Gerhard Richter’s abstract fetches US$25.5m at Sotheby’s HK evening sale

Hot on the heels of the record-setting sale of the Williamson Pink Star diamond, Sotheby’s Hong Kong closed last night’s marquee evening sales with a 35-lot Contemporary Evening Art Auction, where only two lots were unsold, generating a sell-through rate of 94% and sale total of HK$535 million (US$68.5 million).

The leading lot went to abstract master Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild, which fetched HK$200 million (US$25.5 million) after fees to become the artist's second priciest painting sold in Hong Kong. 

The sale also saw 11 lots achieve a final price of over HK$10 million, and records were set for two female artists, Emily Mae Smith and María Berrío.

Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild hammered for HK$172 million

Lot 1219 | Gerhard Richter | Abstraktes Bild, Oil on canvas
Created in 1990
225 x 200 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):

  • Private Collection, Dublin
  • Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London
  • Marguerite and Robert Hoffman Collection, Dallas
  • Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco
  • Private Collection, Korea
  • Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco
  • Private Collection
  • Sotheby's, London, 15 February 2011, Lot 13 (Sold: £7,209,250, US$11,547,056)
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner 

Estimate: HK$175,000,000 - 235,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$172,000,000
Sold: HK$200,443,000 (US$25.5 million)

Started at HK$150 million, the lot saw quite a modet bidding and the hammer was dropped at HK$172 million, sold for HK$200 million (US$25.5 million) after fees to the telephone bidder represented by Shea Lam, Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale, Sotheby's Asia, with paddle number 264.

Among the world’s leading contemporary artists, Gerhard Richter is at the top of the list in terms of status, fame and net worth. He stepped into the field of abstract art around the 1960s and has already made a name for himself with his distinctive style in the 1980s.  

Ceaselessly interrogating the limits of representation, the artist pioneered a completely new stylistic direction with an innovative tool: a homemade hard-edged plastic squeegee.

Shea Lam (middle) won the bid for her client with paddle number 264

His creative process then became not one of addition, but rather of subtraction, where he methodically disturbs, conceals and scraps layers of detailed under-paintings by dragging a squeegee across the canvas, creating abstracts of mesmerising dynamism and immense details.

By the 1990s, after years of exploring the new medium, the German master 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 – where eight of his top ten most expensive works were completed during this period.

Gerhard Richter

725-3, in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

725-1 (left one), exhibited in Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane in 2017

Created in 1990, Abstraktes Bild belongs to the concise 725 series of just five works, including 725-3 in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and 725-5 on loan at the Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany.

A museum-quality work, Abstraktes Bild exemplifies Richter’s mastery of his trademark squeegee technique, where he skilfully creates a central ‘seam’ that runs vertically down the canvas, resulting in two sections which are distinct in terms of the artist’s palette. By drawing the squeegee horizontally across the canvas, he generates paint tracks from the central seam to either side, emanating a shimmering fluidity with intricate texture.

Part of Abstraktes Bild 

Part of Abstraktes Bild 

The present lot measures 225 by 200 cm, slightly larger than his record-breaking Abstraktes Bild (649-2), which is 200 by 200 cm. It was last seen at auction in 2011, when the present owner acquired it at £7.2 million (around US$11.5 million at the time) at Sotheby’s London. This time having fetched US$25.5 million, its value has increased more than twofold in 11 years.

Lot 1214 | Peter Doig | Country-rock (wing-mirror), Oil on canvas
Created in 1999
194.9 x 270 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):

  • Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York
  • Private Collection 
  • Sotheby's, London, 30 June 2014, Lot 27 (Sold: £8,482,500)
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$75,000,000 - 98,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$63,000,000
Sold: HK$75,202,000 (around US$9.6 million)

The second top lot of the sale was Country-rock (wing-mirror) by Peter Doig, which garnered HK$75.2 million (around US$9.6 million) after fees. The auctioneer opened the lot at HK$50 million and after five bids, the hammer price came to HK$63 million, placed by a telephone bidder with paddle number 284, represented by Patti Wong, Senior International Chairman of Sotheby’s. 

One of the most renowned living figurative painters, Doig was born in Scotland in 1959 and moved frequently as a child, from the United Kingdom to Trinidad to Canada, steps he has retraced over the course of his adulthood. Leading a peripatetic life, the artist seems to never have belonged anywhere – which perhaps explains why he has devoted his career to depicting landscapes tinged with the history and memory of these places.

Throughout his oeuvre, Doig constantly tries to break away from traditional landscape practices and goes for an unconventional approach. Drawing on personal experiences and source imagery such as movie scenes and newspaper clipping, his dream-like landscapes blur the boundary between reality and imagination, resulting in canvases that are nostalgic without being specifically reminiscent.


Patti Wong (left) won the lot for her client with paddle number 284

Peter Poig

The rainbow tunnel off the Don Valley Parkway, Toronto

Country-rock, in a European private collection

Painted in 1999 while Doig was in London, Country-rock (wing-mirror) depicts a view particularly familiar to Toronto residents: the rainbow tunnel off the Don Valley Parkway – with a viewpoint from the passenger seat of a car.

Between 1998 and 2000 Doig had painted three works on such vista: one presently in the collection of the PinchukArtCentre in Kiev; while the other was chosen as the catalogue cover illustration for the artist’s seminal retrospective at Tate Britain in 2008 and remains in a European private collection.  

The present work is distinguished from the other two, however, as the only version to feature a glimpse of the car – via the intrusion of a wing-mirror in the lower left quadrant. It last went under hammer in 2014, having sold for nearly £8.5 million (around US$14.5 million).

Currently, the auction record for the artist is set by Swamped, sold last November at Christie’s New York for US$39.8 million.

Lot 1224 | Jean-Michel Basquiat | Emblem, Acrylic and oilstick on canvas
Created in 1984
218.4 x 248.9 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):

  • Mary Boone Gallery, New York
  • Private Collection
  • Sotheby's, London, 15 October 2015, Lot 30 (Sold: £665,000)
  • Private Collection, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$28,000,000 - 35,000,000 
Hammer Price: HK$23,000,000
Sold: HK$28,205,000 (around US$3.6 million)

Having sold for HK$28.2 million (around US$3.6 million) after fees, Jean-Michel Basquiat's Emblem was the third most expensive lot of the sale. The bidding started at HK$1.8 million and it was Max Moore, Director, Head of Contemporary Art Auctions, Sotheby's Hong Kong, who placed the winning bid of HK$23 million for his client with paddle number 251. 

One of the most famous artists of the 20th century, Basquiat has been paraded and hyped heavily at auctions in recent years, with his works selling for astounding prices almost every season.

In 2017, his 1982 skull painting Untitled realised a staggering US$110.4 million and pushed him to become then the most valuable American painter – though the crown was taken by his friend Andy Warhol in 2022, when Shot Sage Blue Marilyn sold for a record-smashing US$195 million.

When it comes to Asian market, his Warrior, which fetched HK$323.6 million (US$41.7 million) last year, is still now the most expensive Western artwork sold in Asia. 

Max Moore (middle) won the bid for his client with paddle number 251


SCALO MERCI, which translates as ‘Freight Yard’ from Italian

As a Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, Basquiat was highly aware of the lack of representation of African American population in art history and was never hesitant to explore the themes of race, class struggle and Black culture.

Created in 1984 following his rapid rise to fame, Enblem brings together many of the key themes of Basquiat’s oeuvre: the signature human head and powerful use of words.

In the centre of the work were two words written in his idiosyncratic capitalised oil stick scrawl – SCALO MERCI, which translates as ‘Freight Yard’ from Italian. Such phrase hints at Basquiat’s time spent in Italy, where he had exhibited in Modena, at the Galleria d’Arte Emilio Mazzoli in 1981. First time visiting the country, Basquiat was deeply inspired by Renaissance art and had later challenged the legacy of the Italian Renaissance in his other works. 

This work last appeared at auction in 2015, when it sold for £665,000 (around US$997,500) in London. After seven years, its value has seen an increase of over US$2 million. 

Lot 1213 | Yayoi Kusama | Untitled (Pumpkin Sculpture), Urethane on FRP
Created in 2007
100 x 100 x 100 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):

  • MOMA Contemporary, Japan
  • Beyond Gallery, Taiwan
  • Private Collection, Taiwan
  • Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 8 June 2018, Lot 127 (Sold: HK$11,400,000)
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$32,000,000 - 45,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$22,400,000
Sold: HK$27,479,000 (around US$3.5 million)

The priciest Eastern art in the sale belongs to the iconic pumpkin sculpture by Yayoi Kusama, which brought in HK$27.4 million (around US$3.5 million) after fees, sold to the bidder with paddle number 88.

One of the most admired and universally recognisable images of contemporary art today, Kusama’s pumpkins are central to the artist’s widely celebrated oeuvre.

Her profound connection with the motif can be traced back to a vivid episode during her childhood: “The first time I ever saw a pumpkin was when I was in elementary school and went with my grandfather to visit a big seed-harvesting ground…and there it was: a pumpkin the size of a man’s head…It immediately began speaking to me in a most animated manner.”

She also recalls having overconsumed the vegetable to the point of nausea in her childhood years during and after the war – but which in later years has become one of her favourite subjects. For Kusama, pumpkin is her spiritual home, bringing about poetic peace for her mind – they are an embodiment of optimism, serenity and joy.

Yayoi Kusama's iconic pumpkin sculpture

Created in 2007, the present pumpkin sculpture measures a meter tall and a meter wide, rendered in Kusama’s signature palette of yellow and black. From November 2021 to May 2022, this work was exhibited at the artist’s landmark retrospective in Tel Aviv, Israel, titled Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective.

In 2018, the present lot was offered at Sotheby’s Hong Kong and realized HK$11.4 million (around US$1.4 million) after fees. The auction record for her sculpture, however, is at HK$62.5 million (US$7.1 million), achieved by Pumpkin, which is over two metres tall, sold last December at Christie’s Hong Kong.

Other Highlight Lots:

Lot 1221 | Takashi Murakami | 727, Acrylic on canvas mounted on board, in 3 parts
Created in 2015
Each: 300.5 x 150 cm; Overall: 300.5 x 450 cm

  • Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong 
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$18,000,000 - 25,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$17,000,000
Sold: HK$20,945,000

Lot 1215 | Bridget Riley | Delos, Oil on linen
Created in 1983
214.5 x 184.8 cm

  • Galerie Beyeler, Basel
  • Private Collection
  • Sotheby's, London, 12 October, 2012, Lot 25
  • Private Collection
  • Mnuchin Gallery, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$15,000,000 - 25,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$17,000,000
Sold: HK$20,945,000

Lot 1226 | Mark Bradford | Exodus, Mixed media collage on canvas
Created in 2006
121.9 x 152.4 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):

  • Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York
  • Private Collection (acquired from the above)
  • Private Collection, Los Angeles (acquired from the above)
  • Sotheby's, New York, 17 November, 2017, Lot 426 (Sold: US$2,175,000)
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$14,000,000 - 20,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$14,000,000
Sold: HK$17,315,000

Lot 1205 | Emily Mae Smith | The Riddle, Oil on linen (Artist's record)
Created in 2017
170.2 x 129.5 cm

  • Simone Subal Gallery, New York
  • Private collection
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$1,800,000 - 2,500,000
Hammer Price: HK$10,000,000
Sold: HK$12,475,000

Lot 1203 | María Berrío | The Lovers 3, Watercolor and Japanese paper collage on canvas (Artist's record)
Created in 2015
182.9 x 182.9 cm

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

Estimate: HK$2,500,000 - 4,500,000
Hammer Price: HK$9,500,000
Sold: HK$11,870,000

Lot 1220 | Christopher Wool | Not, not, Enamel on linen
Created in 2004
199 x 152.5 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):

  • Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo, 2004
  • Skarstedt Gallery, New York
  • Private Collection
  • Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago
  • Private Collection
  • Christie's, New York, 15 May 2019, Lot 45 (Sold: US$2,535,000)
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$11,000,000 - 15,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$8,600,000
Sold: HK$10,781,000

Lot 1216 | Stanley Whitney | SunRa, Oil on canvas
Created in 2016 
244.2 x 244.2 cm

  • Team Gallery, New York 
  • Private Collection 
  • Phillips, New York, 15 May 2019, Lot 319
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$7,500,000 - 10,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$8,000,000
Sold: HK$10,055,000

Auction Details:

Auction House: Sotheby's Hong Kong
Sale: Contemporary Evening Auction
Date and Time: 7 October 2022 | 8:45pm (Hong Kong Time)
Number of Lots: 35
Sold: 33
Unsold: 2
Sale Rate: 94%
Sale Total: HK$535,469,200 (US$68.5 million)