Bourgeois, Berrio & Basquiat: Sotheby's Hong Kong Sale Unifies the Global Market

Are the Pioneering Painters of Chinese Contemporary Art Returning to Favor?

Sotheby’s major Hong Kong sales will also take place on Wednesday the 27th. The Modern Evening Auction, beginning at 6 am EDT, has already drawn press attention with all eyes on Picasso’s red portrait of Dora Maar. The painting has a $17.6m estimate. It was last sold at auction in 1998 when it made $1,762,500 at Christie’s in New York. In today’s terms, that would be $3,129,869, but the Picasso market has seen significant growth since then, and there is notable demand among Asian buyers for Picasso portraits. A banquet scene by Chen Yifei sits alongside Picasso at the top of the price range for the sale. It has not been sold at auction since 1992, but a slightly bigger figurative scene set the artist’s record sale price. The painting sold for a whopping $22,630,598 over a $3,784,381 estimate in 2017.

Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Auction follows at 8:15 am EDT. The opening lot is by the highly sought-after Anna Weyant, and it is her first painting to come up at auction. The vase of flowers has a $31,880 estimate. Few knowledgeable observers would take that estimate seriously considering a Weyant will also be featured later this spring season in Sotheby’s New York Evening sale.

Lot number three is a 2015 painting by Louise Bonnet that exemplifies her signature style of grotesquely exaggerated body parts. The painting has a $31,880 estimate, and is the first Bonnet painting to come to auction. It will almost certainly set a new record for the artist.

Maria Berrio’s Our Children on the Battlefield from 2015 is on offer with an estimate of $318,804. Earlier this year, a similar work from 2012 was sold in New York for $1.5 million. Shara Hughes has a work with a similar estimate that is also likely to sell for a price closer to the seven-figure mark than the estimate.

Yayoi Kusama’s Pumpkins have gone through a market vogue recently. A record $8 million was paid for a 2013 Pumpkin in December in Hong Kong which suggests the $1 million estimate is too low. The sale has a charity angle too which can make the price unpredictable.

A Zeng Fanzhi from 1999, Mask Series No. 2, which is also the image in a popular print by the artist, is being offered with a $2.295 million estimate. Zeng’s work from the heyday of Chinese Contemporary art in the 1990s has begun to return to the market to meet demand. His peer, Yue Minjun, also has work appearing more frequently in sales. His Cynical Realism is represented by a 2002 work, Take the Plunge, that carries a $765,129 estimate. Fellow Cynical Realist, Liu Ye also has a high-value work in the sale with Night from 2005 that carries a $1.9 million low estimate, that’s almost twice what it sold for 11 years ago.

Two of the most expensive works in the sale are by Louise Bourgeois and Jean-Michel Basquiat, both of whom are currently the subject of notable solo exhibitions. Bourgeois’s Spider IV is being offered with a $15,302,580 estimate. It will be the most expensive sculpture ever offered at auction in Asia. The most recent sale of a cast from this edition of 6 sold for $14,679,200 over a $10,000,000 estimate in 2017. Basquiat’s 1984 Water-Worshipper is being offered with a $7,906,333 estimate. This is the piece’s fifth time at auction since its creation. In 2017, it sold for $5,441,739 over a $4,503,952 estimate at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong. Sotheby’s is (for some reason) accepting cryptocurrency for this lot.

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