Autumn auction season is in full swing, with something for everyone — from abstract artwork to modern masterpieces. Whether you’re looking for something special to add to your collection or seeking to support the local art ecosystem by participating in a fundraising effort, here are five spectacular pieces you’ll want to keep an eye on at the upcoming auctions.
Phillips’ 20th century and contemporary art auctions this fall feature myriad pieces that are worthy of note. The Hong Kong sale (25 November) features all-stars continuing to rise in prominence in the auction sphere, from 20th century Cuban Chinese artist Wifredo Lam to Taiwan-born UK artist Richard Lin, celebrated for his minimalist abstract aesthetic. But our eyes are on a rare Miró that was recently previewed at the Mandarin Oriental lobby in October, up for sale at the Phillips New York Evening Sale (15 November).
According to Hugues Joffre, Phillips’ Senior Advisor to the CEO and Chairman, the Femme dans la nuit is set to be the star of the sale: “What’s very special is that it belongs to a series called the ‘white ground paintings’ — there are 14 of them, all painted in the first five months of 1945, towards the end of WWII. They anchor the end of the war, and mirror Miró’s most famous series, the ‘Constellations,’ all made in the beginning of the war. Miró was a Spaniard who had fled Spain when Franco took power. He did not work in any kind of scale during the war, and only at the end of it did he take the major step of painting in large and more publicly. He had hoped this would be the end of turmoil in the war.”
If you’re after a timeless masterpiece that contends with the mysteries of loss, revival and redemption, this is sure to be the one to phone in your bid on. Of course, you’ll have to have deep enough pockets: the piece has an estimated price tag of US$12–18 million. Other covetable pieces such as an early Jean-Michel Basquiat, thought to be the precursor of his famed “fallen angel” piece, and an early earth-toned Morandi still life, round out the highlights.
This eerie, stark photograph of a faceless basketball player is part of a long-established series by New York-based artist Paul Pfeiffer, and is set to be sold this week at the Para Site Benefit Auction. Considered to be Hong Kong’s leading independent contemporary art centre, launched in 1996 — Para Site’s annual auction gives back to the art space for further activities in research and supporting regional artists in their endeavours. A total of 61 lots span some of the most watched artists of today, including Samson Young, Antony Gormley, Firenze Lai, Li Hongbo Alex Prager, Imran Qureshi, Katharina Grosse and more, with starting paddle prices from HK$10,000 to six figures for revered works — such as this Paul Pfeiffer, estimated at a value of HK$300,000–500,000.
Pfeiffer’s work dissects how mass media shapes our consciousness, and his well-known Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse series camouflages and decontextualises iconic celebrities to create a sense of reverence for an unknown figure. Beginning with Marilyn Monroe early on in the series before focusing on basketball legends — Pfeiffer’s later works are sure to appeal to street culture fans.
Estimated in the region of US$80 million, David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist is not just prized for being one of the 20th century’s most recognised pieces, it also represents the transformative turning point of his oeuvre, in using LA swimming pools as his greatest subject matter. The 1972 piece captures Hockney’s challenge in depicting two figures in different manners: one, a male swimmer distorted by the shimmer of water; the other, a man looking down wearing a pink jacket, supposedly inspired by a reference photo of Hockney’s former lover Peter Schlesinger. It also reflects his innovation in depicting water here, varying largely with his seminal 1967 work “A Bigger Splash” with white sprays of paint, and his 1966 pieces “Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool” and “Sunbather,” which both use a myriad of sunny colours to suggest movement. The Yorkshire-born artist worked 18 hours a day for two weeks on this particular painting, finishing it the evening before the shippers came to take it to New York.
Who wouldn’t want to own such a historical treasure (providing you have a thick enough wallet to contend, that is)? Other modern masterpieces rounding out the highlights at the upcoming Christie’s autumn auctions include Edward Hopper’s “Chop Suey,” a half figurative, half abstract De Kooning “Woman as Landscape,” a Jackson Pollock and more.
When it comes to the interest of art preservation and research in Asia, there’s none more significant than Asia Art Archive’s annual auction, which raises over half of the institution’s annual budget each year. This year, the event tenders over 70 works donated by artists, galleries and collectors, to be hammered off in a live auction and an online only section. Among one-of-a-kind works (such as the collaborative Bag created recently by Virgil Abloh and Takashi Murakami, available for a minimum bid of HK$65,000), we love this recent work by Frog King — an artist who lives and breathes the philosophy that “art is life,” blurring the lines between free time and art creation. In this piece, the ink on paper scroll is a significant instance where he expresses his freeing sensibilities. Donated by the artist and his representative 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, the minimum bid starts at HK$90,000.
Asia Art Archive Annual Auction, 3 November — Online bids for the live auction close at 12pm; Online only auction items will continue accepting bids until 11pm.
Coinciding with Frieze London, British auction house Bonhams mounted the first-ever Richard Lin retrospective in London recently in early October, and works from the Taiwan-born British artist’s estate are set to be sold in Hong Kong this November. Beloved for his minimalist works, Lin was schooled in Hong Kong and the UK before studying art in London, exemplifying a deep influence from both east and west in his blend of western abstraction meets traditional Chinese calligraphy. Three Lin paintings will be put under the hammer — two directly from his estate, “The Black Sun (1958–1960)” and “Painting Relief (1961)” — with the former estimated at HK$850,000 –1.25 million, and the latter at HK$1–2 million. Artist Joan Miró allegedly said to him, “In the world of white, you are of no equal,” praising Lin’s stark geometric and monochromatic style, best exemplified in the piece “Painting Relief.”
Bonhams Hong Kong Modern and Contemporary Art Sale, 26 November