Sotheby’s tops out sales in Asia

Sotheby’s tops out sales in Asia
Zao Wou-Ki, '21.04.59.' Courtesy Sotheby's.

Sotheby’s has reported its year totals in Asia and for the fourth year running, they are leading international auction houses. In total, Sotheby’s has reported HK$7.35 billion (US$936 Million) in sales over the course of the year. Their sales in Asia account for about 30 percent of their total US$4.8 billion in overall yearly sales as reported by ArtNet. The announcement comes at the end of a year filled with changes within Sotheby’s as the auction house went private earlier this year.

For Sotheby’s, 2019 ranks as the second highest yearly earnings in the auction house’s history in the region. They also reported a 16 percent lead over their competitors in sales based in Asia for the year. Over the course of the year, more than 40 works set auction records and 11 items surpassed HK$100 million (US$12.8 million). Sotheby’s auctions in Asia saw an average sale through rate of 88 percent.

During the year, 55 countries were represented by buyers in Asian sales by Sotheby’s and 31 percent of the year’s buyers were new to Sotheby’s Asia. Moreover, when compared to 2018, 30 percent of Sotheby’s buyers, worldwide, were Asian clients, signalling that clientele in Asia are also actively interested in Western art. In fact, during the auction house’s New York Contemporary Art Evening Sale held this past November, works by Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning, which were the tops sales that auction, were purchased by collectors from Asia.

Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, Patti Wong, reflected on these numbers stating: ‘A real standout for me is the record high sales of Modern and Contemporary Asian Art as well as Western works here in Asia, together with Asian clients’ significant contribution in Sotheby’s global salerooms, bagging 9 out of the top 20 works we sold in 2019. These remarkable results speak for our industry-leading effort to develop and grow the Western Art market in Asia and our ability to expand our clients’ collecting fields.

Tops lots from sales in Asia included an enamel and glass vase from the Qianlong period that sold for HK$207 million (US$26.3 million). Just behind it was a painting, titled Nu (1965), by French-Chinese artist Sanyu (1895-1966) for HK$198 million (US$25.2 million), setting an auction record for the artist in October. Rounding out the three highest selling works in Asian art sales at Sotheby’s was Yohitomo Nara’s Knife Behind Back (2000), which sold for HK$195 million (US$24.9 million), also setting an artist record for Nara. Other tops sellers included KAWS’ THE KAWS ALBUM, which brought in HK$115.9 million ($14.7 million) and 21.04.59 by Zao Wou-Ki, which sold for HK$104.5 million (US$13.3 million).

‘Fuelling our success,’ said Kevin Ching, CEO of Sotheby’s Asia in a press release, ‘is our adamant devotion to quality, constant innovation, and the unparalleled expertise of our specialists, which helped us fully leverage the sustained strength and potential of this region. Our outstanding results in 2019 positions us ever more strongly in propelling our business and the wider art market forward in 2020.’