Led by Yoshitomo Nara’s Painting, Phillips x Poly White-Glove Evening Sale Pulled in a Robust US$63.7m, a 30% Leg-Up on Last Season

Continuing the winning streak of Phillips’ first white-glove 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day sale in Hong Kong yesterday, the evening sale that took place earlier tonight, was another tremendous success, with again, every single lot sold. 

That would have the strategic partnership with Poly to thank, as the two auction houses collaborated again this season to leverage the dynamic in the Asian market. 

Yoshitomo Nara's Missing in Action was crowned the star of the evening


Phillips, with its international presence and its particulate strength with contemporary artworks, played a crucial role in the curation of the sale. Whereas Poly, China's largest state-owned auction house, brought to the room its impressive clientele based in mainland China and major cities in East Asia.

Fueled by the active participation across the Hong Kong and Beijing salerooms, as well as from online bidders from Japan and Korea, the marquee sale tallied HK$494m (US$63.7m), an almost 30% growth from last season’s equivalent sale. The sale was led by Yoshitomo Nara’s Missing in Action, which fetched HK$123.7m (US$15.9m) and it is now the artist's second highest auction record.

Let's take a look at the top lots of the evening, alongside some highlights by the Asian market stalwarts:

Lot 17 | Yoshitomo Nara, Missing in Action, 2000

Acrylic on canvas 
Dimensions: 165 x 150 cm

  • McCabe Fine Art, Stockholm
  • Collection of Dr. Frederic S. Brandt, Miami
  • Phillips, London, October 14, 2015, lot 9
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate upon request
Hammer price: HK$105,000,000
Price realized: HK$123,725,000


Auctioneer Jonathan Crockett opened the proceeding of the star lot at HK$42m. The first half of the bidding was dominated by the specialists in the Hong Kong saleroom. That was until the price reached HK$90m, a bid offered by Blair Cheung (Poly Hong Kong’s Business Representative based in Beijing). From there onwards, it was obvious that the only one standing in his way was a floor bidder in the Beijing saleroom.

After 14 more bids, the hammer was down at HK$105m, and the painting was sold to Cheung’s phone bidder, with the paddle number 333. After fees, the present lot realized HK$123.7m (US$15.9m), over five times more than when it was last auctioned off in a London sale in 2015, when it was sold for £2m (US$3m). 

Auctioneer Jonathan Crockett fielding bids from Hong Kong

(Right) Blair Cheung, Poly Hong Kong’s Business Representative based in Beijing, won the present lot for his client


The present work by Nara, Missing in Action, is one of the paintings he created in 2000, a watershed year for the artist as he made his way back to Japan after spending 12 years in Germany for his artistic apprenticeship. 

The year 2000 was also when Nara’s previous record, Knife Behind Back, was painted, which was sold for HK$195.7m (US$25m) in 2019. The same year also saw the artist’s first museum solo shows in the US, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and Santa Monica Museum of Art.

Nara’s Knife Behind Back, sold for HK$195.7m (US$12.3m) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, October 2019

The present work on view at McCabe Fine Art, Stockholm, 2013


The heroine of the present painting, against the crisp beige background, is the embodiment of Nara’s childhood reflection. In a teal dress that appears to be a size too big for her, the little girl’s irreverent gaze, rounded cheeks, nuanced facial expression, and in particular, the long fringe and tousled curls resemble the artist himself. 

As the youngest child of working parents, Nara spent much of his time in solitude with little to do but explore the depths of his imagination. The signature style in his oeuvre was first developed during his lonesome years in Germany, which reminded him of his childhood. 

Yoshitomo Nara (b.1959)


The sensation captured slowly manifested itself from the 1990s, into the character’s signature bob cut, pudgy cheeks, and almond-eyes, behind which, one can almost sense the subtle melancholic expression and loneliness that juxtapose her adorable features. 

Yoshitomo Nara, the most expensive Japanese artist, is known for his paintings that cultivate an artistic dialogue that bridges the visual lexicon between Japanese popular culture and Western Modernism. 

Lot 13 | Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (940-7), 2015

Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 140 x 160 cm 

  • Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2016

Estimate: HK$75,000,000 - 95,000,000 
Hammer price: HK$80,000,000
Price realized: HK$95,000,000


The bidding began at HK$42m and elicited quite an active bidding battle among the specialists gathered in the Hong Kong saleroom. The participation from both Phillips’ and Poly’s sides propelled the price to its presale low estimates in minutes. In the end, it was Phillips’ Head of Evening Sale, Charlotte Raybaud, who joined at the last minute to offer the victorious bid of HK$80m. She acquired the present work for her client, with the paddle number 357. Sold for HK$95.1m (US$12.3m) after fees, the abstract was tonight's first runner-up.

Painted in 2015, the present painting by German painter Gerhard Richter is from his renowned Abstraktes Bild series from 1967 to 1977. Featuring vibrant shades of red and yellow, enriched with textures and powerful brush strokes against patches and lines of scraped canvas. 

Gerhard Richter (b.1932)


Using his signature “squeegee” technique, in which Richter would rub and scrape across wet paint to relinquish any intended compositional elements laid down on a canvas, revealing the paint-stained preparatory layer underneath. It delivers a kaleidoscope of color and texture to create a captivating compositional dynamism. 

Measuring 140 by 160 cm, the present work is also among the three largest oil on canvas paintings created by the artist this millennium offered at auction. 

Lot 10 | Matthew Wong, Figure in a Night Landscape, 2017

Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 121.9 x 182.9 cm

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

Estimate: HK$6,000,000 - 8,000,000
Hammer price: HK$30,000,000
Price realized: HK$36,550,000


The evening’s third place was captured by auction juggernaut Matthew Wong. Since last year, the prices of his artworks have been surging. The painterly approach by the late Chinese-Canadian artist and his use of complementary colors are often compared to the works of Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, and Edvard Munch. 

The present lot, Figure in a Night Landscape, opened at HK$5m. After a few absentee bids from the auctioneer’s book, the prices were pushed up steadily by a Hong Kong online bidder, and at least two phone bidders with Charlotte Raybaud (Phillips Head of Evening Sale) and Wenjia Zhang (Phillips Regional Director in China). After a total of 29 bids, the auctioneer brought his hammer down at HK$30m, five times over the presale low estimate of HK$6m. The painting was acquired by Zhang’s client with the paddle number 1005. After fees, it was sold for HK$36.6m (US$4.7m), just missed the artist’s record, which currently stands at US$4.9m.

Matthew Wong (1984-2019)

Matthew Wong’s River at Dusk was sold for record-breaking HK$37.7m (US$4.9m), December 2020


The present work, Figure in a Night Landscape features Wong’s imaginary worlds of sparkling wooded forests or rolling hills that appear to expand out from the canvas indefinitely. Painted two years before his tragic passing, the painting is centered around a solitary figure in solation, standing in the midst of a dark expanse.

Lot 22 | Banksy, Laugh Now Panel A, 2002

Spray paint and emulsion on dry wall, in artist's frame
Work: 178.5 x 74 cm
Frame: 192.3 x 87.5 cm

  • 33 1/3 Gallery, Los Angeles
  • Private Collection, United Kingdom
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$22,000,000 - 32,000,000 
Hammer price: HK$20,000,000
Price realized: HK$24,450,000


The enigmatic British artist Banksy, though identity remains a mystery, is known for creating political and social commentary in his iconic stenciled form. His graffiti was first seen in the walls of Bristol in the southwest of England in the early 1990s, yet he has also left his mark in various cities across America, Australia, and Canada. 

Laugh Now Panel A features one of Banky’s most recognizable motifs, a forlorn monkey. It was initially a six-meter long spray painted mural commissioned by a nightclub in Brighton. The preset lot, with the powerful memo on the monkey’s sandwich-board that reads: “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge” was also the first physical artwork to accept cryptocurrencies Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH) as payments, through Phillips’ digital wallet with Coinbase. The work received a total of five bids, and was sold to a phone bidder with the paddle number 391, for HK$24.45m (US$3.15m) with premium.

Lot 28 | George Condo, Sketches of Jean Louis, 2006

Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 215.6 x 203.5 cm

  • Luhring Augustine, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2006

Estimate: HK$10,000,000 - 15,000,000 
Hammer price: HK$11,000,000
Price realized: HK$13,560,000


Painted in 2006, the present work by contemporary American artist George Condo captures the fictitious French character Jean Louis, a recurring subject in Condo’s oeuvre. The slightly twisted and reinterpreted figure parodies naturalism and the angularly distorted pays tribute to Picasso’s “analytical cubism.”

The “Artificial Realism” philosophy pioneered by the artist in the late 1980s blurs the line between realism and abstraction. The Picasso-esque portrait of the present lot is the result of the artist’s realistic representation of the mythic hero he imagined as a mirror for human nature. 

New records for artists: 

Tonight also saw records renewed for multiple contemporary artists, including Pakistan-born figurative painter Salman Toor, and notably, US-based artist Emily Mae Smith, whose anthropomorphic broomstick figure painting offered tonight, was hammered down for HK$10m (US$1.3m), 25 times higher than its presale low estimate of HK$400,000 (US$51,546).


Lot 2 | Emily Mae Smith, Broom Life, 2014

Oil on linen
Dimensions: 122 x 94 cm

  • Laurel Gitlen, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2014

Estimate: HK$400,000 - 600,000
Hammer price: HK$10,000,000
Price realized: HK$12,350,000

Lot 3 | Loie Hollowell, First Contact, 2018

Oil, acrylic, sawdust and high-density foam on linen mounted on panel
Dimensions: 122.2 x 91.4 cm

  • PACE, New York
  • Private Collection
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$1,200,000 - 1,800,000
Hammer price: HK$8,800,000
Price realized: HK$10,898,000

Lot 1 | Salman Toor, Girl with Driver, 2013

Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 142 x 200 cm
Estimate: HK$1,200,000 - 2,200,000
Hammer price: HK$5,500,000
Price realized: HK$6,905,000

Lot 7 | Jadé Fadojutimi, Concealment: An essential generated by the lack of shade, 2019

Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 200.5 x 140 cm

  • Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$600,000 - 800,000 
Hammer price: HK$4,500,000
Price realized: HK$5,670,000

Lot 11 | Bernard Frize, Toky, 2018

Acrylic and resin on canvas
Dimensions: 180 x 255 cm

  • Galerie Perrotin, Tokyo
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$1,000,000 - 1,500,000
Hammer price: HK$2,100,000
Price realized: HK$2,646,000

Auction Summary:

Auction houses: Phillips and Poly Auction 
Sale: 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale
Date: June 8, 2021
Lots offered: 35
Sold: 35
Sale rate: 100%
Sale total: HK$494,199,000 (US$63,688,758)