November 27, 2007
A set of 14 abstract paintings made using gunpowder have become the most expensive works of contemporary Asian art to be sold at auction.
An unidentified Asian art investor paid $9.5 million (£4.5 million) for the works, Set of 14 Drawings for Asia-Pacific Cooperation, by the Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang. Such was the interest in the sale of contemporary Asian art in Hong Kong on Sunday that many buyers had to stand at the Christie’s auction. More than 100 online buyers were in a queue while telephone bids came in on 50 lines.
Christie’s said it was pleased, but not surprised, by the interest. Jonathan Stone, the international business director for Asian art at the auction house, said that the first day of the five-day autumn sales had achieved remarkable prices. Christie’s took in $107 million on the day, more than four times its estimate, with buyers from India, China, Europe and the United States.
Mr Cai, from southeastern China, is based in New York. Mr Stone said: “He’s very highly respected. It was a great work – rare, in good condition. There is a huge amount of worldwide interest in works of this strength.”
Mr Cai’s previous main work sold at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong last month for $2.6 million. The screens sold yesterday, in gunpowder and ink, went for double their estimated value of between $3.5 million and $4.6 million, making Mr Cai the costliest contemporary Chinese artist.
Mr Stone told The Times: “Contemporary Chinese art is a window into the changes in China in the past couple of decades, showing the country through the prism of the artist’s eye.”
Chinese buyers are starting to join the rush by Western collectors to purchase contemporary works, in a trend that has sent prices in China skyrocketing in the past two years.