The world's biggest auction houses—Sotheby's and Christie’s—kicked off the spring art sales with an eight-carat blue diamond ring, modern masterpieces, and a range of golf memorabilia.
Revenue from auctions in Hong Kong surged 300 percent from 2009 to 2010, as the rich from mainland China acquire a taste for everything from wine to contemporary art.
Analysts estimate Chinese buyers comprise 23 percent of the $61 billion US dollars in global art sales last year.
Sotheby's is presenting more than 3,000 lots and hopes to reap in $244 million US dollars. The auction house expects to cash in $75 to 92 million dollars just from its jewelry transactions alone.
Its most expensive piece is an 8.01-carat blue diamond.
[Terry Chu, Hong Kong Sotheby's Jewelry Department Director]:
"Now the estimate is at over 90 million Hong Kong dollars ($11.6 million US dollars). And I think this blue diamond is so valuable, it's because of the saturated color as well as the size and clarity. And this is a very highly sought-after colored diamond."
Christie's—Sotheby’s competitor—will start its Hong Kong sales in late May. But Christie’s is offering public displays of its global sales.
A Henri Matisse painting of flowers on a checkered vase is expected to sell for between 8 and 12 million US dollars in Christie's May auction in New York.
Christie's will also offer about 400 lots in the golf collection in its London auction. Each golf ball could fetch over $20,000 US dollars.
[Brooke Lampley, Christie's New York Modern Art Department Head]:
"Some of the more interesting objects in the offerings are these golf balls. Here we have some examples. On the right, there are two feather-filled golf balls, which are the first golf balls the players started using in the 17th century. And they lasted until the 19th century."
There’s increasing demand for memorabilia.
[Helen Szaday, Society of Friends of the Musee Cernuschi Project Manager]:
"It is a personal passion. And people want to go to pursue the end of their passion. So with golf, for example, it is the challenge of the person against the game, and each piece of equipment that helps them achieve it—the objective of winning."
Seoul Auction, South Korea's oldest auction house, was also previewing highlights ahead of its auction Tuesday. It expects American pop artist Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture to fetch more than 600,000 dollars.