one owner, exceeded its pre-sale estimate of 80 million Hong Kong dollars ($10.3 million). The painting last came up at auction in May 2011 in a Phillips contemporary auction in New York, selling for $2.5 million. The international tour of the lot, scheduled for public viewing in Los Angeles, Jakarta, Hong Kong, and Taipei, was interrupted in February by the global closures in the surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic.
Asian buyers have been an essential force in the market for Impressionist and modern works over the past several years. But their bidding and buying have primarily taken place during auctions held in London and New York. With the Hockney, one can see a shift toward those same buyers becoming active in Hong Kong auctions for Western artists and the overall value of those purchases in Hong Kong rising. The Hockney sale also may show that these same buyers are shifting their tastes from modern artists to contemporary ones.