Picasso and Van Gogh break Asia record, despite unsatisfactory results at Sotheby's evening sale

A powerful tropical cyclone swept over southern China, but it did not deter an international auction house to continue with its sale on 9 October. Sotheby's Hong Kong Modern Art Evening Sale performed much lower than expected, with a total hammer price of HK$485 million (around US$61.7 million) dollars – less than the HK$648 million (US$83.2 million) dollar total estimated price. 

Asian Masters, namely Zao Wou-ki and Sanyu's paintings did not perform well at the sale. Rodin's Napoleon marble sculpture, worth HK$70 million (around US$9 million) dollars, was withdrawn. 

Despite these lacklustre results, there were some new records set. Picasso's Femme Accroupie performed the most brilliantly. The lot was sold for HK$191.6 million (around US$24.6 million) dollars - the highest ever price for a Picasso artwork in Asia. 

Van Gogh's painting, Nature Morte: Vase aux Glaieuls, made its debut in an Asian auction and was sold for HK$71 million (around HK$9.1 million) dollars. It set a record for a van Gogh painting sold in Asia. 

Lot 1017 | Pablo Picasso | Femme Accroupie, Oil and ripolin on canvas

Created in 1954
92.2 x 73 cm

  • Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris
  • Collection of Kate and Allan Emil (acquired from the above by 1957)
  • Private Collection, New York (by gift before 1969)

Estimated Price: HK$150,000,000 – 230,000,000 (around US$19.2 to 29.5 million)

Hammer Price: HK$165,000,000 

Sold: HK$191,651,000 (around US$24.6 million)

Pablo and Jacqueline


Femme Accroupie (Crouching Lady, 1954) depicts Jacqueline Roque, Picasso’s last lover and wife. Jacqueline became the most frequent and longest-running subject in Picasso's career, featuring in more than 400 portraits - exceeding any of her husband's previous lovers such as Francoise Gilot and Marie-Therese Walter. 

Before Jacqueline moved to southern France, she was married to a colonial official and lived in Upper Volta (modern-day Burkina Faso). Picasso, who was captivated by African culture for more than half a century, was fascinated with Jacqueline’s experiences of the continent. He once said, “Jacqueline has an African provenance.”

Chairman of Sotheby's Asia, Patti Wong

All of Delacroix, Matisse and Jacqueline inspired Picasso to transform his muse into one of the odalisques so often found in Orientalist paintings. In addition to Jacqueline's physical resemblance to a languid, sensual odalisque, she also had the gentle temperament. 

The power dynamic in Pablo and Jacqueline's relationship is fully reflected in the model's seated posture and her gentle gaze meeting that of the artist outside the painting. 

The auctioneer started the auction with HK$120 million and received a total of nine bids. London, New York, and Hong Kong all competed. In the end, Patti Wong, Sotheby's Chairman of the Asian region, won the bid for the paddle number 69 client. This Picasso painting was hammered for HK$165 million (around US$21.2 million) dollars. It was sold at HK$191 million (around US$24.5 million) dollars with buyer's premium. It surpassed the previous auction record for a Picasso artwork sold in Asia, as the Spanish artisti's Matador painting sold at US$17.9 million dollars earlier this year. 

Lot 1020 | Vincent Van Gogh | Nature Morte: Vase aux Glaieuls, Oil on canvas

Created in Summer 1886
51.2 x 38.8 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):

  • Theodore Duret
  • Paul Cassirer, Berlin (acquired directly from the above in March 1912)
  • Galerie Bernheim-Jeune
  • Paris Alden Brooks, acquired in 1928
  • Elwin Litchfield Phillips Jr., Jacksonville, Florida (acquired directly from the above sale and sold by the Estate: Sotheby’s, New York, 11 May 1999, Lot 129)
  • Private Collection, United States (acquired directly from the above sale and sold: Sotheby’s, New York, 14 November 2016, Lot 8, Sold at US$5,862,500)
  • Important Private Collection (acquired directly from the above sale)

Estimated Price: HK$70,000,000 – 100,000,000 (around US$9 to 12.8 million)

Hammer Price: HK$60,000,000

Sold: HK$71,006,000 (around US$9.1 million)


Van Gogh's Nature Morte: Vase aux Glaïeuls is a painting featuring red gladioli flowers, produced in summer 1886. It was one of more than 35 flower still-life artworks that he painted in Paris during that same summer.

It depicts lofty flower spikes flaring open from a small vase and flowering buds dominate the upper parts of the oeuvre. The sword-lillies’ nature allowed the Dutch Master to experiment with triangular-structured compositions and a looser style of brushwork.

Van Gogh experimented with variations of red and united the subject with its backdrop through a single primary colour. The bright, quivering petals are juxtaposed with dark shadows cast on the wall and table, adding to a sense of theatre.

The auctioneer started bidding at HK$52 million dollars. In the end, this Van Gogh oil painting was hammered for HK$60 million (around US$7.7 million) dollars. Felix Kwok, Sotheby's Head of Modern Art, Asia Department, bid for the paddle number 62 client. It was sold HK$71 million (around US$9.1 million) dollars. 

Lot 1019 | Sanyu | Nu endormi, Oil on Masonite

Created in 1950s
71 x 127 cm

  • Sale: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 1966
  • Yves Bideau (Jean François Bideau), Paris
  • Jean-Claude Riedel, Paris (sold: Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 6 July 1983, Lot 53)
  • Dreyfus Collection, Paris
  • Important Private Collection

Estimated Price: HK$100,000,000 – 150,000,000 (around US$12.8 to 19.2 million)

Hammer Price: HK$68,000,000 

Sold: HK$80,198,000 (around US$10.2 million)


The Chinese-French modernist, who is hailed as the “Chinese Matisse,” was one of the first-generation Chinese artists who studied in France. 

Sanyu lived in Paris at a time when Europe was the grand hall of art. Romantic love inspired countless artistic works. 

According to a monography published in 1995 by the art critic Chen Yanfeng, the artist was dating a blonde woman in the 1950s and 1960s, who he then introduced to Chang Daqian as a model. Days later, Zhang gave Sanyu a signed portrait of his girlfriend. Today this portrait by Zhang Daqian of Sanyu’s girlfriend belongs to the collection at Taipei’s National Museum of History.

The auctioneer started the bidding at HK$55 million dollars and three bids were accepted. Ultimately, the hammer fell for only HK$68 million (around US$8.7 million) dollars. The transaction was sold with a buyer's premium of HK$80.19 million (around US$10.2 million) dollars, ranking second most expensive in the sale. The bid was won by Sotheby's Asia Chairman, Patti Wong, for the paddle number 69 client.

Art Market 

Sotheby's Hong Kong tonight's two consecutive modern and contemporary art evening auctions have been settled, and the results are not as expected. Perhaps we can try to find the answer from the two directions of time and people.

The preview of this season only started on 7th October, but the weather on the 8th and 9th was very bad. Warnings of heavy rain, thunderstorms and landslides followed one after another. Finally, the No. 8 typhoon signal was hung for a whole day until the 9th. Auction night still proceeded in the evening. Many collectors told The Value that they had no choice but to miss the preview due to the weather.

On the other hand, Hong Kong Sotheby’s Hong Kong has experienced major changes in the past year. Kevin Ching, Vinci Chang, and Yuki Terase have stepped down from their roles. It is believed that the succession at the top will take time to adjust.

Withdrawn and unsold lots: 

Inscription "Enveloppe dans son Reve" is found on Rodin's Napoleon marble sculpture

Lot 1016 | Auguste Rodin | Napoleon Enveloppe dans son Reve, White carrara marble

Created in 1904-1909
Height: 70 cm
Estimated Price: HK$70,000,000 – 90,000,000 (around US$9 to 11.5 million)

Lot 1047 | Zao Wou-ki | 30.09.65, Oil on canvas

Created in 1965
150 x 162 cm
Estimated Price: HK$70,000,000 – 100,000,000 (around US$9 to 12.8 million)

 Lot 1046 | Zao Wou-ki | 14.12.62, Oil on canvas

Created in 1962
129.8 x 97 cm
Estimated Price: HK$58,000,000 – 88,000,000 (around US$7.4 to 11.3 million)

Other highlight lots:

Lot 1015 | Georges Mathieu | Tuz Golu, Oil on canvas (New auction record for artist)

Created in 1875
65 x 54 cm

  • Collection of the artist 
  • Estate of the artist 
  • Important Private European Collection (acquired directly from the above)

Estimated Price: HK$14,000,000 – 18,000,000 (around US$1.8 to 2.3 million)

Hammer Price: HK$15,000,000

Sold: HK$18,325,000 (around US$2.3 million)

Lot 1015 | Pierre-Auguste Renoir | La couseuse, Oil on canvas

Created in 1875
65 x 54 cm

  • Edmond Renoir, Paris (brother of the artist)
  • Marcel Kapferer, Paris (sold: Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 26 June 1934, Lot 20)
  • Etienne Bignou, Paris (acquired directly from the above sale)
  • Alex. Reid & Lefevre (The Lefevre Gallery), London
  • Arthur Weisweiller, Paris (acquired from the above on 22nd June 1935)
  • Noel-Guy Weisweiller, Paris
  • Sam Salz, New York
  • Arnold Kirkeby, New York (sold: Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 19 November 1958, Lot 10)
  • Marlborough Gallery, New York (acquired directly from the above sale)
  • Mrs. Nathan Goldstein (acquired circa 1958 and sold: Sotheby's, New York, 8 November 1995, Lot 43)
  • Private Collection (acquired directly from the above sale)
  • Important Private Collection

Estimated Price: HK$30,000,000 – 50,000,000 (around US$3.8 to 6.4 million)

Hammer Price: HK$26,000,000

Sold: HK$31,635,000 (around US$4 million)

Auction Results: 

Sale: Modern Art Evening Sale
Date and Time: 9 October 2021 | 6pm Hong Kong local time
Number of lots: 44
Sold: 38
Unsold: 6
Sale Rate: 86%
Sale Total: HK$580,214,000 (around US$74.5 million)