Bloomberg News

China Rich Skip Lafite for First Time in 17 Sotheby’s Sales

October 03, 2011

(Adds Zao Wou-ki record in 12th paragraph.)

Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Sotheby’s failed to sell all of the wine in a Hong Kong auction for the first time in 17 sales as China’s wealthy collectors passed on oversized bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild yesterday in Hong Kong.

The weekend sales came after the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index had its worst quarter since the end of 2008. Top lot in the two days of wine purchases, worth a total of HK$99.1 million ($12.7 million), was the sale of a 12-bottle case of 1988 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Burgundy for HK$907,500.

“There weren’t so many buyers,” said Liu Dan, a Beijing- based collector who picked up six cases of Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1996 vintage for $HK48,400 each. “Prices were cheap.”

Sotheby’s raised HK$231.5 million during the first two days of its Hong Kong Autumn sales that included the wine and an evening offering of contemporary Chinese art. The auctions were part of six days of sales including 3,400 lots of porcelain, art and jewels that New York-based Sotheby’s forecasts will raise more than HK$2.7 billion.

Sunday’s sale suggests that the steady climb in first growth Bordeaux is finally leveling out. “Before prices were getting pretty insane,” said Serena Sutcliff, head of International Wine for Sotheby’s. “Today there was some good value.”

Bidding for Chinese paintings remained robust as new buyers entered the market, said European collector Rainer Moegling.

“There are still so many people in China who are starting to see art as an alternative investment,” said Shanghai-based Moegling, who bought three paintings at Sunday’s evening sale. “Most things are selling and prices aren’t going down.”

Zeng’s Art

On Sunday evening, the top lot of the contemporary Chinese art sale was a painting by Zeng Fanzhi, which sold for $HK20.3 million, compared with a high estimate of HK$20 million that doesn’t include the buyer’s premium.

The sale of 90 works amassed by Guy Ullens, founder of Beijing’s largest private art museum, raised HK$132.4 million with 93 percent of the lots sold.

Sotheby’s autumn sale series has 200 fewer lots than its April auction in the city, which took a record HK$3.49 billion, compared with an estimate of HK$2.7 billion, the auction house said. The star lot in the spring sale, an 18th-century Chinese vase worth more than $23 million, failed to find a buyer.

In today’s auction, an oil by Zhang Xiaogang from his Bloodline series has a high estimate of $8.3 million, according to the catalog. At Sotheby’s April sale in the city, Zhang’s triptych “Forever Lasting Love” fetched HK$79 million with fees, more than double the HK$30 million top estimate.

Zao Abstract

In today’s sale of 20th-century Chinese Art, an abstract landscape oil painted by Zao Wou-ki in 1968 sold for an artist record HK$68.98 million, compared with a high estimate of HK$35 million, Sotheby’s said. Sotheby’s is also offering 36 works by Zhang Daqian.

Buyer’s premium, the commission added to the hammer price of works sold, is 25 percent for the first HK$400,000, 20 percent for lots fetching as much as HK$8 million, and 12 percent above that. The wine premium is a flat 21 percent. Estimates reflect the hammer price, before premium.

Potential buyers who aren’t represented at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre sale can bid via Sotheby’s online bidding system.

--Editors: Adam Majendie, Teo Chian Wei

To contact the reporter on this story: Frederik Balfour in Hong Kong at fbalfour@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net


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