Sotheby’s Continues to Deliver Strong Performance at Contemporary Art Sale

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Sale was held in Hong Kong last night, following a notable Modern Art Evening Sale. The sale realized a total of HK$397,987,500 and a 94.7 percentage sold by lot, with only two of all 38 lots were passed. Here is a summary of top five lots sold at Modern Art Evening Sale

The top lot at the sale was Cartoon by American painter Robert Rauschenberg. Estimated at HK$32m-40m, Cartoon was hammered down for HK$33m and sold for HK$38m to the telephone bidder represented by Yuki Terase (image above), Sotheby's Head of Contemporary Art, Asia.

Rauschenberg redefined the traditional boundaries between painting and sculpture through an embrace of non-traditional materials, a concern for formal composition, and a rejection of the contemporaneous art historical narrative. The present lot, Cartoon, reinvented the terms by which art was made and considered, deviating from a delineation of singular meaning and mode.

Red-Nets No. 2.A.3 by Kusama Yayoi, a Japanese artist best known for her iconic works painted with brightly coloured polka dots. Estimated at HK$24m-32m, the work was hammered down for HK$30m and sold for HK$35.5m, becoming the second top lot at the sale.

The present work is an early example of Kusama Yayoi’s Infinity Nets – one that harkens back simultaneously to the artist’s well-documented childhood hallucination of red flowers as well as her Japanese Nihonga paintings from the 1940s and 1950s. The painting was executed in 1960, Kusama’s third year in New York city and the first in which she rendered her iconic Infinity Nets in red.

Also created by Japanese artist, Shiraga Kazuo’s Chiansei Kinhyoshi fetched HK$27m, the fifth highest price at the sale. Shiraga Kazuo was a Japanese modern artist who belonged to the Gutai group of avant-garde artists. In the Water Margin legend, 108 bandits rebelled against a corrupt emperor, fighting for justice in a thrilling and violent plot. The present work is named after Yang Lin, the 51st of the 108 heroes.

Shiraga Kazuo’s Chiansei Kinhyoshi sold to a gentleman in the room for HK$27.68m, double its estimate of HK$11m-15m.

In fact, Japanese contemporary works at the sale performed well, and all eight Japanese contemporary works sold.

The third top lot fell to Liu Wei’s Revolutionary Family Series: Travel Time (Diptych). The diptych was hammered down for HK$30m and sold for HK$35m, outstripping its pre-sale estimate HK$15m-20m. The emergence of Liu Wei’s Revolutionary Family series in the early 1990s earned him instant recognition as one of the two strongest proponents of Cynical Realism. The present work was shipped to Venice for the 1993 Biennale. 

This magnificent chef-d’oeuvre, featuring Liu Wei’s father and mother astride two stallions, was inspired by a historical photo of Premier Zhou Enlai (image above), the first premier of the People’s Republic of China. 

Lucio Fontana's Concetto Spaziale, Attese, was another highlight at the sale.  Estimated at HK$15m-24m, Concetto Spaziale, Attese was hammered down for HK$24m and sold for HK$28.8m. 

This painting with five cuts is a manifest the Italian artist’s signature “Spatialism”. As Fontana slashed the surface of his canvases, he broke the membrane of two-dimensionality in order to highlight the space behind the picture. In this way, he opened up space, created a new dimension for art, tied in with the cosmos as it endlessly expands beyond the confining plane of the picture.


Top five lots

Robert Rauschenberg. Cartoon.

Lot no.: 1089
Created in: April 1962
Size: 91.4 x 14 cm

  • Leo Castelli, New York
  • Daimitsu Foundation
  • Roger and Myra Davidson Collection, Toronto
  • Private Collection, Brazil
  • Daros Collection, Switzerland
  • Acquired by the present owner from the above

Estimate: HK$32,000,000 - 40,000,000
Hammer price: HK$33,000,000
Price realized: HK$38,974,500

Kusama Yayoi. Red-Nets No. 2.A.3.

Lot no.: 1075
Created in: 1960
Size: 71.1 x 55.9 cm

  • Private Collection, New York (acquired directly from the artist circa 1965)
  • Private Collection, New York (thence by descent to the owner from the above)
  • Sotheby's, New York, 10 May 2011, lot 57
  • Acquired by the present owner from the above sale
  • This work is accompanied with an artwork registration card issued by the artist's studio

Estimate: HK$24,000,000 - 32,00,000
Hammer price: HK$30,000,000
Price realized: HK$ 35,587,500


Liu Wei. Revolutionary Family Series: Travel Time (Diptych).

Lot no.: 1060
Created in: 1993
Size: 150 x 100 cm (each)
Estimate: HK$15,000,000 - 20,000,000
Hammer price: $30,000,000
Price realized: $35,587,500


Lucio Fontana. Concetto Spaziale, Attese.

Lot no.: 1078
Created in: 1965
Size: 72 x 60 cm
Galerie Carrefour, Brussels
Private Collection, Paris
Private Collection, Japan
Acquired by the present owner from the above
Estimate: HK$15,000,000 - 24,000,000
Hammer price: HK$24,000,000
Price realized: HK$28,813,500


Shiraga Kazuo. Chiansei Kinhyoshi.

Lot no.: 1076
Created in: 1962
Size: 195 x 130 cm

  • Galerie Stadler, Paris
  • Morris J. Pinto Collection, New York
  • Private Collection, Geneva
  • Sotheby's, Paris, 2 June 2010, lot 5
  • Axel Vervoordt, Antwerp
  • Private Collection
  • Christie's, New York, 15 November 2016, lot 49A
  • Acquired by the present owner from the above sale

Estimate: HK$11,000,000 - 15,000,000
Hammer price: HK$23,000,000
Price realized: 27,684,500


Auction summary

Auction house: Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Sale: Contemporary Art Evening
Sale date: 2018/3/31
Lots offered: 38
Sold: 36
Unsold: 2
Sold by lot: 94.7%
Sale total: HK$397,987,500