Artprice by Hong Kong - Capital of the New Hi-Lite Movement - Remains Unperturbed!

PARIS, Dec. 3, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Hong Kong's art market has posted excellent auction results. Last Saturday, 23 November, Christie's finished its session of 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale with a total of more than $136 million. In 2018, the same session totaled just $52 million.

Liu Ye (1964) - Little mermaid, 2004 - left, Takashi Murakami (1962) - Dazzling Circus, 2013 - center, Mr. (1969) – Don’t go anywhere, 2006 - right
Liu Ye (1964) - Little mermaid, 2004 - left, Takashi Murakami (1962) - Dazzling Circus, 2013 - center, Mr. (1969) – Don’t go anywhere, 2006 - right

For the time being, the Art Basel fair is therefore still on for March 2020. With these latest results, Hong Kong has shown that it is still the world's leading marketplace for many of the finest Asian signatures of 20th century art. However, it also proved capital for new movement that has become essential to understanding the evolution of today's Art Market: Hi-Lite.

thierry Ehrmann, Artprice founder and CEO of "Hong Kong is a bit like Silicon Valley: a small corner of the world on which all eyes are fixed! At one and the same time, Alibaba has accomplished the world's biggest IPO of the year, and a series of new records have been hammered in its auction rooms. The Hong Kong art market is promoting what will perhaps be the first major art movement of the 21st century: an art advocating greater frivolity in an uninhibitedly kitsch manner, which Christie's has baptised Hi-Lite."

Hi-Lite: the first major artistic movement of the 21st century?

Christie's ended its major evening sale with a separate section dubbed Hi-Lite, and a specific catalogue bringing together artists, "whose neo-pop aesthetic and connection to commercial art, cartoons and street culture have gained them a global cult following. Many of the pieces selected for this sale employ a similar visual style featuring bold flattened forms, bright colors and clean lines, referencing images appropriated from popular media and fashion, music, graffiti and animation."

With only 16 lots, this small sale nevertheless crystallised one of the main trends driving today's Art Market. The Hi-Lite movement, like the sale, is based primarily on three core signatures... three of the most successful artists on the secondary market: Kaws, Yoshitomo Nara and Takashi Murakami.

The Christie's catalogue goes on to explain the title chosen by the auction house: "Hi-Lite: these artists produce work that is 'lite' - a word that is sometimes used to describe things that are easy to understand and enjoy, the opposite of heavy. Yet each of these artists also elevates his medium and subject, bringing elements of pop, fashion, manga and street culture to a higher level."

The Hi-Lite session was very successful with all 16 lots fetching within or above their estimates.

Hong Kong in a positive spiral

In reality, the Hi-Lite movement goes far beyond the Christie's session bearing that name. The extraordinary performances of Liu Ye (1964) and Ayoko Rokkaku (1982), for example, over the past nine months, are clearly part of this new dynamic… a dynamic with global momentum, but in which Hong Kong is playing a leading role.

As is now customary, Hong Kong's leading auction houses agreed not to hold their major sessions simultaneously in the first and the second semester of the year. In the recent round of sales, Christie's and Phillips waited until the end of November, whereas Sotheby's, Poly Auction, China Guardian and Bonhams held their sales at the beginning of October. 

This agreement has clearly benefited the Hong Kong market. The past two months have seen a large number of auction records hammered for artists from all periods of creation, from Old Masters to emerging artists.

Top 10 New Artist Records in Hong Kong during H2 2019

  • San Yu – Five Nudes (1950) – $39 million (Christie's)
  • Yoshitomo Nara – Knife behind back (2000) – $25 million (Sotheby's)
  • Whan-Ki Kim – 05-IV-71 #200 (Universe) (1971) – $13 million (Christie's)
  • Liu YeSmoke (2001/02) – $6.7 million (Sotheby's)
  • Huang Daozhonu – Collection of poems (17th c.) – $5.5 million (Christie's)
  • Zheng WuchangLandscapes (1939) – $2.1 million (Sotheby's)
  • Eddie MartinezHigh flying bird (2014) – $2 million (Christie's)
  • Li ChenDragon riding Buddha (2001) – $1.4 million (China Guardian)
  • Fei Danxu – Tour of Tao Guang temple (1834) – $1.3 million (Christie's)

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