Sotheby’s was the first international auction house to establish itself in Asia. In 1973, the company set up an office and held an inaugural auction in Hong Kong. Since then the city has positioned itself as a gateway between Sotheby’s and the wider art market in Asia, hosting biannual sales series in April and October. While always a vibrant collecting centre, Sotheby’s Hong Kong has recently seen a surge of interest from new collectors.
The Hong Kong 2022 Spring Sales Series concluded in early May, totalling HK$3.852 billion / US$496 million—the second-highest total ever achieved at Sotheby’s in Asia. The auctions saw strong results across the board; 88% of all offerings found buyers.
Sotheby’s spring auction season was held during an important time for the international fine art market—the first quarter of 2022—when many collectors are looking to buy new pieces as they plan their summer homes or get ready for holiday entertaining. As such, the sales series in Hong Kong was a resounding success. The weeklong event had a spectacular line-up of paintings, calligraphy, sculpture, ceramics, art objects, wine, jewellery, watches, sneakers, handbags and more, 53% of which sold in excess of their original (high) estimates.
Lots throughout the week were bid on by buyers from over 70 different countries and regions. The spring sales included 23 individual auctions, both live (in-person and live-streamed) and online. This hybrid approach to fine art auctioning reaffirmed Sotheby’s market leadership in Asia, and further cemented Hong Kong as a global platform for modern and contemporary art. The auction house saw strong demand in the region not only for artists from Asia but also for those from Europe and North America.
Chinese art continues to be sought after by collectors around the world. During Sotheby’s spring sales, a highly important and magnificent soapstone seal—carved for the Qianlong Emperor—sold for HK$153m / US$19.5m to a private collector in Asia, setting the highest price for any seal ever sold at auction in the region.
The ‘De Beers Blue’ was crowned the most valuable lot of the season: A new benchmark for the diamond market was set, as the extraordinary ‘De Beers Blue’—a 15.10 carat step-cut Fancy Vivid Blue diamond, the largest of its kind ever to appear at auction—surpassed its estimate to sell for HK$451m / US$57.5m. This is among the highest prices ever achieved for diamonds of any colour on the open market (est. in excess of US$48m).
Over half of the buyers were new to Sotheby’s, underscoring the company’s success in attracting younger collectors and cultivating new generations of clients. Millennials (aged <40) accounted for over a third of all bidders across the sales (34%)—the highest since 2020—and Gen-Z collectors (age <30) made their mark in Contemporary Art. One-third of the Gen-Z bidders across the Evening and Day auctions were new to Sotheby’s.
The successes of the week owe in equal parts to the appetite for top-quality works from the world of fine art and luxury, continued healthy demand in Asia, the diversifying taste of today’s collectors, and Sotheby’s transformation of the auction experience.
Established in 1744, Sotheby’s is the world’s premier destination for art and luxury. Sotheby’s promotes access, connoisseurship and preservation of fine art and rare objects through auctions and buy-now channels including private sales, e-commerce and retail. Our trusted global marketplace is supported by an industry-leading technology platform and a network of specialists spanning 40 countries and 50 categories, which include Contemporary Art, Modern and Impressionist Art, Old Masters, Chinese Works of Art, Jewellery, Watches, Wine and Spirits, and Interiors, among many others.
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