Basquiat’s painting garners US$14.9 million at inaugural Christie’s Shanghai Sale

Christie’s Shanghai-London 20th/21st Century: Evening Sales was held on 1 March. Amongst 105 lots offered, 95 of them were sold and achieved a sale total of £249 million pounds (around US$334 million dollars).

The series of three sales started in Shanghai and fetched a total of RMB 222 million (about US$35.1 million dollars). The most expensive American artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s artwork was auctioned in the mainland for the first time. His 1982 painting, Il Duce, was sold at RMB 94.1 million (around US$14.9 million dollars) and became the sale’s most expensive lot.

The total hammer price of the three special auctions was higher than the sum of the low estimates of the lots, and the results were favourable.

In this auction, 19 out of 20 lots offered were sold – setting a stellar 95 per cent sale rate. Alongside Basquiat's painting, three lots also sold for more than RMB 10 million.

The two 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sales’ results can be found here. 

Lot 8 Jean-Michel Basquiat Il Duce (The Leader), Acrylic, oilstick on canvas

Created in 1982
152.4 x 152.4 cm

  • Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zürich (acquired directly from the artist)
  • Private collection, USA
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2017

Estimate: RMB 80,000,000 – 120,000,000

Hammer Price: RMB 80,000,000

Sold: RMB 94,160,000 (around US$14.9 million)

Christie's Jewellery Specialist, Caroline Liang, works as an auctioneer in Shanghai

Shanghai-based auctioneer Caroline Liang (Jewellery Specialist) started the bidding at RMB 60 million. After four bids, the hammer was dropped at RMB 80 million. The winning bid was by Evelyn Lin, Co-Head of the 20th and 21st Century Art Department, Christie's Asia Pacific; for her client with paddle number 8288. In the end, the painting was sold at RMB 94.1 million (around US$14.9 million dollars), with buyer’s premium.

Amongst famous Western artists, Basquiat is the most expensive in Asia. Warrior was sold at Christie's Hong Kong for HK$323.6 million (around US$41.7 million) dollars last year, and is still the most expensive Western artwork in Asia.

Basquiat's influence in Asia did not stop there. In November 2021, Basquiat's largest solo exhibition in mainland China, Radiance, was held in Shanghai.

Less than half a year later, this international auction house presents a new offering – allowing Basquiat's work to be auctioned in mainland China for the first time. The Leader and Warrior were both painted in 1982 – during the peak of Basquiat's creative development.

Jean-Michel Basquiat's Warrior (1982) | Sold: HK$323.6 million (around US$41.7 million) dollars | Christie's Hong Kong, March 2021

Photo: ©️ William Coupon

This present painting was inspired by Basquiat's two trips to Italy in 1981 and 1982. During these years, he held his first solo exhibition in Modena at the invitation of Italian art dealer, Emilio Mazzoli. During his time in Italy, he immersed himself in Renaissance Art – with Old Masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Botticelli – and developed a keen interest in it.

From the radiant surface of this large canvas, the face of a powerful and authoritative figure looms large. Rendered in black oilstick, his bold features are in stark contrast to the golden backdrop. His square jaw is matched by his square forehead, topped off with a crewcut of closely cropped hair and a thick-rimmed glasses enclose a pair of fiery eyes.

Lot 13 Zao Wou-ki Le Soir a l’Hotel du Palais (Palace Hotel by night), Oil on canvas

Created in 2004
130 x 195 cm

  • Private collection, Europe (acquired directly from the artist)

Estimate: RMB 11,000,000 – 18,000,000

Hammer Price: RMB 20,000,000

Sold: RMB 24,360,000 (around US$3.8 million)

Zao Wou-ki

The second most expensive lot was Chinese Abstract Master, Zao Wou-Ki's masterpiece Night at the Palace Hotel. The bidding started at RMB 10 million. After more than 10 bids, the hammer was dropped at RMB 20 million – double its low estimate. The winning bid was by a client with paddle number 8749. In the end, the painting was sold at RMB 24.3 million (around US$3.8 million dollars), with buyer’s premium.

In the summer of 2004, Zao Wou-ki came to Biarritz, a seaside city in the southwest of France, where, during the planning and preparation for an exhibition at the Espace Bellevue, he stayed at the legendary, century-old Hotel du Palais. The city, located on the Atlantic coast, is known for its amazing beaches and surfing spots.

The Hôtel du Palais faces the Atlantic coastline, making visits there a pleasure due to the warmth and romance of the coast in summer. Returning to his studio in Paris, Zao Wou-ki displayed photos he took at the beachfront on a bookcase, and completed this painting in September that same year. Contrary to his customary habit of naming works after their date of completion, he inscribed Le soir a l'Hotel du Palais, Septembre 2004 on the reverse side; the finished work was shown in Biarritz in 2005 at the Zao Wou-ki Retrospective, 1948-2005 as a tribute to the city.

Lot 12 Kees van Dongen La femme au collier (The lady with a necklace), Oil on canvas

Created in 1908
100.3 x 81.3 cm

  • Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, by 1908
  • Galerie Druet, Paris
  • Helena Rubinstein, New York, Paris & London; her estate sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 20 April 1966, Lot 43
  • Private collection, London, by whom acquired at the above sale
  • Prince & Princess Mario Ruspoli, Paris, by October 1967
  • Lefevre Fine Art Ltd., London
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2008

Estimate: RMB 19,500,000 – 32,000,000

Hammer Price: RMB 19,000,000

Sold: RMB 23,160,000 (around US$3.6 million)

Van Dongen was an important figure in Fauvist painting in Paris

The third most expensive lot was Dutch painter Kees van Dongen's The lady with a necklace painting. It fetched RMB 23.1 million (around US$3.6 million dollars), and the winning bid was by the live audience of the London auction hall with paddle number 999.

In 1905, Van Dongen participated in the Salon d'Automne Art Exhibition with Matisse and others, and the two quickly became representatives of Fauvism. This Shanghai auction marks the first time that Van Dongen's work is auctioned in the mainland.

Celebrating the heady atmosphere of Paris during the opening decade of the 20th century, Van Dongen's paintings revel in depicting beautiful women, often adorned in contemporary fashions, inviting the viewer to indulge in the vibrant and indulgent world of entertainment, celebrity and enjoyment in which he immersed himself.

Executed in rich layers of visceral, visible strokes of paint, Van Dongen's painterly and colouristic mastery expounds itself in La femme au collier, with attention immediately drawn to the very act of the painting's creation, making every gesture of the brush, every layering of paint visible on the surface of the canvas.

Lot 6 Marc Chagall Le bouquet de lilas (The bouquet of lilac), Oil on canvas

Created in 1968
81 x 100.3 cm

  • Galerie Maeght, Paris
  • Private collection, Japan, by whom acquired in the early 1970s
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner, after 2008

Estimate: RMB 13,000,000 – 20,000,000

Hammer Price: RMB 15,500,000

Sold: RMB 18,960,000 (around US$2.9 million)

Marc Chagall

Russian artist, Marc Chagall's Le bouquet de lilas oeuvre garnered RMB 18.96 million (around US$2.9 million dollars) – ranking fourth in this auction.

Born in modern-day Belarus, he moved to France at a young age. Due to his Jewish ancestry, he fled to the United States for asylum during World War Two. After the war, he settled in southern France.

Filled with the heady romance and fragrance of an exuberant blossoming bouquet, Marc Chagall's Le bouquet de lilas presents an expression of beauty and joy during the highly successful period of his mature career in the 1960s. All senses are evoked from the abundant scent of the blooming lilacs, the musical melody of the flutist at its centre, the glowing beauty of his smiling muse to its left and the tactile bodies of his docile farm animals throughout.

The ambient light of the crescent moon hovers high above Chagall's distinctive azure blue landscape, evoking beloved memories of his homeland in the Belarusian town of Vitebsk that merge in a dreamlike glow with an evocation of the plentiful surroundings of his present home in the vibrant artistic centre of southern France. Chagall's sense of abundance comes to fruition in this bursting, colourful, composition, enhanced by its rich impasto surface, with iconic motifs from his lifelong artistic repertoire playing out the full experience of life he looks back upon.

Other highlight lots:

Three emerging Western artists’ works – Joel Mesler, Edgar Plans and Emmanuel Taku – all set auction records in Shanghai and were hammered at multiple times of their low estimates.

Lot 3 Joel Mesler Untitled (You Deserve Great Things), Pigment on linen

Created in 2020
226 x 165 cm

  • Rental Gallery, East Hampton
  • Private collection, New York

Estimate: RMB 600,000 – 900,000

Hammer Price: RMB 4,500,000

Sold: RMB 5,670,000 (around US$900,000)

Lot 20 Edgar Plans Colors, Mixed media on panel

Created in 2020
122 x 162 cm

  • Ting Ting Art Space, Taipei
  • Private collection, Asia (acquired from the above gallery by the present owner)

Estimate: RMB 500,000 – 800,000

Hammer Price: RMB 3,500,000

Sold: RMB 4,410,000 (around US$700,000)

Lot 1 Emmanuel Taku Ripped, Acrylic on canvas

Created in 2021
200 x 127 cm

  • Acquired directly from the artist
  • Private collection, New York

Estimate: RMB 200,000 – 300,000

Hammer Price: RMB 1,300,000

Sold: RMB 1,638,000 (around US$260,000)

Auction Details:

Auction House: Christie’s Shanghai

Sale: 20th and 21st Century: Shanghai Evening Sale

Sale Date: 1 March 2022

Number of lots: 20

Sold: 19

Unsold: 1

Sale Rate: 95%

Sale Total: RMB 222,030,200 (around US$35.1 million)