Strongest auction debuts



In Artprice’s fortnightly series of auction rankings, this week’s Friday Top looks at the strongest price evolutions of artists new to the auction market.

Every year, the secondary market admits a number of Contemporary artists making their first auction appearances, the results of which subsequently act as benchmarks for their future sales and lay the foundations of their official and public valuation levels. From a global perspective, these auction debuts also reveal a rather interesting geographical division of the global art market with European artists being completely absent from the top end of our ranking. This absence starkly demonstrates the comparative vitality of Chinese and American marketplaces.

Strongest auction debuts…
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 ZENG & MA Fanzhi & Jack $5,443,800 Paradise (2014) 2015-10-04 Sotheby’s Hong Kong
2 XU Jin $564,144 Zero O’clock (1985) 2016-05-14 China Guardian Auctions Co., Ltd. Pkin
3 LIU Rendao $547,992 Autumn scenery (2013) 2016-04-04 Poly Auction Hong Kong Hong Kong
4 Barry X BALL $545,000 Sleeping Hermaphrodite (2008-2010) 2016-05-10 Christie’s New York NY
5 Ursula LARSEN $544,500 The Pease`s Dove (2010) 2015-12-30 Art Deals Auctions Riviera Beach
6 JIANG Zhenxin $388,161 Samantabhadra 2016-04-04 Poly Auction Hong Kong Hong Kong
7 Harry CARLSON $370,260 Harry Carlson, Horse Head. Left side (2012) 2015-12-30 Art Deals Auctions Riviera Beach
8 Harry CARLSON $369,050 Horse Head. Right side (2012) 2015-12-30 Art Deals Auctions Riviera Beach
9 Harry CARLSON $332,750 Guru (2010) 2015-12-30 Art Deals Auctions Riviera Beach
10 John ATWOOD $302,500 Ultimate Patriots (2014) 2015-12-30 Art Deals Auctions Riviera Beach
copyright © 2016

A fruitful Chinese collaboration

The strongest auction debut in the world over the past twelve months has two interesting features: first, it rewards a duo (Jack Ma, founder of the Alibaba website and China’s most popular billionaire and Zeng Fanzhi, one of the world’s most famous and most expensive artists), and secondly the work in question was sold to raise funds for the protection of the environment. These two aspects contributed to the painting of our blue planet (measuring 80 cm in diameter) multiplying its high estimate by no less than 17 times! Thanks to the generosity of bidders and the high profiles of Zeng Fanzhi and the Jack Ma, the work fetched $5.4 million (the only 7-digit result in the ranking) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on 4 October 2015.


Three Chinese auction debuts

Apart from that exceptional joint-creation by two of China’s most well-known personalities, three artists have recently made strong entries into the Chinese art market in Beijing and Hong Kong. Born in 1960, Xu Jin participated in the emergence of the Chinese New Space movement before settling in New York in the late 1980s. In the Big Apple – where nothing can be taken for granted – he had to work very hard indeed, in a much freer context than China (at the time), to find a way of expressing himself that did not involve pushing up against barriers. His work subsequently became representative of a revival of Chinese painting, paintings for which wealthy Beijing buyers didn’t hesitate to offer sums above half-a-million dollars to acquire. Liu Rendao (born in 1964) embodies another primary trend in Chinese Contemporary art: the creation of works in ink, perpetuating the great Chinese tradition. Two years after a failed auction debut, Liu Rendao is now generating 6-digit results in Hong Kong, including a new record on 4 April at nearly $550,000 for Autumn scenery, a drawing measuring more than three meters across, completed in 2013. At the same sale, Jiang Zhenxin (born 1974) celebrated his auction debut with a result of more than $388,000 for a drawing of a Buddhist figure, Samantabhadra, created, once again, within the historical traditions of Asian art forms.


From local to glocal

Three artists little-known outside the microcosm of Riviera Beach have nevertheless managed to illustrate the health of its ecosystem by generating 6-digit results! Harry Carlson (born 1963), John Atwood (born 1976) and Ursula Larsen (born 1979) all enjoy regular buyers in Florida and are supported by the same auction company, Art Deals Auctions. Their recent hammer prices above the $100,000 line look like freak results within some sort of hyper-local micro-market overflowing with extremely wealthy buyers.

It is unlikely that these artists will ever be integrated into a New York sale. However, that said… one of their peers, Ball Barry X, has managed just that. We first encountered the work of Barry X Ball (born 1955)at the PS1 Contemporary Art Center affiliated to New York’s MoMA in 2004 and at the Miami Bass Museum of Art in 2012 as part of The endless renaissance exhibition. Barry X Ball is supported by Nathalie Obadia and Thaddaeus Ropac who have both ensured he gets international exposure. Considering his career and his age (60), it is not surprising that his sleeping hermaphrodite sculpture – a sort of black marble rework of the famous white marble sculpture in the Paris Louvre (itself exhibited at the Miami Bass Museum) – reached $545,000 last May in New York. So far, this is his only auction result, and a most conclusive on as well (although the estimates suggested an even better result). And… having passed the test of a major New York sale, Barry X Ball’s international career is already set in stone.