Led by Gerhald Richter, Phillips x Yongle evening sale achieved US$33.7m in HK

Yesterday, Phillips Hong Kong collaborated with Yongle Auction in mainland China to present a 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale. Joining hands, the two houses achieved a remarkable result, pulling in HK$262 million (around US$33.7 million) with a strong sell-through rate of 97%. 

Of 33 lots offered, only one failed to sell; and the most expensive work sold was Gerhard Richter's Abstraktes Bild (774-1), which fetched HK$89.4 million (around US$11.5 million). Auction records have been set for five artists, including Michaela Yearwood-Dan, William Monk and Sarah Slappey. 

Chairman of Asia Jonathan Crockett led the joint-sale

This strategic partnership between Phillips and Yongle is a win-win cooperation in which both houses can broaden their global reach – Phillips's international presence helps Yongle to gain access to the Western market and promotes foreign art to mainland collectors, while Yongle's vast marketplace of mainland China allows Phillips to present themselves to an audience with huge potential.

Their first joint-sale, curated and orgainzed by Phillips, took place at its usual venue JW Marriott Hotel; and Yongle's mainland team had also came to participate in live bidding. 

Lot 8 | Gerhard Richter | Abstraktes Bild (774-1), Oil on canvas
Created in 1992
200 x 180.3 cm

  • Mario Pieroni Gallery, Rome (acquired directly from the artist)
  • Private Collection, Germany
  • Schönewald Fine Arts, Xanten
  • Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco
  • Private Collection, Brussels
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$80,000,000 - 120,000,000 
Hammer Price: HK$75,000,000
Sold: HK$89,375,000 (around US$11.5 million)

One of the greatest contemporary artists, Gerhard Richter stepped into the field of abstract art around the 1960s. Ceaselessly interrogating the limits of representation, in the 1980s the master pioneered a completely new stylistic direction with an innovative tool: a homemade hard-edged plastic squeegee. 

Using a large, broad squeegee to scrape away layers of impasto, Richter blurs and mixes pigment in the process, partially concealing and partially revealing what was originally laid beneath.

By the 1990s, after years of exploring the new medium, he 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.

Created in 1992, Abstraktes Bild (774-1) is an exquisite masterpiece that represents the German master's technical sophistication at its finest. 

Gerhard Richter

Details of the present lot

Yolanda Zeng won the present lot for her client with paddle number 1003

Installation view of the current work (left) with Abstraktes Bild (774-2) (right)

Here, primary colors dominate the canvas, conjuring up images of bright skies, luscious meadows, and majestic mountainscapes – strokes of vibrant greens and soft blues melt into a background of deep garnet reds. 

It was one of seven paintings the artist made specifically for his 1992 exhibition, Montagne with Associazione per l’Arte Contemporanea Zerynthia in Rome. Its sister pantings, Abstraktes Bild (774-2) is on permanent loan to the Sprengel Museum, Hannover; Abstraktes Bild (774-3) is known to have been destroyed; while the others were sold at auction. 

The present Abstraktes Bild (774-1) is the only painting from the series that is fresh to the market. Ahead of the sale, the work had already been backed by a third-party guarantee to ensure it would sell.

Auctioneer opened the bidding for the present lot at HK$55 million. After four bids, it was hammered for HK$75 million, selling for HK$89.4 million (around US$11.5 million) with fees to a telephone bidder with paddle number 1003 represented by Yolanda Zeng, Associate Regional Representative of Phillips in Shanghai. Suggesting by its representative, the buyer is most likely from Mainland China.

Lot 21 | Yoshitomo Nara | Nachtwandern, Acrylic on canvas
Created in 1994
100 x 100 cm

  • Galerie d'Eendt, Amsterdam
  • Private Collection, Amsterdam
  • Pace Gallery at Chesa Büsin, Zuoz, Switzerland
  • Private Collection, Asia
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$16,000,000 - 25,000,000 
Hammer Price: HK$15,500,000
Sold: HK$19,005,000 (around US$2.4 million)

Also backed by a third-party guarantee, Yoshitomo Nara's Nachtwandern was hammered for HK$15.5 million after four bids. With fees, it sold to an absentee bidder for HK$19 million (around US$2.4 million) to become the second most expensive lot of the sale.

One of the defining icons in contemporary art today, Nara is best known for his paintings of children that appear adorable but at the same time, a little sinister. Behind the intense gaze from the girl’s wide doe-eyes, one can almost sense the subtle melancholic expression and her loneliness.

Yoshitomo Nara

The youngest of three brothers, the artist grew up in a remote neighbourhood with not many small children within close proximity. Mostly left to his own devices while his parents worked full time jobs, Nara looked back on an empty home and only animals for company.

Particularly, he spoke about a profound memory that resurfaced to him in his later years in Germany, "[A] pure white image that covers everything in winter. At the time, I didn’t think about beauty or anything like that, but it left an impression on me.”

In the present lot, the artist's signature powdery white background is filled with multilayered clouds of soft pastels. The little infant with a disproportionately large forehead dons a soft white nightgown, exuding an overwhelming calmness amidst plunging solitude, one which, perhaps, was drawn deeply from a lonely childhood.

Lot 12 | Yayoi Kusama | Infinity-Nets (GMBKA), Acrylic on canvas
Created in 2013
162 x 131 cm

  • David Zwirner, New York
  • Private Collection, USA (acquired from the above in 2013)
  • Phillips, Hong Kong, 24 November 2019, lot 28
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$12,000,000 - 18,000,000 
Hammer Price: HK$10,200,000
Sold: HK$12,592,000 (around US$1.6 million)

Yayoi Kusama has recently taken center stage on the Asian art scene, with her pumpkin scultpure landing in Qatar, her collaboration with Louis Vuitton taking over billboards in Tokyo's emblematic Shibuya Crossing, and her major restrospective taking place at M+ Museum in Hong Kong.

The momentum for the Queen of Podka Dots carried through to the sale. As soon as auctioneer opened the lot at HK$68 million, there was a heavy bidding both online and in the room. After a fierce bidding war, 17 bids propelled the work to its HK$10.2-million hammer price, which was won by a Malaysian online bidder for HK$12.6 million (around US$1.6 million) with fees. 

INFINITY-NETS (GMBKA) was last auctioned in 2019, when it sold for HK$7.71 million in the same saleroom. After three years, its value has climbed by HK$4.88 million.

Yayoi Kusama's major restrospective taking place at M+ Museum in Hong Kong

Yayoi Kusama started the Infinity Net series in New York

INFINITY-NETS (GMBKA) is a stunning example from Kusama's iconic Infinity Nets series, a motif which arose from her obsessive neurosis. 

Born 1929 in post-war Japan, Kusama was the youngest of four children in a wealthy family. At age 10, Kusama began to repeatedly experience vivid hallucinations of kaleidoscopic patterns, memories of which she described: "I was always standing at the centre of the obsession, over the passionate accretion and repetition inside of me."

To seek creative freedom from the constraints of conventional Japan, Kusama landed in New York in 1958 in pursuit of a flourishing artistic career. The following year, when she exhibited her debut Infinity Net painting Pacific Ocean at Bruta Gallery, her avant-garde, intricate work was unanimously hailed by artists, collectors, and critics.

Details of the lot

Since then, Inifinity Net became a renowned motif which Kusama continues to depict over six decades of her artistic career, and an emblem that paves the way for many of her sculptures and installations. 

Executed in the mature period of the artist’s career, INFINITY-NETS (GMBKA) saw Kusama's web meticulously rendered in delicate lattices of gloden loops and swirls, mesmerising as they draw the viewer towards the shimmering spaces contained within the tightly woven blanket of glistening black paint.

Untitled (Nets), another work from the same signature series, now holds Kusama's auction record of US$10.5 million, set at Phillips New York this past May.

Other Highlight Lots:

Lot 7 | Loie Hollowell | Split Orbs in gray-brown, yellow, purple and carmine, Oil, acrylic and high-density foam on linen mounted on panel
Created in 2021
122.5 x 91.8 cm

  • PACE Gallery, New York
  • König Galerie, Berlin
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$4,000,000 - 6,000,000 
Hammer Price: HK$10,000,000
Sold: HK$12,350,000

Lot 14 | Zao Wou-ki | 14.10.69., Oil on canvas
Created in 1969
65 x 100 cm

  • Collection of Zao Wou-Ki
  • Thence by descent to the present owner

Estimate: HK$8,000,000 - 12,000,000 
Hammer Price: HK$9,500,000
Sold: HK$11,745,000

Lot 35 | Raghav Babbar | Off Duty, Oil on canvas (Auction record for the artist)
Created in 2020
152.5 x 101.7 cm

  • Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

Estimate: HK$150,000 - 250,000
Hammer Price: HK$4,000,000
Sold: HK$5,040,000

Lot 1 | Michaela Yearwood-Dan | What's the Use in Yearning, Acrylic, oil and Swarovski crystals on canvas, diptych (Auction record for the artist)
Created in 2021
Each: 200 x 150 cm; Overall: 200 x 300 cm

  • Galerie Maria Bernheim, Zürich
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$250,000 - 350,000 
Hammer Price: HK$2,400,000
Sold: HK$3,024,000

Lot 28 | Trey Abdella | Sunny Days, Acrylic on canvas (Auction record for the artist)
Created in 2020
198 x 218.5 cm

  • König Galerie, Berlin
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$700,000 - 900,000 
Hammer Price: HK$2,400,000
Sold: HK$3,024,000

Lot 9 | William Monk | Far-Out III, Oil on canvas (Auction record for the artist)
Created in 2013
230.5 x 220.3 cm

  • Grimm Gallery, Amsterdam
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$800,000 - 1,200,000
Hammer Price: HK$2,000,000
Sold: HK$2,520,000

Lot 32 | Sarah Slappey | Black Pearls II, Oil on canvas (Auction record for the artist)
Created in 2020
140 x 124.5 cm

  • Galerie Maria Bernheim, Zürich
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$300,000 - 500,000
Hammer Price: HK$800,000
Sold: HK$1,008,000

Auction Details:

Auction House: Philips Hong Kong and Yongle Auction
Sale: 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in association with Yongle
Date: 1 December 2022
Number of Lots: 33
Sold: 32
Unsold: 1
Sale Rate: 97%
Sale Total: HK$262,107,500 (around US$33.7 million)