Revlon Owner Ronald Perelman Sells Gerhard Richter’s Painting for HK$214m, New Record for the Most Expensive Western Art Sold in Asia

Gerhard Richter’s masterpiece Abstraktes Bild (649-2) led Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Hong Kong after selling for HK$214m (US$27.61m) with premium included, a new record for the most expensive Western art sold in Asia, obliterating the record previously held by KAWS’ The KAWS Album.

It has been widely reported by Western media that Revlon Owner Ronald Perelman is now unloading assets as his business was hit hard by the pandemic. This record-breaking Richter painting is one of the many blue-chip artworks from the billionaire’s art collection.

According to Sotheby’s press release, the painting was acquired by The Pola Museum of Art in Hakone, Japan, a museum founded by Japanese cosmetics group Pola Orbis.


Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (649-2), oil on canvas | Realised the highest price at the sale

Created in: 1987
Size: 200 x 200 cm
Provenance:

  • Galerie Löhrl, Mönchengladbach
  • Private Collection, Düsseldorf
  • Galerie Löhrl, Mönchengladbach
  • Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$120,000,000 - 140,000,000
Hammer price: HK$185,000,000
Price realised: HK$214,631,000

Excluding the two withdrawn lots, Sotheby's offered a total of 37 lots and achieved a sell-through rate of 92% with only three lots went unsold. 13 lots were sold for prices above HK$10m. The total hammer price is about HK$571m, within the region of the total presale estimate between HK$450m-650m. The sale total (hammer price plus buyer’s premium) is HK$684m (US$88.26m), higher than the HK$595m realised in the spring sale this July.

The remarkable result can be attributed to efforts by the curator of the sale, Yuki Terase, Head of Contemporary Art, Asia. In our interview with Yuki Terase before the sale, she shared with us her strategy for this season— presenting more top-notch Western artwork to cater to the needs of Asian collectors, who are often looking for international artworks. The approach has proven to be successful as a number of artworks saw strong interest from bidders in Hong Kong, New York and London. One example is the Richter painting that sparked an intense bidding battle between bidders from Hong Kong and London.

Due to the pandemic, Sotheby’s has started holding livestream marquee sales where the auctioneer relays bids from different locations through split screens and multi-cameras. This cross-region digitalised format is usually used in major auctions such as evening sales in New York and London. This Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Hong Kong is Sotheby’s first sale in Asia to adopt this innovative format.

Now back to the seller of the Richter painting. Ronald Owen Perelman is an American banker, businessman and investor. He owns the investment company MacAndrews & Forbes which specialises in investments in the retail sector. The business is currently the largest shareholder of cosmetic company Revlon and engages in a diverse array of industries, from entertainment to cosmetics, security and biotechnology industries.

Cosmetic Giant Ronald Perelman is the biggest shareholder of Revlon

Revlon has been in the red for years and hit hard by the global recession amidst the outbreak of COVID-19. Perelman’s wealth has shrunk from US$19 billion to US$4.2 billion in the past two years. His investment empire is also under a heavy debt load.

To cope with the challenging economic environment, the billionaire is selling almost everything: his 57-acre estate, his Gulfstream G650, his 257-foot yacht and even his treasured art collection.

Perelman is selling his Gulfstream G650

According to Bloomberg, Perelman has sold artworks through private sales for at least US$140m, including works by Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly and Jasper Johns.

The 77-year-old billionaire is also selling a portion of his art collection through auction. This July, a mixed-category auction titled ‘Rembrandt to Richter’ at Sotheby’s London offered works spanning from Old Masters paintings to Contemporary art. Three of the artworks on offer are believed to be from the Perelman’s collection, including:

  • Joan Miró | Peinture (Femme au Chapeau Rouge) | £22.3m (about US$28.9m)
  • Henri Matisse | Danseuse dans un interieur, carrelage vert et noir | £6.48m (about US$8.4m)
  • Francis Bacon | Study for a Portrait of John Edwards | Estimated at £12m-18m (the lot was withdrawn, reportedly due to the lack of pre-sale interest)

Joan Miró, Peinture (Femme au Chapeau Rouge)

Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (649-2)

This autumn season in Hong Kong, the leading lot of the Contemporary Art Evening Sale - Abstraktes Bild (649-2) by Gerhard Richter, also comes from Perelman’s collection.

Richter is one of the most top-ranked artists in Contemporary art in terms of his fame, status and net worth. Known for his abstracts and photorealistic paintings, Richter has set records in the auction world, respectively in 2015 and 2013 at Sotheby's. The records are:

  • Abstract paintingAbstraktes Bild, 300.5 x 250.5 cm, Sotheby’s London, sold for £30,389,000 (around US$39m)
  • Photo-paintingDomplatz, Mailand, 275 x 290 cm, Sotheby’s New York, sold for US$37,125,000

Abstraktes Bild was sold in 2015 for £30m and set the record for a work by a living European artist. Today, Abstraktes Bild and Domplatz, Mailand still rank fourth and fifth on the list, preceded only by American artist Jeff Koons and British artist David Hockney.

Gerhard Richter is one of the most top-ranked artists in Contemporary art

Richter began to produce abstract art in the 1960s and his techniques matured in the 80s. Abstraktes Bild was painted in 1986 while Abstraktes Bild (649-2) was created in 1987.

From 1986 onwards, Richter would relinquish any planned compositional elements by using a homemade squeegee to rub and scrape the paint that he had applied in large bands across his canvases.

In his abstract works, Richter continues to allude to the theme of landscape, a subject often seen in his photorealistic paintings previously. His abstract paintings capture an atmosphere akin to a post-impressionistic translation of landscape scenery in the world of Western art.

A closer look at Abstraktes Bild (649-2)

The painting was sold to Yuki Terase's client

The bidding started at HK$85m and there were three main contestants: a gentleman in the Hong Kong salesroom and two telephone bidders respectively represented by Yuki Terase in Hong Kong and Alex Branczik (Head of Contemporary Art, Europe) in London.

The painting was hammered down at HK$185m after 26 bids and sold for HK$214m after premium to Yuki Terase's client. It becomes the most expensive Western art sold in Asia, smashing the previous record set by KAWS.

Three most expensive Western artworks sold in Asia:

  • Gerhard RichterAbstraktes Bild (649-2)HK$214,631,000
  • KAWSTHE KAWS ALBUM, HK$115,966,000
  • David Hockney30 SunflowersHK$114,827,000

Perelman and his daughter standing in front of Blue Angle

Ellsworth Kelly, Blue Angle

Created in: 2014
Size: 228.6 x 381 x 10.2 cm
Provenance:

  • Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$14,000,000 - 19,000,000
Withdrawn

Blue Angle, a monumental sculpture by American artist Ellsworth Kelly, measuring 228.6 x 381 x 10.2 cm, was withdrawn. We found a picture of Perelman and his daughter standing in front of Blue Angle, which is possible to be the same one offered at the sale.


Other top lots sold at the sale

Banksy, Forgive us Our Trespassing. Acrylic, spray paint and marker pens on wooden panel, in four parts | Realised the second-highest price at the sale

Created in: 2011
Size: 655 x 421 cm
Provenance:

  • The Collection of Steve Lazarides
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$16,000,000 - 32,000,000
Hammer price: HK$54,000,000
Price realised: HK$64,112,000

Forgive Us Our Trespassing from 2011 is the largest known piece by Banksy, measuring 6.5m x 4.2m. The present work was created in 2011 with the participation of over 100 6th to 9th grade students at the City of Angels School in a project aimed to encourage children to create art. While it goes to the very heart of the spirit of street art and graffiti, the imagery itself, on the other hand, is a potent and moving revelation of Banksy’s conflicted feelings about being a graffiti artist, speaking to deep preoccupations and pathos that underscore his artistic production.

The iconic image of the praying boy kneeling beside a can of paint and a brush first appeared on a wall in Salt Lake City, Utah. By asking for forgiveness, Banksy acknowledges the concerns of those who see his work as vandalism, but seems to convey that he ultimately means well, asking for understanding.

The bidding started at HK$14m and soon escalated into a duel between Michele Chan (Specialist of Contemporary Art, Asia) from Hong Kong and a telephone bidder from London. After the price reached HK$30m, a new telephone bidder from New York entered the intense bidding. In the end, Michele Chan’s client emerged victorious in the prolonged bidding with a hammer price of HK$54m. The artwork sold for HK$64.1m after premium

Michele Chan, Specialist of Contemporary Art, Asia


Zhang Xiaogang, The Dark Trilogy: Fear, Meditation, Sorrow. Oil and mixed media on canvas, in three panels | Realised the third-highest price at the sale

Created in: 1989 – 1990
Size: 179 x 342.3 cm
Provenance:

  • (i) Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner
  • (ii) Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner
  • (iii) Pacific Asia Museum, California
  • Private Collection, California
  • Christie's Hong Kong, 28 May 2016, Lot 62 (The Sorrow part was sold for HK$8.44m)
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$25,000,000 - 45,000,000
Hammer price: HK$46,000,000
Price realised: HK$54,920,000

The artwork comes from the collection of Johnson Chang, an avid collector and the founder of Hanart TZ Gallery. He has collaborated closely with artists from Greater China.

From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, China was undergoing a series of transformative economic reforms, opening up to the international community and foreign investment. Meanwhile, social unrest was on the rise in China. Shaken up by the drastic changes in the socio-political environment, Zhang Xiaogang began a huge, soul-searching introspection. The Dark Trilogy is a condensed expression of all these scattered elements of that period brought together. He said in an interview that ‘it seemed as though there were lots of things I couldn’t escape.'

Zhang’s early works were influenced by Existentialism, the Theatre of the Absurd, Surrealism. In this series, he incorporated everyday objects as symbols — like playing cards, knives, books and so on. Together with the composition and the use of colours, he explored themes like absurdity, fear and fate.

Fear

Meditation

Sorrow

Zhang intended to create two works for the exhibition New Art from China: Post-1989 curated by Johnson Chang and Li Xianting. However, after finishing the first two works, Terror and Contemplation, Zhang felt unfulfilled. It was missing something. So he made the final piece, Sorrow.

Zhang only created two triptychs during his early period. The Dark Trilogy is of a larger scale among these two. The coming auction marks the first time the triptych is offered in its entirety since the early 1990s. The Dark Trilogy: Sorrow was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong in 2016 for HK$8.44m (around US$1m). (The English title was translated as ‘Three Black Songs: Melancholy’ back then.)


Adrian Ghenie, The Lidless Eye. Oil on canvas | Realised the third-highest price at the sale

Created in: 1977
Size: 180.3 x 150 cm
Provenance:

  • The Artist
  • Private Collection

Estimate: HK$42,000,000 - 62,000,000
Hammer price: HK$46,000,000
Price realised: HK$54,920,000

Adrian Ghenie often depicts historical figures or the artist himself in various stages of recognizability. Based on a self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh, The Lidless Eye continues Ghenie’s exploration and investigation of visual history and the powers that it makes apparent.

The auction record for Ghenie was made by his painting Nickelodeon that was sold for £7.1m at Christie's London in 2016.

Adrian Ghenie


Firenze Lai, The Colleagues. Oil on canvas | An auction record for the artist

Created in: 2017
Size: 130 x 110 cm
Provenance:

  • Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$900,000 - 1,200,000
Hammer price: HK$2,400,000
Price realised: HK$3,024,000

Born in Hong Kong in 1984, Firenze Lai graduated from Hong Kong Art School and worked as a book designer before becoming a full-time artist in 2011. The Colleagues was recently exhibited at Firenze Lai’s first solo exhibition in Europe, Firenze Lai: White Balance at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of St-Étienne. It exemplifies Firenze Lai’s disarmingly simple visual lexicon that quietly speaks volumes. The estranged contorted figures embrace within a confined space, alluding to the physical and psychological adjustments made in everyday life situations amidst constricting urban environments.

This July, her 2013 painting Happy Ever After, 100.3 x 80cm, was sold for HK$2.62m, exceeding the presale estimate of HK$600,000 - 1.2m.

The Colleagues, of a larger scale measuring 130 x 110cm, saw strong interest from bidders in Asia and New York. It was hammered down at HK$2.4m after about 20 bids and sold for HK$3.02m after premium to an Asian telephone bidder, setting a new auction record for the artist.

Firenze Lai


Lots that sold for more than HK$10m

Francis Bacon, Study for a Portrait. Oil on canvas

Created in: 1979
Size: 35.4 x 30.5 cm
Provenance:

  • Marlborough Gallery, New York
  • Christie's, New York, 20 November 1996, Lot 22
  • Private Collection
  • Christie's, London, 5 February 2003, Lot 3
  • Gagosian Gallery, New York
  • Private Collection
  • Sotheby's, New York, 9 November 2011, Lot 43
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$18,000,000 - 28,000,000
Hammer price: HK$31,000,000
Price realised: HK$37,685,000

George Condo, Purple and Yellow Abstraction. Acrylic, charcoal and pastel on canvas

Created in: 2012
Size: 145.8 x 167.8 cm
Provenance:

  • Sotheby's, New York, 13 May 2013, Lot 5 (donated by the artist and Skarstedt Gallery)
  • Private Collection, USA
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$20,000,000 - 30,000,000
Hammer price: HK$26,000,000
Price realised: HK$31,635,000

Yayoi Kusama, A-Pumpkin-(Cha). Acrylic on canvas

Created in: 2011
Size: 112 x 145.5 cm
Provenance:

  • Ota Fine Arts
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$22,000,000 - 32,000,000
Hammer price: HK$24,000,000
Price realised: HK$29,215,000

Marlene Dumas, Die Baba (2) (the Baby (2)). Oil on canvas

Created in: 2005
Size: 130 x 110 cm
Provenance:

  • Gallery Koyanagi, Tokyo
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$19,500,000 - 23,500,000
Hammer price: HK$20,000,000
Price realised: HK$24,375,000

Zeng Fanzhi, Mask Series No. 11. Oil on canvas. (From the Johnson Chang Collection)

Created in: 1994
Size: 180 x 150 cm
Provenance:

  • Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

Estimate: HK$12,000,000 - 22,000,000
Hammer price: HK$19,500,000
Price realised: HK$23,770,000

Liu Wei, Banana. Oil on canvas. (From the Johnson Chang Collection)
Created in: 1995
Size: 300 x 150.5 cm
Provenance:

  • Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

Estimate: HK$6,000,000 - 10,000,000
Hammer price: HK$17,500,000
Price realised: HK$21,350,000

Yayoi Kusama, Venus Nets (R) and Statue of Venus Obliterated by Infinity Nets. Acrylic on canvas and fibreglass, in two parts

Created in: 1998
Size: 227.3 x 145.4 cm
(painting); 215.9 x 68.6 x 60 cm (sculpture)
Provenance:

  • Acquired directly from the artist
  • Komagane Kogen Art Museum, Nagano
  • Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 7 October 2012, Lot 815
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$4,000,000 - 6,000,000
Hammer price: HK$12,000,000
Price realised: HK$14,695,000

Liu Ye, Florence. Oil on canvas

Created in: 1994
Size: 119.7 x 150.2 cm
Provenance:

  • Galerie Taube, Berlin
  • Private Collection, Berlin
  • Galerie Taube, Berlin
  • Private Collection, China
  • Christie's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2006, Lot 385
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$7,000,000 - 9,000,000
Hammer price: HK$9,000,000
Price realised: HK$11,065,000

Ed Rusha, President. Oil on canvas
Created in: 1972
Size: 50.8 x 61 cm
Provenance:

  • Private Collection
  • Sotheby's, New York, 3 May 1995, Lot 355
  • Gagosian Gallery
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$9,000,000 - 14,000,000
Hammer price: HK$8,200,000
Price realised: HK$10,097,000


Auction summary

Auction house: Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Sale: Contemporary Art Evening Sale
Sale date: 6 October 2020
Lots offered (excluding withdrawn lots): 37
Sold: 34
Unsold: 3
Sold by lots: 92%
Sale total: HK$684,106,000