The Hong Kong Top 10


It’s Top 10 Friday! Every other Friday, Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. This week, we look at Hong Kong where the high-end market always favours Asian artists, especially those who have gained an international reputation…

New York, London and Hong Kong are the only three international trade centres capable of concentrating the best supply and demand. This coming together of the art market makes it possible to put collectors in competition with each other as well as selling artworks at the best price, which is obviously the highest possible. The well-being of the market thus essentially relies on these three major international cities.

Rank Artist Hammer Price ($) Artwork Sale
1 CUI Ruzhuo (1944) 22 661 310 Sound of lotus
03/10/2017 Poly Auction Hong Kong
2 ZAO Wou-Ki (1921-2013) 19 611 938 29/09/64 27/05/2017 Christie’s Hong Kong
3 CUI Ruzhuo (1944) 18 223 920 Rain in the Autumn
03/04/2017 Poly Auction Hong Kong
4 LI Keran (1907-1989) 15 639 243 Magnificent Mountains with Gushy Cascades 02/10/2017 Sotheby’s Hong Kong
5 ZENG Fanzhi (1964) 13 516 074 Mask Series 1996 No. 6
03/04/2017 Poly Auction Hong Kong
6 ZHU Yuanzhi (1906-1963) 13 478 906 Wheels: Industrial New York 30/09/2017 Sotheby’s Hong Kong
7 ZHANG Daqian (1899-1983) 13 145 618 Ancient temples amidst clouds 30/05/2017 Christie’s Hong Kong
8 Andy WARHOL (1928-1987) 12 671 921 Mao 02/04/2017 Sotheby’s Hong Kong
9 FU Baoshi (1904-1965) 11 894 658 Trekking Over Mountains in Moonlight 02/10/2017 Sotheby’s Hong Kong
10 SAN Yu (1901-1966) 10 166 388 Léopard 30/09/2017 Sotheby’s Hong Kong
copyright © 2017

The Hong Kong marketplace is Asia’s second-largest centre after Beijing, accounting for nearly a quarter of Greater China’s market share. Here, the three major players on the art market, Poly, Christie’s and Sotheby’s share the best sales. However, from the beginning of 2017, one cannot fail to notice the high price obtained by American artist Andy WARHOL (1928-1987) who comes in eighth place with a portrait of Mao, sold for $12.67 million. If the Hong Kong market favours Asian artists, it is also an important gateway into the Asian market for Western artists.

Another relevant trend: as in New York and London, Asian buyers highly value their contemporary artists, hence the presence of ZENG Fanzhi and Cui Ruzhuo in the standings. The latter holds not only the top position in the Hong Kong Top 10 at over $22.6m, but also third place with $18m for the sale of Rain in the Autumn. Known to all lovers of ink drawings, Cui Ruzhuo is well aware that the international circulation of Chinese culture starts in Hong Kong, where the artist spends a lot of time as a large number of his auction sales (55%) are made there.

The presence of Fu Baoshi (1904-1965) and Zhang Daqian (1899-1983) only confirms a long-standing trend in the Hong Kong market. Both artists are indeed considered a sure bet in Chinese Modern art and are among the most sought-after on the Asian scene. This year, they remain major players in the market even if they are a long way from their outstanding performances in 2011, when they each sold over $500m worth of artwork at auction within a single year, Zhang Daqian reaching $24.5 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong and Fu Baoshi $36.2 million at Beijing Hanhai in Beijing…

Li Keran (1907-1989) remains one of the most expensive illustrators in the world. The artist has a hundred million-dollar sales to his name, including a record at $40.3 million for Mountains in Red (3 June 2012, Poly International, Beijing). Two years ago, Li Keran was ranked in the Top 20 of the best-selling artists at auction in the world (18th place in 2015). His annual turnover was $148m, which earned him the third place in China, just behind Zhang Daqian and Qi Baishi.

The phenomenal success of ZAO Wou-Ki has been confirmed this year by a new world record of $19.6m for a large painting from 1964: 29/09/64, 230 x 345cm. The price of Zao’s works has indeed increased by 864% since 2000 and the key to this extraordinary success is Asian collectors (62.5% of Zao’s sales take place in Hong Kong, around 11% in Taiwan and 9% in mainland China), without forgetting a high demand throughout Europe, as well as the United States.

Finally, ZHU Yuanzhi (1906-1963) is, along with San Yu and Zao Wou-Ki, one of the leading Chinese artists to have come to Paris. The artist achieved the highest sale in this year’s ranking, creating an absolute record this year of more than $13.4m with a painting from 1932, Wheels: Industrial New York, beating his previous record by $12 million!

Born in China, raised in the United States and an avid traveller throughout Europe, Zhu Yuanzhi gained a worldwide reputation during his lifetime. If he remains unknown to the general public, the success of his works at auction should encourage people to discover the work of this great Modern master!