The wall-mounted Spider IV by Louise Bourgeois will headline Sotheby's contemporary evening sale in Hong Kong later this month with a $15m-$20m price tag, making it the most expensive sculpture offered at auction in Asia.
The bronze work, which measures 80in in leg span, was executed in 1996 and is one of six limited editions of this version created by Bourgeois. Of these, one is in the collection of Museo Jumex in Mexico City, another is owned by the Louise Bourgeois Foundation and the remaining four—including this present lot—are in private collections. The consignor bought the work just five years ago at Sotheby's New York in 2017 for $14.6m (with fees) against a $10m-15m estimate, making the artist's third highest price at auction. Before then it had been in a private French collection since the 1990s.
Bourgeois's spider sculptures are not common at auction, with only five sold in the past decade. But they are are easily her most valuable series, accounting for the artist's top six highest prices at auction. These include two colossal works from her first Spider casts, one of which sold at Christie's New York in 2019 for a record $32m (with fees). This present lot is the first spider sculpture to come to auction in Asia.
"From its creepy curling legs to its desirable composition, it is unequivocally the most important sculpture—of any kind—ever to be offered in Asia," says Alex Branczik, the Modern and contemporary chairman for Sotheby’s Asia, who will lead the sale, his first on the ground in Hong Kong since he was appointed to the role last year. Branczik, who was previously Sotheby’s European head of contemporary art, adds that "when I decided to take this role, my ambition was to bring masterpieces of Western art to Asia—works that we would be equally happy headlining a London or New York evening sale".
Yet while recent Hong Kong sales have shown a deep desire for ultra-contemporary painting by under-40s female artists in Asia, the market for more historic work is less frenzied. But Branczik says that he is confident in placing Spider IV due in part to the appetite for female artists from Asian women collectors, who, according to a Sotheby's spokesperson, make up a large portion of the auction house's top clients. Indeed, the current auction record for a sculpture in Asia is also held by Bourgeois for her 1987 polychromed bronze work Quarantania (not from her Spider series), which sold at Seoul Auction in 2018 for $8.5m.
Branczik also refers to the purchase of Giacometti's Le Nez (1947) from the Macklowe Collection by the Chinese crypto billionaire Justin Sun for $78.4m at Sotheby's New York last year as proof of a growing appetite within Asia for seven-figure, 20th-century Western sculpture.
The fact that the Bourgeois is wall mounted and can "act like a painting" also makes it "very domestic" and an "easier proposition" to collectors, Branczik says.
Spider IV will feature in a 56-lot sale that carries a pre-sale estimate of $74.4m-$106.3m.