Estella Collection pushes Chinese contemporary total to US$51.7m

New auction records set for Zhang Xiaogang, Xu Bing, Liu Xiaodong and Guo Bochuan

LONDON. Despite faltering results for some admittedly heavily estimated Chinese paintings in its contemporary London sales in February, Sotheby’s two auctions devoted entirely to these works held in Hong Kong on 9 April made US$51.7m—the highest amount the firm has ever achieved in this field.

The sale of the Estella Collection, which had recently been displayed at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, accounted for around 34% of the overall total achieved on the day; it made well over its upper pre-sale estimate of $12m, bringing in more than $17.8m, and was 97% sold by value and 90% by lot. Private Chinese, Hong Kong, Indo­nesian and unidentified “Asian” buyers competed for the works on offer; not a single trade buyer figured among the top ten.

The collection had been consigned by New York dealer Bill Acquavella, who purchased the group of 200 works last year in association with Sotheby’s.

Michael Goedhuis, the dealer who had originally assembled the collection for two directors of WeightWatchers, described it as an “investment vehicle” after it was sold to

Mr Acquavella (The Art Newspaper, April, pp1,4).

A new world record was set for Zhang Xiaogang, when a 1995 version of his “Bloodline” series (right) sold for $6.1m, double its pre-sale estimate. It was bought by a Taiwanese private collector, living in the US, bidding over the telephone. Paintings portraying Mao were popular and Zeng Fanzhi’s Chairman Mao with Us, 2005 (right), sold for just over $1m, again double its estimate, to a Hong Kong collector.

An Indonesian buyer set a new record for Xu Bing

by spending $976,499 on a 2001 work of calligraphic characters turning into birds, The Living Word.

At the various owners’ sale of contemporary Chinese art on the same day, Sotheby’s made $33.8m. A private Asian collector bought Liu Xiaodong’s Battlefield Realism: the Eighteen Arhats, 2004, for $7.9m (on the upper estimate) setting a new record for the artist and Guo Bochuan’s The Forbidden City, 1935, made $3.5m, also a record for the artist.

Georgina Adam

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