Report From Hong Kong (10/06/11)

Both sales did extremely well, though the Ullens Collection fared slightly less well than the last time, with a 5% unsold rate vs. 0% in the last one, but the Meiyintang Collection did significantly better on this occasion, and in a manner more indicative of the highly important and rare property it was. The difference now, seems to be that the mainland Chinese, somewhat caught by surprise by the new deposit requirements for bidding on so-called premium lots at last season’s sales, had sufficient time to plan ahead and line up their cash before this round.

It would be a mistake, however, to draw the conclusion that all is well in the art market after these highly successful sales. The various owner sale of Chinese Works of Art that immediately followed the Meiyintang Collection had an unsold rate by lot of a whopping 47%. This was in large part due to a strategy of aggressive estimates, but it is most likely also a sign of the underlying vulnerability of the world economy, that even residents of China and other parts of Asia are not feeling immune to the problems in Europe and the tumultuous global equity markets, and talk of such very much dominated dinner conversations throughout the week. In this context, it is still the majority view that art is an important store of value in these highly uncertain times, but only when it is sensibly valued or important. As we are soon to head into the October Contemporary Art Auctions in London, let us hope that the auction specialists have managed their estimates judiciously, and not based on the buoyancy of last May and June.


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