As re­cent fig­ures from lead­ing auc­tion house Christie’s show, Hong Kong is in­creas­ingly flex­ing its mus­cles as a hub for fine art col­lec­tors. The Thai art mar­ket is set to pros­per too, as Napha­lai Areesorn dis­cov­ers

Thailand Tatler - - CONTENTS -

Napha­lai Areesorn ex­pe­ri­ences the ex­cite­ment of lead­ing auc­tion­eer Christie’s Hong Kong sales week and dis­cov­ers that Asian col­lec­tors are in­creas­ingly flex­ing their fi­nan­cial mus­cles in the global fine arts mar­ket

This was like vis­it­ing a mu­seum. The works of art on show could ri­val the col­lec­tions of some of the lead­ing mu­se­ums in Asia. The dif­fer­ence is here, you get the chance to go home with a piece that catches your fancy—pro­vided you have the means to pay. I was walk­ing through the ex­hi­bi­tion of Asian 20th cen­tury and con­tem­po­rary art that is part of Christie’s ma­jor mar­quee Hong Kong week sales at the Con­ven­tion and Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre. Held twice a year in May and Novem­ber, the event cov­ers sev­eral floors and has helped to con­firm Christie’s as the mar­ket leader in Asia in 16 of the last 19 years in com­bined an­nual auc­tion turnover.

Christie’s cur­rently has two salesrooms in Asia in Hong Kong and Shang­hai, an­other eight salesrooms around the world and a pres­ence in 46 coun­tries. The auc­tion house con­tin­ues to lead the art mar­ket with sales dur­ing the first half of 2018 up across all plat­forms: auc­tion, pri­vate and on­line. Dur­ing this same pe­riod, sales in­creased by 35 per cent to US$4 bil­lion, record­ing the high­est half-year sales to­tal in com­pany his­tory. Some 80 per cent of the high­est sell­ing ob­jects in the first half of 2018 were sold at Christie’s, with 55 lots sold at over $10 mil­lion. Con­tribut­ing sig­nif­i­cantly to this record-break­ing pe­riod was the Rock­e­feller col­lec­tion com­pris­ing over 1,500 pieces sold over 10 days, achiev­ing $832.6 mil­lion—the high­est auc­tion to­tal for a pri­vate col­lec­tion.

Fig­ures from Christie’s show buy­ers from Asia in­creas­ing last year by 39 per cent yearon-year, con­tribut­ing to 31 per cent of global sales. Al­most a quar­ter of new buy­ers are from Asia, while slightly over half of Asian­based clients’ buy­ing is out­side of the Asian art cat­e­gory even though this cat­e­gory shows sales up 50 per cent year-on-year. Dur­ing the Asian 20th cen­tury and con­tem­po­rary art spring evening sale in Hong Kong in May this year, the high­est ever evening sale to­tal for Christie’s in Asia was re­alised at $133.3 mil­lion, in­clud­ing a work by Zao Wou-Ki

at $22.6 mil­lion, who also achieved world auc­tion records in the spring and au­tumn sales in 2017.

In ad­di­tion to fine art, Hong Kong holds sales in Chi­nese ce­ram­ics, Chi­nese clas­si­cal and mod­ern paint­ings, jew­ellery and jadeite, hand­bags and ac­ces­sories, watches and fine wine. Spe­cial­ists in dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories are on hand to of­fer their ex­per­tise, in­clud­ing Jonathan Stone, chair­man of Asian art and deputy chair­man of Christie’s Asia. Stone, who worked in London for 10 years as a spe­cial­ist and head of depart­ment, is cred­ited with Christie’s rapid growth in Asia and the de­vel­op­ment of Hong Kong as a ma­jor hub in the global art mar­ket. Dex­ter How, vice pres­i­dent of Christie’s Asia and spe­cial­ist in South­east Asian art, led a quick tour of the ex­hi­bi­tion of works by artists from the re­gion, point­ing out pieces by the only two Thai artists avail­able at this auc­tion, Na­tee Utarit and Dam­rong Wong-Uparaj.

Never hav­ing been to an in­ter­na­tional auc­tion be­fore, it was rather ex­cit­ing for me to at­tend the evening sale, es­pe­cially when the prices climbed in in­cre­ments of tens of thou­sands of Hong Kong dol­lars at a time. You’ve seen it in the movies, but to be an ac­tual part of the pro­ceed­ings is quite an ex­pe­ri­ence. I made sure I kept my hands by my side—al­though you’d have to have a pad­dle to be able to bid, I wasn’t tak­ing any chances of be­ing mis­tak­enly thought to be try­ing to buy a mas­ter­piece. In ad­di­tion to ac­tion in the salesroom, bids were also taken by phone as well as on­line. The rep­re­sen­ta­tives of each of the re­gions re­layed the phone bids from clients in their re­spec­tive re­gions.

Al­though, as I was re­li­ably in­formed, on this oc­ca­sion there were no bids coming in from Thai­land that evening, the in­ter­est from the king­dom’s dis­cern­ing col­lec­tors in both fine and Asian art has in­creased in re­cent years. Ac­cord­ing to Stone, Thai­land is a grow­ing mar­ket for the com­pany. The Thai of­fice was set up in 1998, the year in which Christie’s was ac­quired by Artemis, a French hold­ing com­pany owned by Fran­cois Pin­ault. Co-founders of Christie’s Thai­land, Pun­chalee Phen­jati and Yao­va­nee Ni­ran­dara, now serve as se­nior con­sul­tants while Pra­pavadee Sophon­panich is the gen­eral man­ager. Stone ac­knowl­edges that Thai artists are un­der­rep­re­sented at in­ter­na­tional auc­tions but hopes that now with a ded­i­cated team in Thai­land, this will change. “We have ini­ti­ated dis­cus­sions with lead­ing Thai per­son­al­i­ties in the art world—in­clud­ing art his­to­rian and cu­ra­tor Apinan Poshyananda, who is the artis­tic di­rec­tor of the first Bangkok Art Bi­en­nale—and hope to work with him on pro­mot­ing Thai artists,” he says.

In ad­di­tion to global auc­tion and pri­vate sales, Christie’s of­fers a world­wide prop­erty net­work, ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes in London, New York and Hong Kong, global fine art stor­age ser­vices and art ship­ping ser­vices.

mu­seumqual­ity Art lovers ad­mire the paint­ings on dis­play at the Christie’s auc­tion at the Hong Kong Con­ven­tion and Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre

pro­mot­ingart (Clock­wise from above right) Christie’s Asia deputy chair­man Jonathan Stone; the paint­ing by Zao Wou-Ki which sold for US$22.6 mil­lion; Chrisite’s Hong Kong salesroom at the Con­ven­tion and Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre

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