Auctions are fertile grounds for shock and drama: consistently making headlines year on year with record breaking price tags, such as the currently reigning Leondardo Da Vinci’s Salvador Mundi, sold by Christies last November for a jaw-dropping US$450 million. Or perhaps it’s due to the intrigue: in recent news, for instance, Phillips withdrew a Rolex Submariner from its December sale due to questions of provenance. No doubt each year we can look forward to some kind of PR ruckus, but rarely do you also stumble upon something so uniquely radical at auction, that there’s never been anything quite like it. This year, Sotheby’s Hong Kong is set to auction off a pure concept for the very first time during its Modern Art and Contemporary Art Evening Sales on 30 September.
The sale is slated to offer 90 lots, with a combined estimate in excess of HK$1 billion. Headlining the sale is the largest-ever painting by Zao Wou-ki, Juin-Octobre 1985, valued with an estimate of over HK$350 million alone.
But the news that’s made the most headlines is Xuzhen Supermarket, which will be the first ever conceptual art to be sold for auction in Asia. Created by Chinese contemporary artist Xu Zhen® (yes, he is really registered), the piece is one of the artist’s most critically acclaimed, and follows on from the preceding work, Shanghai Supermarket, which debuted in Art Basel Miami Beach 2007. The artist is also notably the youngest Chinese artist to have participated at Venice Biennale, and was also shown at a major show of Chinese contemporary art at the Guggenheim last year.
Xuzhen Supermarket replicates a true-to-scale Chinese convenience store, including items actually for sale thanks to a functioning cash register inside the piece. Participants of the installation can purchase goods from tubes of Colgate toothpaste to bottles of Kweichow Moutai. However, each of the grocery items are in fact empty packaging — in essence, it’s a critique on consumerism, advertising and capitalism. Adding to the irony of course is that the entire store is now offered up for sale at auction for the Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale.
A traveling installation open for public participation recently took place in Shanghai and Beijing where merchandise in the supermarket was made available for sale, and an exhibition to view works in the Evening Sale will take place from 28–30 September here in Hong Kong — with the swipe of a credit card, Hongkongers too will be able to shop from Xu Zhen’s Supermarket, so don’t miss your chance to do so.
The current work is the first and only edition of Xuzhen Supermarket on the market, and is estimated to fetch a hammer price of at least HK$900,000 to HK$1.5 million. What does the price tag include? The new owner will receive the right to commission new physical recreations and enactments of Xuzhen Supermarket, to be executed by the artist.
This quirky occasion is a notable first in the auction house’s history and repertoire. Kevin Ching, CEO of Sotheby’s Asia says, “This season also comes with many firsts, including Joan Mitchell’s auction debut in Asia, coinciding with surging collecting interest surrounding the celebrated female Abstract Expressionist. The most remarkable of all, however, is Xuzhen Supermarket, which will be the first concept to ever be auctioned as an artwork in Asia, a testament to Sotheby’s commitment to innovation.”
An exhibition of works for the upcoming Sotheby’s Hong Kong Modern Art and Contemporary Art Evening Sales will be held 28–30 September 2018 at Hall 1, HKCEC, 1 Expo Drive, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.