Page last updated at 12:50 GMT, Monday, 6 October 2008 13:50 UK

Credit crunch crushes art auction

Zhang Xiaogang's Bloodline: Big Family No.1
Zhang Xiaogang's Bloodline: Big Family No.1 sold for HK$23.06m

Asia's contemporary art market suffered a blow at the weekend as bidders failed to buy several paintings at a major Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong.

Nineteen of the 47 prominent works under the hammer were left unsold, while others barely hit low estimates.

It is thought potential buyers are feeling the effects of the current global financial crisis.

Zhang Xiaogang's Bloodline: Big Family No.1 was the top lot at the sale, fetching HK$23.06m (1.7m).

It contrasts sharply with a Christie's auction in May, in which a large diptych of eight masked youths by Zeng Fanzhi made HK$75m (5.5m), an auction record for contemporary Asian art.

It marked the culmination of a period in which auction rooms have hosted fierce bidding wars for Chinese paintings, with prices breaking record after record.

'Overly optimistic'

But on Saturday night, works by feted artists including Zeng, Zhang and India's Subodh Gupta failed to sell.

Zeng's After The Long March Andy Warhol Arrived In China attracted bids far short of its HK$20m (1.5m) reserve price.

"The results weren't at all ideal, and prices of contemporary Chinese art seem to have reached a peak now," Jackson See, a Singaporean buyer, told Reuters.

"It is showing signs of a real correction."

Sotheby's said that after five years of "unprecedented growth" the poor showing was to be expected.

"It is not surprising that there will be some levelling off, which is what we also experienced this evening, in addition to some estimates which were overly optimistic," said Evelyn Lin, head of Sotheby's contemporary Asian art department.

There was however a strong demand for lower priced, Southeast Asian artists.

The Philippines' Ronald Ventura's Nesting Ground painting made more than 10 times its pre-sale estimate to fetch HK$2.18m (159,000).

Charles Dupplin, art expert from specialist insurer Hiscox said: "Although one poor sale result is not enough to announce a market downturn, this to me is evidence that even the art market can be credit crunched.

"Everyone will be watching the forthcoming sales and art fairs with heightened interest," he added.

Picasso painting to be auctioned
26 Sep 08 |  Entertainment
Hirst sale breaks artist record
16 Sep 08 |  Entertainment
Prices soar for modern Pakistani art
11 Jul 08 |  South Asia
Record sale for Monet masterpiece
25 Jun 08 |  Entertainment
Contemporary art prices 'up 55%'
01 Oct 07 |  Entertainment
Asian art sale opens in Hong Kong
27 May 07 |  Asia-Pacific

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific