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5 artists under 30 – Chapter 5: Asia



Our fifth selection of the art market’s “youngstars” looks at Asian artists. Once again, our focus identifies the top 5 most successful artists under 30 on the auction market since January 2013, and this week’s selection underscores the exceptional selling power of young Asian artists.

The Asian under-30 champion is not Chinese but Filipino: going by the name of Jigger Cruz, he will celebrate his 30th birthday this year and has sold 11 works for an overall turnover of more than $383,000 since January 2013. This performance is the fruit of a recurring presence in auction rooms in recent months, without which he would undoubtedly have been beaten by the Chinese artist Mi Qiaoming who generated nearly $340,000 from just two results.

Jigger CRUZ is mainly sold on the Asian market which has shown a strong appetite for new signatures and short-term profitability: sold in Makati (the Philippines, by Salcedo Auctions and Leon Gallery), Hong Kong (Christie’s and Sotheby’s) and successfully tested in London in October 2013, he is bound to make recurring appearances in Europe and the United States in sales dedicated to the Contemporary Asian scene. Darling of the new Filipino scene, Jigger Cruz began humbly in the Metro and joined several workshops before working with with Manuel Ocampo and being presented at several exhibitions abroad (including Switzerland and Italy at Primo Marella Gallery and Primae Noctis galleria). He has not yet been acquired by museums or fetched “international” prices, but he was noticed by the Berlin gallery owner Matthias Arndt – specialist of the Asian scene – who presented Jigger’s work on his stand at Art Stage Singapore in January 2014 next to a number of highly established signatures like Stephan Balkenhol, Sophie Calle, Gilbert & George and Agus Suwage. His presence at a reputed art fair strengthened the already germinating speculative tension in his prices and when Sotheby’s Hong Kong offered A Pause in the Triumph of Existence in October 2013, the canvas fetched over $70,000, seven times its high estimate. A few weeks after his presence at Art Stage, another larger work, Stranded Beyond the Scream of Symmetries, fetched $96,000, again at Sotheby’s Hong Kong (April 6, 2014). At over $ 120,000 including fees, that result makes Cruz a competitor with the rising stars of the American and European scenes.

Youth appears to be an added attraction for Chinese art buyers who are not afraid to pay into five or even six figures (in dollars) for works by their compatriots. Sold only in Beijing – a more traditionalist scene than Hong Kong – MI Qiaoming’s (born in 1986) realist oil paintings are already fetching between $115,000 and $200,000 on average. Her prices are however being matched two other adepts of oils on canvas: CHEN Chengwei (born 1984), who clinched a record equivalent to $147,600 in May 2014 for a hyper-realist painting (the Republic of China series no.8 – phantom in black cloth) at China Guardian in Shanghai on May 17, and WANG Jian (born 1985), whose series of portraits entitled Beijing Girls has enjoyed substantial success … in Beijing. One of his large canvases (from the Bejing girl series, 2007) fetched $161,800 ($186,000 including fees) at a Poly International sale in June 2013. Unlike Jigger Cruz, the success of these three artists is entirely limited to mainland China, and their works have not yet been sold in Hong Kong via Christie’s or Sotheby’s, a move that would give them access to a much wider market.

The fifth best-selling under-30 Asian artist at auctions over the past 18 months is from Singapore. Andy YANG (born in 1985) has sold only two paintings at auction, but a large work (Valley) elicited very strong demand at a sale in Beijing (A & F Auction) in June 2013 finally going under the hammer for $195,000 ($224,250 including fees). Yet another testimony of the Chinese market’s passion for speculative buying.

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