Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design day and evening auctions achieved a record HK$272m

After two days of dynamic live auctions at JW Marriott Hotel, a total of 161 lots across the day and evening sales of Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design category netted a combined HK$272 million (US$35 million) – the highest total ever achieved for an auction series in this category at Phillips Asia.

The success was predominantly driven by its evening sale, which scored a remarkable HK$199m. The sell-through rate, meanwhile, was a solid 91 percent by lot and 96 percent by value.

Leading the 22-lot sale were two abstracts by Chinese painter Zao Wou-Ki – 22.6.63 and 24.10.63 – which sold for a staggering HK$54m and HK$46m respectively. Combined, the two paintings hit the hundred million dollar mark, accounting for half of the total evening sales.

Executed in 1963, they are prime examples completed at the peak of Zao's artistic career known as his Hurricane Period, which is marked by a central-axis composition integrated with Chinese cursive calligraphy informed by Western abstract expressionism. Both paintings had changed hands only three times since its completion in 1963, and had remained unseen over the past 57 long years.

Lot 8 | 22.6.63 (1963) by Zao Wou-Ki
oil on canvas, 146 x 89 cm


  • Karma Gallery, New York
  • Private Collection, Paris
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$38,000,000 – 58,000,000
Sold for: HK$54,310,000

Lot 9 | 24.10.63 (1963) by Zao Wou-Ki
oil on canvas, 194 x 97 cm


  • Kootz Gallery, New York
  • Collection of Walter R. Beardsley, United States (acquired from the above)
  • Corporate Collection, United States (acquired from the above circa 1978)
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2005

Estimate: HK$45,000,000 – 65,000,000
Sold for: HK$46,365,000

Following the top-selling Zao Wou-Ki paintings, the third biggest lot of the evening sale went to Liu Ye's Choir of Angels (Red) (1999), which sold to a telephone bidder via Phillips head of watches Jill Chen for HK27.7m after premium. The 1999 painting is part of Liu's iconic “red curtain” series that tips its hat to the methodical compositions of René Magritte and Georgio de Chirico.

Lot 7 | Choir of Angels (Red) (1999) by Liu Ye
oil on canvas, 169.1 x 199.2 cm


  • Gallery Pilsner, Paris
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$20,000,000 – 40,000,000
Sold for: HK$27,750,000

Born in 1964 in Beijing, Liu has become one of the most reputable contemporary artists in China reputed for his bright-hued figurative paintings of childlike female characters. Since 2000, he has embarked on a more simplistic approach to storytelling, reducing the composition to monolithic blocks of colour.

Liu Ye

A case in point being Girl! (2004), a nude painting by the artist that became the headlining lot at the category’s HK$72.6m day sale. The 139-lot sale was participated by some 400 online bidders from 34 countries around the world, marking the largest number of online bidders in Phillips history. 

Lot 185 | Girl! (2004) by Liu Ye
acrylic on canvas, 60 x 44.7 cm


  • Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo
  • Private Collection, Asia
  • Christie's, Hong Kong, 25 May 2008, Lot 438
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$3,800,000 – 4,800,000
Sold for: HK$7,830,000

Dominated by a soft pink palette, the work is one of only six nude portraits conceived between 2000 and 2005. After its initial estimate of HK$3.8m, the work sold for an impressive HK$7.8m.

The day sale also saw Claire Tabouret's debut in Asia, whose Les déguisements (Disguises) was hammered at HK$2.8m – five times its high estimate of HK$750,000. With premium, the price came to HK$3.5m, marking a new record for the French artist.

Lot 118 | Les déguisements (Disguises) (2015) by Claire Tabouret
acrylic on canvas, 161.7 x 129.8 cm


  • Galerie Bugada & Cargnel, Paris
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$550,000 – 750,000
Sold for: HK$3,500,000

Several other artist auction records were set at the auction, which, apart from Tabouret, included Maria Taniguchi, Cleon Peterson and Ruben Pang.

The price paid for Maria Taniguchi’s 227.4-cm-tall Untitled (2016) at HK$350,000 hammer (HK$437,500 with premium) marked a new auction record for the artist at roughly double the presale estimate. Meanwhile, Cleon Peterson also fetched HK$350,000 for his The Nightcrawler (2015); and Ruben Pang’s The Shredding Series (2014) brought in HK$225,000.

Lot 173 | The Nightcrawler, 2015 by Cleon Peterson
oil on canvas, 213.4 x 213.4 cm


  • OVER THE INFLUENCE Gallery, Hong Kong
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$300,000 – 500,000
Sold for: HK$350,000

Aside from the major day and evening sales, a distinctive furniture session by the auction house, dubbed “Eternal Form – A Century of Modern and Contemporary Design”, also achieved a 100% sell-through rate. It featured a mixture of antique and modern furniture amassed by Hong Kong-based collector Kai-Yin Lo from her many travels.

Auction summary

Auction house: Phillips Hong Kong
Sale: 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale 
Sale date: 8 July, 2020
Lots offered: 22
Sold: 20
Sold by lots: 91%
Sale total: HK$199,495,000

Auction house: Phillips Hong Kong
Sale: 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale 
Sale date: 9 July, 2020
Lots offered: 139
Sold: 130
Sold by lots: 94%
Sale total: HK$72,600,000