On October 4th, 2019, Sotheby’s kicked off its traditional Fall auction season in Hong Kong, China. With the latest demonstration news coming from that part of the world, ahead of the sales, there were some reasonable questions about how the auctions would fare. A week later and after four intense days during which Sotheby’s was busy auctioning more than 4,000 lots, the results are out. In total, Sotheby’s sold 3,400 lots in 20 separate auctions for a value surpassing HK$3.3B (about US$435m). In other words, it was business as usual.
What type of auctions did Sotheby’s arrange this Fall in Hong Kong?
With 20 separate auctions assembled this year, the number of auctions continues to be – as last year – the highest ever since 2007. Notably, Modern Art and Contemporary Art were both given, each, a separate evening auction and day auction, as they would in London, Paris or New York. This is a recent development for Sotheby’s Fall sales in Hong Kong as previous sales (before 2017) were focusing on Contemporary Asian Artists. Works by non Asian artists were only introduced systematically in the Contemporary sales in 2017 and the name of the sales evolved from “Modern and Contemporary Asian Art Evening Sale” to “Modern and Contemporary Art Evening Sale”.
The remaining auctions were the usual mix of luxury items (Watches, Jewels and Wine), local arts (Chinese artworks and ceramics) and important Private Collections.
What types of buyers were the auctions targeting?
Anyone who attended auctions knows that there is a big difference between a day auction and an evening auction. The reason is that day and evening auctions target very different buyers. Almost anyone can walk in a day auction and start bidding. This would not be the case for evening auctions, where one needs to be vented and registered ahead of the sale to secure a seat and a paddle. Looking at the mix of sales between day and evening can therefore be quite reveling about the types of buyers the auction house wants to attract at the sale.
As shown above, day sales still account for the largest share of the auctions assembled by Sotheby’s in the Fall in Hong Kong but there was a sharp increase this year in the number of evening sales. In addition to both a Modern Art evening sale and a Contemporary Art evening sale, as outlined earlier, there was a separate evening auction for Southeast Asian Art. While the schedule systematically included an auction focusing on Southeast Asian Art in the previous years, these auctions have always been day auctions and it was the first time that room was made for a “Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art Evening Sale”.
Also, the Private Collection”Moutarderie Nationale: The Gillion Crowet Collection” was scheduled in the evening right before the start of the “Contemporary Art Evening Sale”. While this was not the first time that a Private Collection would be sold in an evening sale, the last time that happened in the Sotheby’s Fall sales in Hong Kong was in 2011.
Our analysis so far looks at the number and type of auctions over the past 13 years. The same analysis could be done, looking at the number of lots catalogued and the revenue generated by each of these auctions.
By doing so we would find out that the largest number of lots traded by Sotheby’s in Hong Kong are bottles of wine and that Contemporary and Modern Art have been the largest source of revenue in the past two years for the auction house.
For this and more insights, check out Pi-eX MESO Auction report for Sotheby’s Fall Hong Kong auctions.