2017 Retrospective: Key Events at Auction World|Second Half of the Year

The auction world is welcoming another exciting year as the peak season approaches. While we are looking forward to more record-breaking, breath-taking moments in 2018, The Value team has picked out some monumental events at auctions in the past year to refresh your memory. Here is our selection from the second half of 2017.


Invalid Auction Record for the Most Expensive Chinese Monochrome Porcelain
Christie's Hong Kong - A Tang-Style "Double-Dragon" Celadon-Glazed Amphora, Yongzheng Period

In May 2017, a tang-style "double-dragon" celadon-glazed amphora of Yongzheng Period was offered at Christie's Hong Kong by Alan Chuang, the chairman of Chuang's Consortium International Limited. The amphora sold for HK$140m with buyer's premium, setting the auction record for the Most Expensive Chinese Monochrome Porcelain. Four months later, coming as the astonishment to many, Christie's filed a claim to the high court in respect of the outstanding sums of over HK$120m due and payable by the buyer, Wang Yonghong, the founder of Zhonghong Holding Co.Ltd with a net worth of RMB 10 billion.



Yongle Imperial Buddhist Figures From the Speelman Collection
Poly Auction Hong Kong - Pure and Solemn – An Important Private Collection of Yongle Imperial

A gilt bronze figure of Yamantaka-vajrabhairava

A gilt bronze figure of Chakrasamvara

A gilt bronze figure of Kapaladhara Hevajra

Out of many sales selling Buddhist figures in 2017, this was widely considered as the most noteworthy one. The top three lots, sculptures of Yamantaka-vajrabhairava, Chakrasamvara and Kapaladhara Hevajra respectively, were all from the collection of Speelman, a celebrated art dealer specialising in Asian sculptures. The gilt bronze figure of Yamantaka-vajrabhairava sold for HK$132m with buyer's premium while the other two figures of wrathful deity also fetched HK$62.5m and HK$55.4m.

A landscape ink painting that sold for more than HK$100m
Sotheby's Hong Kong - Li Keran’s Magnificent Mountains with Gushy Cascades

The 171cm-high painting by Li Keran carried the highest estimate ever (HK$78m) at Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Paintings and sold for HK$122m (buyer's premium included), making it the first painting by the artist that sold for more than HK$100m in places outside the mainland of China. Li Keran gave this painting to Rongbaozhai for an art exhibition in colloboration with Seibu department store.


World's Most Expensive Ceramic
Sotheby's Hong Kong - Ru Guanyao Brush Washer From the Northern Song Dynasty

William Chak, the master of Chak's, gave positive comments on the ru-ware brush washer

Ru wares are the finest among the five great kilns, Ru, Guan, Ge, Ding and Jun. There are only around 87 extant pieces of ru wares, in which most are kept in museums, leaving only four in private hands. The Ru brush washer has a luminous "ice crackle" pattern on it, with its intense blue-green glaze. Offered by Robert Tsao, Master of Le Cong Tang, the brush washer sold for HK$294m, setting the record for world's most expensive ceramic.

Enchanting White Jade Piece From the Qing Dynasty
Sotheby's Hong Kong - Imperial White Jade and Cloisonne Enamel Ram-Head Teapot and Cover, Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period

It belonged to Millicent Rogers, a legendary socialite

Finely crafted from excellent materials and expertly polished, the museum-grade teapot with illustrious provenance effortlessly appealed to collectors and connoisseurs. During the preview, the teapot drew the attention from all ages with its mesmerizing charm. After over 60 bid increments, the teapot sold for HK$75m.

Most Expensive Wristwatch
Phillips New York- Paul Newman’s Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona

The watch wouldn’t have fetched a record-shattering price US$17.75m if it was merely one of the Rolex “Paul Newman” Cosmograph Daytonas. This rare one is the “Paul Newman” Daytona that actually owned by Paul Newman himself. Rolex's Cosmograph "Exotic Dials" didn’t sell well when it was first introduced to the market and therefore only a limited amount of them was produced. Defined by the rarity of the watch and the association with the legendary Paul Newman, Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona is one of the world’s most sought-after watches of all time. It seems that the record is likely to be held for a long while.



Second Most Expensive Painting by Van Gogh
Christie's New York - Laboureur dans un champ

Vincent van Gogh's asylum in Saint-Remy, France

This painting was painted by Vincent van Gogh in 1889, a year before the artist committed suicide. During that time, suffering from a delirium of hallucinations and self-recrimination, Van Gogh cut off his left ear and was placed under hospital care and supervision. He captured on the painting the view from the window of his room in the asylum at Saint-Rémy. It sold for US$81.3m, becoming the second most expensive painting. The artist's top record is now held by Portrait du Dr. Gachet, which sold for US$82.5m (buyer's premium included) at Christie’s in 1990.

Most Expensive Work of Art Ever Sold
Christie's New York - The Last Leonardo da Vinci Painting in Private Hands

Seller - Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Salvator Mundi, the last Leonardo da Vinci Painting in private hands, evoked over 50 bids in 20 minutes when it went on sale at Christie's New York. It sold for a historic US$450m, making it the most expensive work of art ever sold. The painting was acquired by the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism and would be available for public view at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Challenging the Monopoly in Auction World
Tokyo Chuo (Hong Kong) - Wang Meng's Consonance between Pines and Spring

Box and hangscrolls

To challenging the dominance of leading auction houses, Tokyo Chuo (Hong Kong) wowed the auction world when Wang Meng's Consonance between Pines and Spring sold for HK$169m at its spring auction. The painting was recorded in Shiqu Baoji, the famous catalogue ordered by the Qianlong emperor so as to systematically organise court objects. It further boosted collectors' confidence with its impeccable provenance.

Another Rare Piece From the Le Cong Tang Collection
Christie's Hong Kong - Wucai "Fish" Jar and Cover, Mark and Period of Jiajing

Robert Tsao, Master of Le Cong Tang

In October, Robert Tsao, Master of Le Cong Tang, offered a Ru Guanyao brush washer from the Northern Song Dynasty. It sold for a record-obliterating HK$294m and has become the world's most expensive ceramic. One month later, another great work of art from Le Cong Tang collection also went under the hammer at Christie's Hong Kong as the leading lot of the sale. The bidding atmosphere was not as keen as the former one and the wucai 'fish' jar was hammered down at HK$188m, slightly higher than its pre-sale estimate HK$180m. It sold for HK$213m with buyer's premium, still pretty high return for Tsao, who had bought the piece for only HK$44m in 2000.

New Auction Record for Zao Wou-ki…again
Christie's Hong Kong - 29.01.64

29.09.64 sold for HK$152m at Christie's Hong Kong in May, setting a new auction record for the artist. 6 months later, an even higher auction record for the artist was made when 29.01.64 sold for HK$202m, which is also the world record for an oil painting by any Asian artist.

Second Most Expensive Painting by Fu Baoshi
Christie's Hong Kong - The Song of the Pipa Player

Fu Baoshi's The Song of the Pipa Player, offered at its own single-lot sale, was previously owned by a renowned businessman H. H. K'ung. The painting sold for HK$204m (buyer's premium included) after an intense bidding war, becoming the second most expensive painting by the artist. Executed in 1945, the painting depicts a scene from the eponymous poem by the statesman and poet Bai Juyi (772-846) with distinct expressions of pathos.

Frenzy at Chinese Archaic Jades Sale
Christie's Hong Kong - the Yangdetang Collection

The phenomenal sale had all 82 lots sold and totalled HK$150m (US$19.3m), achieving seven times low estimate. The sale saw enthusiastic reception from buyers who made generous bids almost without hesitation. Most lots were hammered down at prices far exceeding pre-sale estimates.

Most Expensive Chinese Classical Furniture 
Beijing Poly Auction - Huanghuali Cabinet Previously From Li Han-hsiang

Huanghuali furniture has been highly sought after at auctions in recent years. But what made the huanghuali cabinet that crowned the most expensive Chinese classical furniture so unique? It was made for Emperor Kangxi and once belonged to Li Han-hsiang, a distinguished Chinese director during the 50s to 80s who was best known for his film The Kingdom and the Beauty.

Most Expensive Chinese Work of Art 
Beijing Poly Auction - Qi Baishi’s Twelve Screens of Landscapes

To cap off the year 2017, Qi Baishi’s Twelve Screens of Landscapes fetched an overwhelming RMB 930m (buyer's premium included) at Beijing Poly Auction, setting record for the most expensive Chinese work of art. It would become the most expensive work of art if the record had not already been set by the US$450m Salvator Mundi. There are only two extant Twelve Screens of Landscapes created by Qi Baishi. The present lot that went up on sale at Poly Auction was created in 1925, when Qi was at age 62, as a birthday gift to a renowned doctor Chen Zilin in Beijing.