Sotheby’s Boundless: Contemporary Art Auction Sold Artworks at Attractive Prices

On 8 December 2017, Sotheby’s Hong Kong presented Boundless: Contemporary Art, a cross-disciplinary auction featuring a selection of modern and contemporary paintings, works on paper, sculptures and design pieces by established and emerging Asian and Western artists. By offering works by some of the most sought-after artists at accessible prices, the sale was designed to appeal to younger clients and art aficionados.

The sale totalled HK$29,567,500 and achieved a sell-through rate of 80.2%. The top lot of the sale fell to Zao Wou-Ki’s 01.05.69. Zao Wou-Ki is among the most important and recognized Chinese painters of the 20th century. He inherited the aesthetic tradition of Chinese landscape paintings and calligraphic art of the Song and Yuan dynasties in his art. Zao fused them with techniques of Western drawing, emphasizing the play of colour and light, creating a fresh, new abstract art that conjoined the best of East and West. All of these contributed to his popularity and success among the most respected gallery owners and agents.

In 1968, Zao's work was included in the travelling exhibition "Painting in France 1900–1967" at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The same year, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art organized an exhibition solely devoted to Zao Wou-Ki.

Zao Wou-ki

The present lot 01.05.69 made right after Zao's solo show in San Francisco. Estimated at HK$3.5m-5.5m, 01.05.69 was hammered down for HK$5.5m and sold for HK$6.72m with buyer’s premium.

Chen Danqing’s Two Young Shepherds also saw strong interest from buyers. Chen is one of the most influential painters in Chinese Contemporary Art history. His style of depiction, as well as his choice of subject matter, reflect the influence of an earlier art movement in France known as Realism.

The current work, painted in 1986, is reminiscent of the iconic Shepherds in his Tibetan series. Estimated at HK$1.5m-2m, the painting was hammered down for HK$2.8m and sold for HK$3.48m with buyer’s premium.

One of the highlights from the sale was Le Couple Aux Fleurs by Marc Chagall, a Russian-French artist. Marc Chagall returned to Paris in 1948 after the Second World War. His joy and delight of returning can be felt through the current work.

Painted in 1950, the painting depicts a young couple embracing intimately in an interior rendered in translucent tones. Chagall’s soft handling of bright saturated colours created a dream-like sensuality and timeless tranquillity. Estimated at HK$900,000-1.5m, the painting was hammered down for HK$1.3m and sold for HK$1.625m with buyer’s premium.

Another premium lot, Gerhard Richter’s Entwurf Für Grund, was passed in the end despite carrying a pre-sale estimate of HK$2.4m-4m.

Top three lots (by prices realized)

Zao Wou-Ki. 01.05.69.

Lot no.: 888
Size: 54 x 65cm

  • Private Collection, France (acquired directly from the artist circa 1970)
  • Thence by descent to the present owner

Estimate: HK$3,500,000 — 5,500,000
Hammer price: HK$5,500,000
Price realized: HK$6,720,000

Chen Danqing. Two Young Shepherds.

Lot no.: 902
Size: 100 x 74.5cm

  • Grand Central Art Galleries, Inc., New York
  • Private Collection, Connecticut

Estimate: HK$1,500,000 – 2,000,000
Hammer price: HK$2,800,000
Price realized: HK$3,480,000

Marc Chagall. Le Couple Aux Fleurs.

Lot no. 875
Size: 30.9 x 25cm

  • David B. Findlay Galleries, New York
  • Christie's, New York, 11 May 1989, lot 205
  • Private Collection
  • Sotheby's, London, 25 June 2002, lot 181
  • Acquired by the present owner from the above sale

Estimate: HK$900,000 – 1,500,000
Hammer price: HK$1,300,000
Price realized: HK$1,625,000

Premium lot that passed:
Gerhard Richter. Entwurf Für Grund.

Lot no.: 894
Size: 70 x 100.2cm

  • Private Collection, Germany
  • Kunsthaus Lempertz, Cologne, 14 June 1991, lot 1182
  • Private Collection, Germany (acquired from the above sale)
  • Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, 1 May 2009, lot 192
  • Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above sale)
  • Private Collection, Europe

Estimate: HK$2,400,000 — 4,000,000

Auction summary

Auction house: Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Sale: Boundless: Contemporary Art
Date: 8 December 2017
Sale Total: HK$29,567,500
Lots offered: 96
Sold: 77
Unsold: 19
Sell-through rate: 80.2%
Average price per lot: HK$383,993