Christie’s Hong Kong 20th/ 21st Century Art Evening Sale Reaped Over US$204m, Lead by Basquiat’s One-Eyed Man Painting

Last night saw Christie’s Hong Kong trailblazing 20th/ 21st Century Art Evening Sale, with a total of 74 lots presented in two sessions at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The final tally, accumulated after nearly five hours, stood at HK$1.5bn (US$204.2m). The blockbuster event was spearheaded by Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face), which fetched HK$234.3m (US$30.2m) after fees.

Christie’s also presented a painting by renowned Chinese modern artist Xu Beihong, titled Slave and Lion, in a single-lot sale in between the two sessions. It just missed its presale estimate by HK$30m and was unsold at the sale, though the auction house later revealed that it “will explore further opportunities” to find a new owner for the painting. 

The marquee sale also brought new records for multiple artists, including Loie Hollowell, Avery Singer, and Kim Tschang-Yeul.

Basquiat's Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face) was sold for HK$234.3m (US$30.2m) after premium

The top lots of the evening were:

Lot 67 | Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face)

Painted in 1982
Acrylic, spray paint, oilstick and Xerox collage on panel
Dimensions: 182.9 x 121.9 cm
Provenance: (Organized by The Value)

  • Annina Nosei Gallery, New York
  • Private Collection, USA
  • Sotheby’s New York, November 5, 1987, lot 209
  • Galerie Willy D'Huysser, Brussels
  • Private Collection, Belgium
  • Private Collection, Paris
  • Gagosian Gallery, New York
  • Private Collection
  • Sotheby’s London, March 8, 2017, lot 13 (Price realized: £11,971,250 / US$14,555,843)
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$140,000,000 - 170,000,000
Hammer price: HK$202,000,000 
Price realized: HK$234,290,000


Following the market momentum for Basquiat’s works, especially those created in the artist’s watershed year of 1982, the Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face) carried a presale estimate of HK$140m to HK$170m. 

The bidding began at HK$120m and the specialists gathered in the Hong Kong saleroom and phone banks from New York showed interest. The painting quickly surpassed its presale estimate of HK$140m and from here onwards, two phone bidders represented by Francis Belin (President of Christie's Asia) and Eric Chang (Chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art) in Hong Kong remained in the bidding battle.

The two drove the prices up in steady HK$1m increments, both pretty adamant and it looked like no one was ready to give up during that 15-minute bidding battle. The protracted proceeding elicited over 33 bids, until auctioneer of the second session Georgina Hilton, brought the hammer down at HK$202m, and sold the painting to Belin's client with the paddle number 8216. After premium, the price realized was HK$234.3m, or US$30.2m.

Francis Belin (President of Christie's Asia) acquired the present lot for his client


The year 1982 is also the most desirable year to avid collectors out of the artist’s decade-long output. It was when Basquiat’s visual audacity came to its peak, driven by the artist's transition from street graffitist to a more liberating artist. The very same year also saw his first of a string of six solo exhibitions, from Los Angeles, Zurich, Rome and Rotterdam. He was also the youngest artist ever exhibited in "documenta 7" alongside Gerhard Richter, Joseph Beuys, Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol.

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988)

Basquiat, Warrior (1982) | 183 x 122 cm | sold for HK$323.6m (US$41.7m), March 2021


Another similar sized painting from 1982, titled Warrior, went under the hammer in March and realized a whopping HK$323.6m (US$41.7m) at Christie’s Hong Kong two months ago, to become the auction record in Asia for any Western artwork.

Two other lots surpassing the HK$100m benchmark were:

Lot 22 | Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), Temple at the Mountain Peak

Dated 1967
Hanging scroll, ink and color on gold paper
Dimensions: 127.7 x 63 cm
Provenance: (organized by The Value)

  • Previously in the collection of Li Zulai (1910-1986) and Li Deying
  • Christie’s Hong Kong, Fine 19th and 20th Century Chinese Paintings, April 18, 1996, lot 280
  • Christie's Hong Kong, Fine Chinese Modern Paintings, November 30, 2010, lot 2644 (Price realized: HK$61,140,000 / US$7,872,200)

Estimate on request (expected to be in the region of HK$100,000,000)
Hammer price: HK$180,000,000
Price realized: HK$209,100,000

The present lot by Zhang Daqian, one of the most prominent Chinese painters of the 20th century, portrays a staggering mountainscape that melds the painter’s travels in Europe and his Chinese roots. 

Auctioneer Elaine Kwok fielded bids for the first session of the evening


After the auctioneer opened the bidding at HK$78m, the absentee bids and a phone bid relayed from Kim Yu (International Specialist Head of Chinese Paintings Department) took the price to HK$88m. Two floor bidders then joined in. The tug-of-war between the two bidders in the room saw 10 more bids before the gavel was lowered at HK$180m, handily exceeding the painting’s unpublished presale estimate in the region of HK$100m.

The star lot was eventually sold to a gentleman in the saleroom, with the paddle number 9230, for HK$209.1m (US$27m) with premium. The painting last hit the auction block in 2010 when it was sold for HK$61.1m (US$7.9m).

Closer looks at Temple at the Mountain Peak


Painted on the Lake of Five Pavilions near Zhang's Brazil studio, Temple at the Mountain Peak was executed in 1967, when the artist began to take a departure from his well-versed detailed style and experiment with the splashed ink and color techniques, initially to cope with his deteriorating eyesight, but later, developed into his signature pomo style - one that not only revived a Tang dynasty artistic tradition, but renewed with modern enthusiasm.

With roots firmly grounded in the Chinese landscape painting tradition, the present painting also harkens back to the eighth-century artists who spilt ink onto silk in a drunken stupor. Zhang’s take demonstrates a more sophisticated control of ink and pigments.

Wet ink was directly poured onto sized gold paper before whirling swathes of azurite and malachite color on top. The flow is controlled by rotating the paper on which the shimmering surface peeks through from the mysterious hues to mimic the glow of the setting sun. 

Lot 26 | Sanyu (1895-1966), Potted Chrysanthemums

Painted circa 1950s
Oil on masonite
Dimensions: 91.5 x 48 cm

  • Private collection, France (acquired directly from the artist by the previous owner)
  • Anon. Sale, Christie’s Hong Kong, May 24, 2014, lot 23
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$78,000,000 - 120,000,000
Hammer price: HK$101,000,000
Price realized: HK$118,645,000


Touted by the house as Sanyu’s “largest floral work to feature blue-stemmed pink chrysanthemums,” Potted Chrysanthemums came in third last night.

The lot opened at HK$60m, the proceeding was dominated by a bidder in the room and at least four phone bidders who were with their specialists in the Hong Kong saleroom. After a total of 17 bids, it was Ada Tsui (Specialist, Modern & Contemporary Art), who stepped in to the battlefield with her last-minute bid of HK$101m, and acquired the present lot for her client, for HK$118.6m (US$15.3m) after premium.

Ada Tsui (Specialist, Modern & Contemporary Art) won the present lot for her client with the paddle number 8148

Closer look at the present lot 


The rare colorway is met with the artist’s poetic treatment of light in the present lot. While there are several nighttime scenes in Sanyu’s oeuvre, the artist painted the present oil on masonite work late at night in his studio awash with quiet moonlight. 

The meticulously arranged potted chrysanthemums - one of the artist’s three most emblematic subjects, shine in the indigo night. The tips of the pink petals are tinged with red, while the stems and leaves are rendered in different shades of tranquil blue, to define the front to back positioning and the textures produced by the glowing moonlight. 

Lot 24 | Zao Wou-ki (1920-2013), 24.01.63

Painted in 1963
Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 115 x 88 cm
Provenance: (Organized by The Value)

  • Blair Lang Galleries, Toronto, Canada
  • Acquired from the above in 1963 and thence by descent to the previous owner
  • Anon. Sale, Christie’s Hong Kong, May 25, 2013, lot 2 (Price realized: HK$27,870,000 / US$3,589,919)
  • Private collection, Asia
  • Acquired from the above by the current owner

Estimate: HK$50,000,000 - 80,000,000
Hammer price: HK$64,000,000
Price realized: HK$76,280,000


Lot 48 | Adrian Ghenie (b.1977), Collector I

Painted in 2008
Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 200 x 290 cm

  • Nolan Judin Gallery, Berlin, Germany
  • Private collection, USA
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$45,000,000 - 65,000,000
Hammer price: HK$55,000,000
Price realized: HK$65,975,000


Lot 54 | Pablo Picasso, Nu couché à la libellule

Painted on 9 October 1968
Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 97 x 162 cm

  • Galerie Louise Leiris [Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler], Paris
  • Private collection, Switzerland
  • Van de Weghe, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$52,000,000 - 68,000,000
Hammer price: HK$52,000,000
Price realized: HK$62,540,000


Lot 27 | Sanyu, Chrysanthèmes blancs (White Chrysanthemums)

Painted in the 1930s
Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 73 x 50 cm

  • Henri-Pierre Roché, Paris, France
  • Jean-Claude Riedel, Paris, France
  • Anon. sale, Sotheby’s Taipei, October 20,1996, lot 63
  • Private collection, Taipei, Taiwan
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$38,000,000 - 68,000,000
Hammer price: HK$47,000,000
Price realized: HK$56,650,000


Lot 68 | Banksy, Sale Ends Today

Painted in 2006
Dimensions: 213.4 x 426.7 cm

  • Lazarides Limited, London
  • Private Collection
  • Anon. Sale, Sotheby’s New York, May 13, 2009, lot 314
  • Private Collection
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$21,000,000 - 28,000,000
Hammer price: HK$39,000,000
Price realized: HK$47,050,000

Auction Summary:

Auction house: Christie’s Hong Kong
Sale: 20th and 21st Century Art Evening Sale
Date: May 24, 2021
Lots offered: 74
Sold: 72
Unsold: 2
Sale rate: 97.3%
Sale total: HK$1,585,295,000 (US$204,164,325)