Auction  October 9, 2017  Barbara Basbanes Richter

20th Century Asian Art Masters See Spike in Sales

Christie's

The secondary market for 20th century Asian artists has seen an uptick in sales and prices in recent years. Bonhams, Sotheby's, and Christie's have all realized massive sales of work by artists who traveled to Europe and absorbed Western ideas that they fused to Eastern artistic concepts, and buyers like what they see. 

Notable recent sales include a 7 ft by 11ft painting by Zao Wou-ki (1921–2013) a Chinese-French Abstract Expressionist who was also a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. An oil on canvas entitled 29.06.64, which Zao originally painted in 1964, sold for $19.7 million dollars at a recent sale at Christie's in Hong Kong on May 27, 2017.The sale broke a world record for any of Zao's work and blew past Christie's pre-sale estimate of $6 million, securing the artist's place as a major 20th century Chinese painter.   

Meanwhile, at Sotheby's April 3, 2017, sale in Hong Kong, Japanese artist Kusama Yayoi's fuchsia and black acrylic on canvas Pumpkin (1992) fetched $661,415, nearly double the asking price of $300,000, and her yellow and acrylic Pumpkin H.Q. (1990) realized a hammer price of just over one million dollars, with pre-sale estimates placing the piece at $250,000.

With prices for contemporary Asian artists skyrocketing, experts suggest investing in artists whose works are still within reach, like Chinese-French painter Sanyu (1901–1966) and Japanese-French printmaker Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886–1968). Collectors curious about moving into this field would be wise to start investigating now, before the market picks up even more steam.

About the Author

Barbara Basbanes Richter

Barbara Basbanes Richter writes for Fine Books & Collections magazine and Art & Object. She’s also a professional ghostwriter.