US$22.2m Gerhard Richter's abstract painting to lead Sotheby’s HK contemporary art evening sale

Sotheby’s Hong Kong Autumn Auctions are just around the corner. The highly-anticipated Contemporary Evening Auction will take place on 7 October, spearheaded by Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild, estimated between HK$175 and 235 million (around US$22.2 – 29.9 million).

In 2020 at the same sale, the German master’s Abstraktes Bild (649-2) set the auction record for the most expensive Western art sold in Asia at US$27.61 million, though it was renewed by Jean-Michel Basquiat’s US$41.7 million Warrior in 2021.

Now that a year has passed, another grand abstract by Richter is going under the hammer – whether he could regain the throne remains to be seen.

Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (649-2) fetched US$27.61 million in 2020

Lot 1219 | Gerhard Richter | Abstraktes Bild, Oil on canvas
Created in 1990
225 x 200 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):

  • Private Collection, Dublin
  • Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London
  • Marguerite and Robert Hoffman Collection, Dallas
  • Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco
  • Private Collection, Korea
  • Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco
  • Private Collection
  • Sotheby's, London, 15 February 2011, Lot 13 (Sold: £7,209,250, US$11,547,056)
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner 

Estimate: HK$175,000,000 - 235,000,000

Among the world’s leading contemporary artists, Gerhard Richter is at the top of the list in terms of status, fame and net worth. He stepped into the field of abstract art around the 1960s and has already made a name for himself with his distinctive style in the 1980s.  

Ceaselessly interrogating the limits of representation, the artist pioneered a completely new stylistic direction with an innovative tool: a homemade hard-edged plastic squeegee.

His creative process then became not one of addition, but rather of subtraction, where he methodically disturbs, conceals and scraps layers of detailed under-paintings by dragging a squeegee across the canvas, creating abstracts of mesmerising dynamism and immense details.

By the 1990s, after years of exploring the new medium, the German master had reached the pinnacle of stylistic maturity. His works created between 1986 and 1992 are considered the most finely-executed and are highly-prized by collectors – where eight of his top ten most expensive works were completed during this period.

Gerhard Richter

725-3, kept by the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

725-1 (left one), exhibited in Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane in 2017

Created in 1990, Abstraktes Bild belongs to the concise 725 series of just five works, including 725-3 in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and 725-5 on loan at the Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany.

A museum-quality work, Abstraktes Bild exemplifies Richter’s mastery of his trademark squeegee technique, where he skilfully creates a central ‘seam’ that runs vertically down the canvas, resulting in two sections which are distinct in terms of the artist’s palette. By drawing the squeegee horizontally across the canvas, he generates paint tracks from the central seam to either side, emanating a shimmering fluidity with intricate texture.

The present lot measures 225 by 200 cm, slightly larger than his record-breaking Abstraktes Bild (649-2), which is 200 by 200 cm. It was last seen at auction in 2011, when the present owner acquired it at £7.2 million (around US$11.5 million at the time) at Sotheby’s London. This time, it carries a low estimate of HK$175 million (around US$22.2 million) and is backed by an irrevocable bid to ensure it would sell – meaning its value has almost doubled in 11 years.

Lot 1214 | Peter Doig | Country-rock (wing-mirror), Oil on canvas
Created in 1999
194.9 x 270 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):

  • Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York
  • Private Collection 
  • Sotheby's, London, 30 June 2014, Lot 27 (Sold: £8,482,500)
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$75,000,000 - 98,000,000

Estimated between HK$75 and 98 million (around US$9.5 - 12.4 million), Country-rock (wing-mirror) by Peter Doig is the second top lot of the sale.

One of the most renowned living figurative painters, Doig was born in Scotland in 1959 and moved frequently as a child, from the United Kingdom to Trinidad to Canada, steps he has retraced over the course of his adulthood. Leading a peripatetic life, the artist seems to never have belonged anywhere – which perhaps explains why he has devoted his career to depicting landscapes tinged with the history and memory of these places.

Throughout his oeuvre, Doig constantly tries to break away from traditional landscape practices and goes for an unconventional approach. Drawing on personal experiences and source imagery such as movie scenes and newspaper clipping, his dream-like landscapes blur the boundary between reality and imagination, resulting in canvases that are nostalgic without being specifically reminiscent. 

Peter Doig

The rainbow tunnel off the Don Valley Parkway, Toronto

Country-rock, in a European private collection

Painted in 1999 while Doig was in London, Country-rock (wing-mirror) depicts a view particularly familiar to Toronto residents: the rainbow tunnel off the Don Valley Parkway – with a viewpoint from the passenger seat of a car.

Between 1998 and 2000 Doig had painted three works on such vista: one presently in the collection of the PinchukArtCentre in Kiev; while the other was chosen as the catalogue cover illustration for the artist’s seminal retrospective at Tate Britain in 2008 and remains in a European private collection.  

The present work is distinguished from the other two, however, as the only version to feature a glimpse of the car – via the intrusion of a wing-mirror in the lower left quadrant. It last went under hammer in 2014, having sold for nearly £8.5 million (around US$14.5 million).

Currently, the auction record for the artist is set by Swamped, sold last November at Christie’s New York for US$39.8 million.

Lot 1213 | Yayoi Kusama | Untitled (Pumpkin Sculpture), Urethane on FRP
Created in 2007
100 x 100 x 100 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):

  • MOMA Contemporary, Japan
  • Beyond Gallery, Taiwan
  • Private Collection, Taiwan
  • Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 8 June 2018, Lot 127 (Sold: HK$11,400,000)
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$32,000,000 - 45,000,000

The highest-estimated Eastern art in the sale belongs to the iconic pumpkin sculpture by Yayoi Kusama, expected to fetch between HK$32 and 45 million (around US$4 – 5.7 million). One of the most admired and universally recognisable images of contemporary art today, Kusama’s pumpkins are central to the artist’s widely celebrated oeuvre.

Her profound connection with the motif can be traced back to a vivid episode during her childhood: “The first time I ever saw a pumpkin was when I was in elementary school and went with my grandfather to visit a big seed-harvesting ground…and there it was: a pumpkin the size of a man’s head…It immediately began speaking to me in a most animated manner.”

She also recalls having overconsumed the vegetable to the point of nausea in her childhood years during and after the war – but which in later years has become one of her favourite subjects. For Kusama, pumpkin is her spiritual home, bringing about poetic peace for her mind – they are an embodiment of optimism, serenity and joy.

Yayoi Kusama's iconic pumpkin sculpture

Created in 2007, the present pumpkin sculpture measures a meter tall and a meter wide, rendered in Kusama’s signature palette of yellow and black. From November 2021 to May 2022, this work was exhibited at the artist’s landmark retrospective in Tel Aviv, Israel, titled Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective.

In 2018, the present lot was offered at Sotheby’s Hong Kong and realized HK$11.4 million (around US$1.4 million) after fees. The auction record for her sculpture, however, is at HK$62.5 million (US$7.1 million), achieved by Pumpkin, which is over two metres tall, sold last December at Christie’s Hong Kong.

Other Highlight Lots: 

Lot 1224 | Jean-Michel Basquiat | Emblem, Acrylic and oilstick on canvas
Created in 1984
218.4 x 248.9 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):

  • Mary Boone Gallery, New York
  • Private Collection
  • Sotheby's, London, 15 October 2015, Lot 30 (Sold: £665,000)
  • Private Collection, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$28,000,000 - 35,000,000 

Lot 1225 | Mark Grotjahn | Untitled (Yellow Butterfly Orange Mark Grotjahn 2004), Oil on linen
Created in 2004
152.4 x 127 cm

  • Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
  • Private Collection 
  • London, Sotheby's, The History Of Now: The Collection Of David Teiger, 5 October 2018, Lot 15 (Sold: £3,722,900)
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$19,000,000 - 27,000,000

Lot 1221 | Takashi Murakami | 727, Acrylic on canvas mounted on board, in 3 parts
Created in 2015
Each: 300.5 x 150 cm; Overall: 300.5 x 450 cm

  • Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong 
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$18,000,000 - 25,000,000

Lot 1215 | Bridget Riley | Delos, Oil on linen
Created in 1983
214.5 x 184.8 cm

  • Galerie Beyeler, Basel
  • Private Collection
  • Sotheby's, London, 12 October, 2012, Lot 25
  • Private Collection
  • Mnuchin Gallery, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$15,000,000 - 25,000,000

Lot 1226 | Mark Bradford | Exodus, Mixed media collage on canvas
Created in 2006
121.9 x 152.4 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):

  • Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York
  • Private Collection (acquired from the above)
  • Private Collection, Los Angeles (acquired from the above)
  • Sotheby's, New York, 17 November, 2017, Lot 426 (Sold: US$2,175,000)
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$14,000,000 - 20,000,000

Lot 1220 | Christopher Wool | Not, not, Enamel on linen
Created in 2004
199 x 152.5 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):

  • Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo, 2004
  • Skarstedt Gallery, New York
  • Private Collection
  • Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago
  • Private Collection
  • Christie's, New York, 15 May 2019, Lot 45 (Sold: US$2,535,000)
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$11,000,000 - 15,000,000

Lot 1212 | Matthew Wong | The Smoke, Oil on canvas
Created in 2017
121.9 x 91.4 cm

  • Karma, New York 
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$7,000,000 - 9,000,000

Lot 1231 | Loie Hollowell | Lady in Green, Oil on canvas
Created in 2014
162.6 x 121.9 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):

  • Gallery 106 Green, New York
  • Private Collection 
  • Christie's, London, 4 October, 2019, Lot 32 (Sold: £359,250)
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$6,000,000 - 8,000,000

Auction Details:

Auction House: Sotheby's Hong Kong
Sale: Contemporary Evening Auction
Date and Time: 7 October 2022 | 8:45pm (Hong Kong Time)
Venue: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, No. 1 Harbour Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Number of Lots: 39