CEO of World of Feng Shui Jennifer Too shares her insights on geomancy and leading a good life.
Amaya Chan learns that Asia has now become a global hub for the arts, with Asian artists and buyers dominating the market and overshadowing their North American and European counterparts.
A loud, emphatic exclamation echoed throughout the auction hall, evoking widespread laughter. A member of the audience had just tabled a US$5.8 million (S$7.3 million) bid for an untitled art piece by Asian abstract painter Chu Teh-Chun.
Not that there was anything funny about this particular scenario – the only anomaly was that this enthusiastic bidder made his intentions known even before the auctioneer could announce the starting bid.The painting, estimated to fetch between US$4 million and US$5 million, eventually sold for US$9.1 million. Not surprisingly, the painting was sold to the same person who could not contain his excitement. Another highlight of the event was when an anonymous buyer swooped in for Zeng Fanzhi’s Hospital Tiptych No. 3 and bought it for a staggering US$14,675,902.
A Historic Night It was a truly memorable occasion at the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art evening sale at Christie’s Hong Kong – the art pieces realised a total of US$121.2 million that night, the highest ever at the auction house. Six Asian artists – including the late Lee Man Fong, who painted Bali Life – saw their art smash world auction records that fateful evening.
Of the 10 highest prices in that auction, ar t pieces sold for an average of at least twice their estimated prices. One such example was Chinese artist Sanyu’s Femme en rouge, which sold for US$6.5 million when its estimate by the auction house was only US$1.9 million to US$2.6 million.
The record-breaking numbers only further reinforced the notion that the very centre of the contemporary art world – once deeply entrenched in New York City and London – has already shifted towards Asia. In 2011, Chinese modernists Zhang Daqian and Qi Baishi were the world’s top best-selling artists. A year later, the top lot at Sotheby’s 2012 Contemporary Asian sale was Zhang Xiaogang’s Tiananmen No. 1 – a European collector bought it for US$2.7 million. Indonesian Lee Man Fong’s Fortune and Longevity also set a new South-east Asian record with its US$4.4 million sale in the same year.
“Nowadays, the contemporary art world is more decentralised. In Asia, you have China, India and Indonesia as the biggest markets. Other continents like Africa, the Middle East and Latin America are also experiencing a boom in their art scenes,” said Lorenzo Rudolf, CEO and Fair Director of Art Stage, a global and annual art event.
The Rise of Asian Art This phenomenon is not just happening in the East. Last March, the Guggenheim in New York City received a US$10 million grant to commission works from artists born in China,Taiwan, Hong Kong or Macau.The grant will also be used to pay for a curator to focus entirely on contemporary Chinese art.
So why is Asian contemporary art on the rise when the world is generally more familiar with names like Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst and Lucien Freud?
“This is because of the increasing importance of Asia in its global economic and political role,”
explained Rudolf. “Asian cultural and heritage are now much more influential than before. Art follows wealth. Asian countries have a large number of high-net-worth individuals who appreciate good art and lifestyle,” he added.
And it’s not just Asian art that’s enjoying a boom. Asian buyers, too, are dominating the market. Head of the International Art Advisory Viola Raikhel-Bolot was quoted in Knight Frank’s 2013 Wealth Report as saying that China is now the undisputed leader in the art market with 30 per cent of the pie.
A Spiritual Investment But while the hoi polloi may think of ar t as an investment, specialists are quick to disagree. Christie’s New York vehemently rejected such a notion, and Michael Findlay, Director of New York’s Acquavella Galleries, told Forbes that while auction data can indeed show that certain artworks sell at a high value, more than half of the art transactions around the world happen behind closed doors.
“How can analysts claim to address a market where over 50 per cent of the data cannot be known?” he questioned.
When quizzed about investment viability, Rudolf quoted influential 20th century artist Pablo Picasso: “We all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realise truth – at least the truth that is given to us to understand.”
What collectors do with art instead, Rudolf said, is to try to foster a better connection with their inner selves through the exchange with art.
“Yes (it is an investment), but it should not be a financial one. It’s like investing in your spiritual self. It’s the idea in the ar twork that attracts people to buy ar t.”
02 02 Zeng Fanzhi’s Hospital Tiptych No. 3 was sold for an astounding US$14,675,902. 03 Chinese artist Sanyu’s Femme en rouge fetched US$6.5 million, more than twice its estimated sale price of US$1.9 million to US$2.6 million.
01 An art buyer makes a bid during an auction at Christie’s Hong Kong.