HONK KONG - Seoul Auction, Korea’s leading auction house, held its Modern and Contemporary Art sale today in Hong Kong today (15 May, 2009) and achieved a total of HK$42.8 million (US$5.47 million). Tranquility from the renowned British artist Damien Hirst’s celebrated Butterfly Series achieved HK$13.37 million (US$1.71 million), becoming the most expensive work by Damien Hirst ever sold at auction in Asia. A new world auction record for a sculpture by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama was also established today.
Misung Shim, Managing Director, Seoul Auction Hong Kong Ltd, commented: “We are delighted with the results achieved today. We assembled this second Hong Kong sale with a carefully curated selection of both Western and Asian art works and the prices achieved demonstrate that works of high quality, fresh to the market, and with reasonable estimates are highly sought after by collectors. Despite the current economic climate, the market remains healthy and steady. Many lots sold above their estimates and there was active participation by buyers from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia, as well as from Europe and America.”
“We are particularly pleased that the top lot by Damien Hirst was sold to an Asian buyer. Seoul Auction played a pioneering role as the first auction house to offer Western masterpieces in Hong Kong in its debut sale last October. Today, the Western, Japanese and Korean sections of our sale performed especially well. The sale not only underlines the role of Hong Kong as the leading market for Asian contemporary art, but is also a good indication that Hong Kong is now a growing market for Western contemporary art, along with New York and London.”
The top lot of the sale was Tranquility by Damien Hirst from his highly acclaimed “Butterfly” series, which sold for HK$13.372,000 (US$1.71 million) to an Asian collector on the telephone and became the most expensive work by Hirst ever sold at auction in Asia. This was the first time that a work by Damien Hirst had been offered at auction in Hong Kong, and also the first time that a work from his “Butterfly Series” had appeared at auction in Asia.
The butterfly is a symbol of eternity and resurrection in both Western and Oriental cultures. Damien Hirst applies live butterflies to the canvas to present his ideas of life and death. Executed in 2008, Tranquility appears like a Mandala or kaleidoscope, a huge canvas with countless butterflies spreading outwards. The butterflies are dead but immortalized on the painting. Hirst thus expresses his belief that neither religion nor science, but only art remains perpetual.
Two sculptures by acclaimed Western masters also achieved excellent prices. Reclining Woman by the Colombian artist Fernando Botero depicting a Greek goddess fetched HK$1,244,000 (US$159,079) while L’Oiseau Amoureux by the French artist Niki de St. Phalle realized HK$448,500 (US$57,353) after spirited bidding.
Leading the Japanese section was Yayoi Kusama’s Venus No. 1, Statue of Venus (Obliterated by Infinity Nets), which realized HK$3,596,000 (US$459,847), setting a new world auction record for a sculpture by the artist. Kusama has become a legend in Japanese contemporary art. Dating from 1998, this is one of the most important pieces in her “Infinity Nets” series. The red monochromatic web-like patterns go beyond the surface of the canvas into the three-dimensional space of the sculpture.
Another remarkable work, Dots Obsession by Yayoi Kusama, was highly sought after and finally sold for HK$1,076,000 (US$137,596).
The Girl in Green by the leading contemporary Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara realized HK$1,468,000 (US$187,724). Nara is influenced by Japanese comic books (anime and manga) and American pop culture. He uses cartoonish lines to depict dreamy-eyed children who look cute and vulnerable, yet at the same time mischievous or even malevolent.
There was very active bidding for works by young, up-and-coming Japanese artists, including Izumi Kato’s Family which achieved HK$773,600 (US$98,926) and Hiroto Kitagawa’s Hyuga Takuto which sold for HK$276,000 (US$35,294), well above their pre-sale estimates.
Among the wide diversity of Korean art works offered in the sale, From the Line by Lee U Fan achieved HK$1,580,000 (US$202,046) after competitive bidding. This work is perhaps the most highly regarded in his oeuvre, as it unveils his artistic theory through a focus on existence, extinction and continuous formation.
Another highlight was Gouttes d’eau A6 by Kim Tschang Yeul which realized HK$1,020,000 (US$130,435). Mixed media works with Korean paper by Park See Bo and Chun Kwang Young also achieved strong prices.
Works by emerging Korean artists performed particularly well today, including Joon-suk by Yi Hwan Kwon that sold for HK$706,400 (US$90,332) and Red River by Kwon Ki Soo which realized HK$207,000 (US$26,471).
Among the highlights of the Chinese section were Chinese Fairytale, Meeting Series by Tang Zhigang which realized HK$1,804,000 (US$230,691), and Taichi (Taiji) Series- Sparring by Zhu Ming which sold for HK$1,020,000 (US$130,435).
Super Soccer Player by Indonesian artist I Nyoman Masriadi, which reflects the artist’s strong political ideas and his passion for life, realized HK$1,132,000 (US$144,757). Bad or Good, Indonesia is My Homeland by Agapetus A Kristiandana sold for HK$299,000 (US$38,235). Somnium Genero 06 @0230 HRS by the Indian artists Thukral & Tagra sold for HK$ 253,000 (US$32,353).