Demand for top-tier Chinese artwork remained robust at Sotheby's Hong Kong sales yesterday, as buyers ignored troubled global stock markets to set record prices for feted blue-chip artists such as Zhang Xiaogang.
On a day when China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index tumbled more than five percent on fresh fears about the subprime debt crisis and the US economy, art buyers at Sotheby's packed auction hall showed no sign of curbed exuberance, bidding actively for the day's premium lots.
The highlight was an oil painting by Chinese contemporary artist Zhang Xiaogang, "Bloodline: The Big Family No 3,'' which fetched HK$47.37 million (US$6.08 million) including the buyer's premium after brisk bidding. It doubled the presale estimate and made it Zhang's most costly work sold at auction, Sotheby's said.
Part of Zhang's distinctive "Bloodline" series, the painting depicts three enigmatic figures staring. The buyer was a Taiwanese private collector living in the United States who bid over the telephone.
Zhang is among a vanguard of Chinese contemporary artists including Cai Guoqiang, Liu Xiaodong, Xu Bing, Liu Ye, Zeng Fanzhi and Yue Minjun, who have seen an astronomical appreciation in the value of their works in the past three to four years.
Despite generous bids for top works, the frothy state of the Chinese art market weighed on the minds of some buyers.
"I don't think the whole market is like a bubble, but there are some artists that are overpriced," said Michael Wang, a Taiwanese collector of Chinese art for the past 20 years who bought a work by Wu Guanzhong.
"Some of the middle-tier artists' work isn't cheap, but is their work of the necessary quality?" he asked.