The art market in Asia continues to grow and expand, even with the economic impacts of the pandemic. Frantic biddings in Hong Kong’s auction houses have been setting record after record.
On December 1 and 2, Christie’s, one of the world’s leading art auction houses, sold a total of $258,733,286 from the 20th and 21st Century Art Autumn Auctions. It was the highest ever auction total for the category at Christie’s Asia.
The auctions attracted avid bidding for the broad selection of monumental works by established Southeast Asian artists, achieving a sell-through rate of 94% by lot for the category, and set world auction records for iconic Singaporean artists including Georgette Chen, Lim Hak Tai, Lim Tze Peng and Liu Kang. Masterpieces by Thai, Indonesian, and Vietnamese artists also commanded strong prices, highlighted by Cheong Soo Pieng, Le Pho, and Pratuang Emjaroen whose work Grand Canyon debuted at the evening sale at Christie’s and also set a world auction record for the artist.
French-Vietnamese artist Le Pho’s La Toilette de l’Enfant (Child Bathing) fetched HK$7,450,000 or US$960,011. The late artist’s Dans le Jardin Fleuri (In the Flower Garden) was sold at HK$6,250,000 or US$806,354.
The La Toilette de l’Enfant painting depicts two children with their mother, and central to the painting, the woman takes care of the youngest child while, in the background, the other child sits quietly. The figures are placed at an angle, which is Le Pho’s chosen posture for his characters, in order to suggest a presence rather than a mere statuesque exhibition. La Toilette de l’Enfant is a scene from Vietnam, but painted in Paris where Le Pho settled permanently in 1937.
Pho was the very first Vietnamese artist to breach the million-dollar mark at auctions after his first painting, Family Life, was sold at US$1 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction house in April 2017. Earlier this year, Pho’s Jeune femme attachant son foulard (Young Lady Tying Her Scarf), his 1938 ink and gouache masterpiece on silk, was auctioned for HKD8.65 million or over US$1.1 million, the highest bid of the four local artworks sold at that time at Christie’s.
Highly acclaimed works by other legendary Vietnamese artists also commanded strong prices at the auction. Tran Binh Loc’s La soeur et le petit frère (Siblings) fetched HK$2,500,000 or US$322,542; Nguyen Tien Chung’s Ladies in a Garden was sold at HK1,250,000 or US$161,271; Nguyen Phan Chanh’s La Patisserie (The Pastry) was priced at HK$4,750,000 or US$612,829; and Mai Trung Thu’s Le pont (The Bridge) fetched HK$3,250,000 or US$419,304.
“We are very delighted to have witnessed our clients’ enthusiastic response and robust market demand for works by distinguished Southeast Asian artists,” said Dexter How, head of sales for Southeast Asian Art at Christie’s.
“Our sales saw exceptional results and sell-through rate for this category, which underscores Christie’s leading status as the key hub for our collectors to acquire the finest works by the most sought-after Southeast Asian artists. We are thankful for the tremendous support from our collectors, and look forward to offering more outstanding masterpieces in 2022 and beyond.”