Despite a few hiccups, Singapore’s new art auction market has an impressive turnover of more than $10 million after only five sales in the past seven months.
This represents a ten-fold increase over the figure last year, when only two major art auctions were held. With three more auctions planned for the next five months, the growing market which really started here only a year ago is likely to reach $15 million by year-end if buyer interest continues. However, the figure still lags far behind the more developed art auction market in Hong Kong which, after a history of more than twenty years, had an annual turnover of more than HK$600 million (S$114 million) from auctions there each year.
Sales from the two auctions held in Singapore last year—Taisei Gallery’s auction of Taiwanese master Zhang Daqian’s works in August and Raffles Fine Arts Auctioneers’ debut sale in September—did not even hit $900,000, but the market is working fast to correct those figures.
Last year’s total amount was surpassed as early as January, when the first two auctions of the year were held; Sotheby’s Chen Chong Swee charity sale presented with the National Arts Council, and Associated Fine Arts Auctioneers’ first auction of Chinese art. The two events collected nearly $3 million, with the NAC-administered Chen Chong Swee scholarship fund receiving $780,000 for nearly 140 of the late Singapore pioneer artist’s works.
Associated’s auction sold a record $2.2 million of paintings and other works of art, including the late Chinese master Li Keran’s landscape painting in Chinese ink and brush, Clouds Surrounding the Verdant Mountains, which went under the hammer for a record price of $313,000.
Raffles’ sale in March, featuring contemporary Chinese paintings and ceramics, netted $1.7 million while Christie’s first sale of South-east Asian art, Straits Chinese ceramics and jewellery, recorded a turnover of $3.3 million at its sale during the same month. They included a successful bid for late Indonesian Raden Saleh’s oil piece, “The Eruption of Merapi Volcano, Java, at Night”, for $333,750 beating the two-month record held by Li Keran’s work.
Associated’s second sale of Chinese art this year held in July, at which it also sold the highest-priced painting at an auction here to date—Chinese painter Wu Guanzhong’s “Parrots” which went for $374,000—was another sell-out with $2.14 million worth of Chinese paintings, ceramics, jade and jewellery snapped up.
Raffles has scheduled its second auction this year in December and at least another $1 million worth of quality Chinese and South-east Asian painters’ works, including those of Singapore pioneer artist, will offered.
Reviewing their sales during the past year, all the three Singapore-registered auction houses—Taisei, Raffles and Associated—and the two international houses with offices here, Sotheby’s and Christie’s, said the results were encouraging.
© The Straits Times