Paint it black

Paint it black

"The next piece is a very special one... If it reaches its reserve price, I will be almost certain the financial crisis is over."

One of the more interesting indicators of the Chinese economy’s relative state of health is the art market. And the recent Sotheby’s spring sales – held in Hong Kong – offered some welcome signs. In last autumn’s auction – when the world economy was less concerned about art than survival – more than a third of the exhibits went unsold. But on the latest occasion Lin Fengmian’s Fishing Harvest sold for $2.1 million, while a quartet of his Chinese opera figures fetched $3.1 million. Zhu Yuanzhi’s Last Supper also sold for a record $770,000. More than three quarters of the lots sold went for more than their pre-sale estimate (although some lesser works didn’t meet their reserve). “A lot of people were bidding like crazy,” says veteran dealer, Hugh Moss. “It goes against all recent trends.”

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