Published date: 26 Mar 2012
The market for Western art remains largely concentrated in Europe and the Americas though there are signs that Asian buyers are beginning to show an interest in this area, especially in the contemporary sector. It is too early to estimate how this might develop or what effect it might have though there may be useful parallels in the Japanese 'buyer boom' experience in the late 1980s and early 1990s which pushed up prices of Impressionist and Post Impressionist art.
Bonhams June Impressionist and Modern Art sale was tightly focussed to offer good quality works across both a broad price span and a wide range of artists. The top picture was an important, and striking, Modigliani - 'Portrait de femme' - which sold for £1,800,000.
The success of this sale, however, in which all but one painting found a buyer was very much down to the care which had gone into its construction. The prices achieved by the Brazilian artist, Candido Portinari's, 'Flores' which sold for £108,000, and Portuguse painter, Oscar Dominguez's Paisaje cosmic,which made £132,000, demonstrated that paintings outside the European mainstream can thrive in the right context.
Similarly, the Print sale devoted to the works of David Hockney showed that accessible works by a famous name can attract a lot of interest. Buyers were particularly drawn by the combination of one of Britain's most recognizable artists and a selection of unusual works and the sale itself was notable for the large number of private collectors - as opposed to professional art dealers - who bought works. Overall only 5 lots remained unsold.
The 19th Century Paintings sale in July was the most successful of its kind ever held at Bonhams. Again, the works had been carefully chosen for their quality and this showed in the prices realized. A landscape,'Winter',by the Dutch artist Barend Cornelis Lokkoek was sold for £512,000, and a Turner watercolor, 'The Oyster Beds at Whitstable' made £252,000. An important collection of Thorburns also had wide appeal with the impressive, 'Peacock and Peacock Butterfly' doubling its upper estimate to sell for £252,000. Thorburn's work remains at the very pinnacle of British ornithological art and the remarkable prices paid by collectors recently are testament to the enduring quality and popularity of his work.
The appetite for high quality South African art shows no signs of diminishing. An evening sale in March set a world record for Irma Stern whose 'Arab Priest' made over £3m.This beat the previous mark achieved at auction, also at Bonhams, in 2010. The £748,000 paid for Alexis Preller's 'The Garden of Eden' established a world record for the artist as did the £600,000 paid for Gerard Sekoto's 'Yellow Houses, District 6'. Overall, the sale made a total of £8,600,000.
In the USA an important Wayne Thiebauld, 'Milkshake and Sandwiches' made US$1m in a Made in California sale held simultaneously in San Francisco and Los Angeles in which over 80% of the items were sold. The same sale saw Jay Defo's Trial by Fire outstrip its estimate to make US$218,000.
The demand for Contemporary Asian Art, while not yet matching that for artifacts, is nonetheless growing.At Bonhams Chinese Painting and Contemporary Art sale in Hong Kong in May, Zhang Daquin's Queen Mother of the West made HK$3,600,000, three times its pre-sale estimate and Wu Guangzhong's Mountain Trip was sold for HK$1,900,000, five times its estimate.