Christie’s HK evening sale achieves US$180m, topped by Picasso’s US$22.2m chef-d’oeuvre from Sean Connery

After Christie’s New York’s huge success, 20th/21st Century Art Evening Sale continued with strong results in Hong Kong on 26 May.

Amongst 58 lots offered, 55 were sold – which achieved a sale rate of 94.8 per cent and a sale total of HK$1.4 billion (around US$180 million) dollars. Eleven artists set new auction records, while 28 lots fetched more than HK$10 million (US$1.2 million) dollars.

Compared with its main rival and during this Spring season, Sotheby’s two evening auctions of Modern and Contemporary Art achieved a sale total of HK$1.2 billion dollars. Christie’s, in comparison, overtook this margin with their sale total of HK$1.4 billion dollars.

Due to many lots sold, Eastern and Western Art which featured in the sale will be divided into two articles. This present article will introduce the Western Art section – topped by the Picasso’s HK$175 million (US$22.2 million) dollars masterpiece – once collected by the first James Bond actor, Sean Connery.

As for Eastern Art, click here for Zao Wou-ki’s record-breaking chef-d’oeuvre.

Picasso's Buste d’homme dans un cadre masterpiece was hammered at HK$150 million dollars

Lot 48 | Pablo Picasso | Buste d’homme dans un cadre, Oil on canvas

Created in 1969
92 x 73 cm

  • Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (no. 19623)
  • Private collection (acquired from the above circa 1978)
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate upon request (Expected to fetch in the region of US$19 million)
Hammer Price: HK$150,000,000
Sold: HK$174,950,000 (around US$22.2 million)

Cristian Albu with the winning bid

As this present painting was once collected by Sean Connery; auctioneer Georgina Hilton put on a white suit and black bowtie to reflect this iconic look.

Hilton started the bidding at HK$100 million dollars. After five bids, the hammer was dropped at HK$150 million dollars. The winning bid was by Cristian Albu, Co-Head of 20th and 21st Century Art Department, Asia Pacific; for his client with paddle number 8108. In the end, it fetched nearly HK$175 million (around US$22.2 million) dollars with buyer’s premium.

In 1965, aged 84, Picasso suffered from a stomach ulcer. During his recovery period, he was motivated by the paintings of Golden Age Masters such as Rembrandt and Velazquez. Picasso also re-read his favourite literary classics – such as Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers – which inspired him to create the Musketeers series of paintings.

Sean Connery

Georgina Hilton put on a white suit and black bowtie during the auction  reminiscing Sean Connery's symbolic outfit 

Picasso suffered from a stomach ulcer during his later years. During his recuperation period, he created the Musketeers series of paintings

Four years later, in 1969, Picasso created Buste d’homme dans un cadre as part of the Musketeers series – after a 17th century triple portrait by French painter, Philippe de Champaigne. Beginning with Cubism, Picasso often represented his subjects from multiple angles, so this triple portrait from the age of the musketeers appealed to him.

In the painting, the protagonist is depicted with intense black eyes and a goatee – resembling Cardinal Richelieu from Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. Clad in 17th century European costume, these figures are reminiscent of the epoch’s swashbuckling masculinity. Part historical and part fantastical, the musketeer figures were vessels through which the artist portrayed himself.

Although Richelieu is portrayed as a villainous character in Dumas' novel, his features are vividly depicted in this present painting. In addition to the distinctive facial hair, the leftward pointing nose, stacked eyes and brows, sharp cheekbones and wide collar of his costume recall the directness and intensity of Rembrandt’s self-portraits.

Philippe de Champaigne's Portrait of Cardinal Richelieu (1637)

Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers classic (1844)

After its completion, this painting was released on the market through Galerie Louise Leiris – a Parisian gallery that represented Picasso's works. Sold to its first collector in 1978, it was then purchased by Sean Connery. After his passing, the painting was consigned to Christie’s by his family.

Connery's son, Stephane, said that his father admired and owned numerous works by Picasso. After visiting museums – such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. – Sean purchased Buste d’homme dans un cadre. He was impressed by its expressive power and freedom.

Stephane added that his father liked Asian culture, so it was fitting that this present work is auctioned in Asia.

Hockney's Nichols Canyon III painting was hammered at HK$80 million dollars

Lot 26 | David Hockney | Nichols Canyon III, Acrylic on canvas (hexagonal)

Created in 2017
121.9 x 243.8 cm

  • The Artist
  • Pace Gallery, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$100,000,000 – 120,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$80,000,000
Sold: HK$94,800,000 (around US$12 million)

Sherese Tong with the winning bid

The bidding started at HK$65 million dollars. After four bids, the hammer was dropped at HK$80 million dollars – below its low estimate of HK$100 million dollars. The winning bid was by Sherese Tong, Associate Specialist of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Department, Shanghai; for her client with paddle number 8037. In the end, it garnered HK$94.8 million (around US$12 million) dollars with buyer’s premium.

One of the most talented and prolific artists of the 21st century, Hockney is best known for his landscapes and figure paintings. At one point, he was the most valuable living artist when his Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) masterpiece garnered US$90.3 million dollars in 2018. Amongst Hockney’s top 10 auction records, four are landscape paintings. It was also the first time that this present painting appeared in auction.

Nichols Canyon III is an electrifying celebration of one of David Hockney’s most significant subjects. In crisp, intricate detail and warm, exuberant colours, the artist charts the winding road to his home at the top of Nichols Canyon in the Hollywood Hills: the house itself appears on the right-hand side of the composition, its blue swimming pool gleaming beneath the Californian sun.

In the Studio, December 2017 photograph showing Hockney's series of hexagonal paintings

Hockney on Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles

Created in 2017, the present work belongs to a series of distinctive hexagonal shaped canvases that brought this line of enquiry to a head, using reverse perspective to revisit some of his best-known subjects in more complex spatial terms.

This work takes its cue from Hockney’s 1980 masterwork Nichols Canyon – inspired by the daily drive he took to his studio at the time. Along with Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio (1980, Los Angeles County Museum of Art), this work paved the way for Hockney’s engagement with Chinese scroll landscape painting: a genre in which, he believed, the use of multiple focal points created a more embodied representation of how we experience the world.

Lot 8A | Adrian Ghenie | Pie Fight Interior 12, Oil on canvas

Created in 2014
284 x 350 cm

  • Pace Gallery
  • Private collection
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$68,000,000 – 98,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$68,000,000
Sold: HK$81,060,000 (around US$10.3 million)

Alex Rotter with the winning bid

Adrian Ghenie's largest single canvas work, Pie Fight Interior 12, fetched HK$81 million (around US$10.3 million) dollars with buyer’s premium – setting a new auction record for the Romanian artist.

The bidding commenced at HK$55 million dollars. After five bids, the hammer was dropped at HK$68 million dollars. The winning bid was by Alex Rotter, Global Chairman of 20th/21st Century Art Department; for his client with paddle number 2309.

During Marquee Week New York last week, Ghenie’s Degenerate Art painting garnered US$9.2 million dollars – setting a then new auction record. A week later, his auction record was renewed in Hong Kong. In recent years, Ghenie is increasingly one of the most popular artists amongst Asian collectors.

Ghenie's Degenerate Art (2016) | Sotheby's New York, May 2022 | Sold: US$9.2 million

Pie Fight Interior 12 is one of Ghenie’s largest works

A scene from In the Sweet Pie and Pie film inspired Ghenie's painting

Born in Romania under the regime of Nicolae Ceausescu and currently based in Berlin, Ghenie has long been fascinated by the darker forces that shaped the 20th century. He often works from monochrome photographs he finds online – zooming in on powerful figures and pivotal moments with an emphasis on the Second World War – including scientists, artists and dictators.

Created in 2014, this present painting is a monumental vision of tumult and splendour and from what is Ghenie’s greatest cycle of paintings. He made his first Pie Fight works between 2008 and 2009, and returned to them in 2012 – the series also starred in his debut American Museum show, Pie-Fights and Pathos, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver that year.

The image painted in Pie Fight Interior 12 was insipred by from the 1941 comedy film, In the Sweet Pie and Pie. A woman is depicted in a brightly patterned yellow dress and elegant blonde coiffure, clawing paint – or pie – from her face. She stands amid a panoramic interior of rich, variegated colours, ranging from smeared sepia browns to bruised magentas, teals and vegetal greens.

Measuring 284 by 350 centimetres, Pie Fight Interior 12 is one of Ghenie’s largest works. The painting preceding the present work, Pie Fight Interior 11 (2014), is held in the Collection of Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Lot 22 | Gerhard Richter | Besen, Oil on canvas

Created in 1984
224.7 x 200 cm

  • Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
  • Raymond J. Learsy, New York
  • Sotheby's New York, 17 November 1992, Lot 3
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$55,000,000 – 75,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$67,000,000
Sold: HK$79,915,000 (around US$10.1 million)


The bidding started at HK$45 million dollars. After more than five bids, the hammer was dropped at HK$67 million dollars. The winning bid was by Ada Tsui, Specialist and Head of Day Sale, 20th/21st Century Art Department, Hong Kong; for her client with paddle number 8103. In the end, it realised HK$79.9 million dollars (around US$10.1 million) dollars with buyer’s premium.

Meaning broom in English, this monumental piece is an early example within Gerhard Richter’s celebrated Abstraktes Bild series. Since its inception during the 1970s, these abstract canvases are amongst the artist’s most prolific series.

In Besen, as if descending from the high heavens – a vast span of yellows, blues, reds, pinks and oranges cascades from a central point far beyond the framing edge. The descending waterfall of chroma are countered by strong horizontal black tides, ribboning the field over and behind the bright hues to create striking contrasts in luminance and directional force.

Lot 18 | Claude Monet | Saule pleureur (Weeping Willow), Oil on canvas

Created in 1918-1919
130.7 x 110.5 cm

  • Michel Monet, Giverny, by descent from the artist
  • Galerie Katia Granoff, Paris
  • Sylvia Bataille [Jacques Lacan's second wife], France, by whom acquired from the above in the 1950s
  • Judith Lacan-Miller, Paris, by descent from the above
  • Galerie Interart, Geneva, by whom acquired from the above in 1997
  • Galerie Daniel Malingue, Paris
  • Private collection, acquired from the above on 14 May 1998; sale, Christie's London, 27 June 2017, Lot 14
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$95,000,000 – 135,000,000

Alongside the Western Art Masters mentioned, Monet’s Saule pleureur painting was unsold in the end.  

During this sale, new auction records were set for two Western artists:

Lot 5 | Scott Kahn | Big House, Homage to America, Oil on linen

Created in 2012
158 x 183 cm

  • Francois Ghebaly, Los Angeles
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$1,000,000 – 2,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$9,000,000
Sold: HK$11,250,000 (around US$1.4 million)

Lot 8B | Hernan Bas | The Overly Prepped Boy (or The Approaching Glacier), Acrylic, ink and silver leaf on linen

Created in 2010
183 x 152.4 cm

  • Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Miami
  • Private Collection, Miami
  • Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$4,000,000 – 6,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$7,800,000
Sold: HK$9,810,000 (around US$1.2 million)

Other highlight lots:

Lot 20 | Pierre Soulages | Peinture 97 x 130 cm, 5 juin 1962; Oil on canvas

Created in 1962
97 x 130 cm

  • Kootz Gallery, New York
  • Mr. David N. Marks, New York
  • Versailles Enchères, 25 June 2006, Lot 94
  • Acquired at the above sale by the previous owner
  • Christie’s Paris, 17 October 2018, Lot 8
  • Private Collection, Asia
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$26,000,000 – 36,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$32,000,000
Sold: HK$38,850,000 (around US$4.9 million)

Lot 46 | Pablo Picasso | Homme assis (Seated Man), Oil on corrugated cardboard laid down on canvas

Created in 1969
128.5 x 50 cm

  • Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris
  • Anon. sale, Christie’s, New York, 20 November 1998, Lot 790
  • Gerald Peters Gallery, New York, by whom acquired at the above sale
  • Private Collection, New York, by whom acquired from the above
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$20,000,000 – 25,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$19,500,000
Sold: HK$23,850,000 (around US$3 million)

Lot 6 | Avery Singer | Untitled, Acrylic on canvas laid on wood panel

Created in 2017
199 x 156 cm

  • Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler Gallery, Berlin
  • Acquired at the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$10,000,000 – 15,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$18,000,000
Sold: HK$22,050,000 (around US$2.8 million)

Lot 29 | Marc Chagall | Grand bouquet sur une table, Oil and tempera on canvas

Created in 1978
73 x 60 cm

  • Estate of the Artist
  • Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Zurich
  • Anonymous sale, Christie’s, New York, November 9, 1999, Lot 321
  • Private collection, United Kingdom, acquired at the above sale
  • Private collection
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$12,000,000 – 18,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$14,500,000
Sold: HK$17,850,000 (around US$2.2 million)

Lot 10 | Loie Hollowell | Touchy Subject, Oil, acrylic medium, sawdust and high density foam on linen mounted on panel

Created in 2018
121.9 x 91.4 x 7.6 cm

  • Pace Gallery, London
  • Private Collection
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$4,000,000 – 6,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$10,000,000
Sold: HK$12,450,000 (around US$1.6 million)

Auction Details:

Auction House: Christie’s Hong Kong
Sale: 20th/21st Century Art Evening Sale
Number of lots: 58
Sold: 55
Unsold: 3
Sale Rate: 94.8%
Sale Total: HK$1,407,783,000 (around US$180 million)