Contemporary artworks fetch US$75.3 million at Sotheby’s evening sale | US$20.9 million Basquiat’s Red Warrior leads sale

By: Sebastien Raybaud10 Oct, 2021 | Sun | 22:23

A powerful tropical cyclone swept over southern China, but it did not deter an international auction house to continue with its sale on 9 October. Sotheby’s Hong Kong Modern Art and Contemporary Art evening auctions remained unchanged and raised the hammer as scheduled.

The Modern Art Evening Sale did not perform as well as expected, while Western contemporary artworks delivered decent results in the Contemporary Art Evening Sale.

The leading lot, Basquiat’s Untitled (Red Warrior), performed the most brilliantly. It sold for approximately HK$163 million (around US$20.9 million) dollars. 

The total hammer price was HK$490 million dollars, higher than the estimated price at HK$490 million dollars. Overall, the sale total was HK$586.8 million (around US$75.3 million) dollars with buyer’s premium. Three lots were unsold, reducing the total number of lots sold to 35 and a 91 per cent sale rate. 

Lot 1118 | Jean-Michel Basquiat | Untitled (Red Warrior), Acrylic and oil stick on linen

Created in 1982
195.6 x 198 cm

  • Larry Gagosian, Los Angeles
  • Private Collection, USA
  • Fred Hoffman Gallery, New York
  • Vrej Baghoomian, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimated Price: HK$150,000,000 – 200,000,000 
Hammer Price: HK$140,000,000 
Sold: HK$162,926,000 (around US$20.9 million)

Basquiat’s is the highest valued American artist ever and one of his paintings was the most expensive Western artwork sold in Asia. His blue-coloured Warrior (1982) sold for HK$323.6 million (around US$41.5 million) dollars earlier in March. 

In Untitled (Red Warrior), continuous white lines delineate the internal structure of the warrior, skeletonising the otherwise fiery, blood-red figure and reflecting the artist’s longstanding interest in the seminal reference book of human anatomy. 

Not only a tribute to medical book Gray’s Anatomy and the anatomical drawings of Italian masters, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, Untitled (Red Warrior)also demonstrates Basquiat’s acute interest in African art and tribal sculptures, and his desire to engage with the legacy of Western art history and the knights and kings of the Italian Renaissance.

Basquiat’s Warrior (1982) sold for a record-breaking HK$323.6 million (around US$41.5 million dollars) 


Ultimately, Max Moore successfully bid for the painting for the client with paddle number 151. The hammer price was HK$140 million (around US$17.9 million) dollars. This was still HK$10 million dollars short of the low estimated price, and the painting was sold with buyer’s premium close to HK$163 million (around US$20.9 million) dollars.

Contemporary Art sales head West

The focus will return to European and American auctions in the next few weeks, and we will see what the results will be in the contemporary art evening auctions held in London and New York.

Basquiat’s Red Warrior underwent a bidding war between Max Moore (Head of Contemporary Art, Asia) and Gregoire Billault (Head of Sotheby’s New York Contemporary Art Department)

Max Moore acquired Red Warrior for paddle number 151 client 

Lot 1126 | Yoshitomo Nara | Under the Hazy Sky, Acrylic on canvas

Created in 2012
194.8 x 162 cm

  • Pace Gallery, London
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimated Price (Revised): HK$55,000,000 – 75,000,000 
Hammer Price: HK$58,000,000 
Sold: HK$68,708,000 (around US$8.8 million)

Nara’s Knife Behind Back (2000) sold for a record HK$195.6 (US$25.1 million) dollars in 2019

Yoshitomo Nara is a Japanese artist best known for his paintings of a young girl with piercing eyes. His artwork, Knife Behind Back (2000), was sold for HK$195.6 million (around US$25.1 million) dollars in October 2019. It made Nara the most expensive Japanese artist. 

After a devastating earthquake struck Tohoku, north-eastern Japan, in 2011, Nara painted Under the Hazy Sky in 2012. 

The artwork was created in response to the earthquake and the artist’s hope for Japan’s recovery. This is represented through the two-leaf sprouts – a symbol of hope and peace. 


The auctioneer started the bidding at HK$48 million dollars, and the bidding war was mainly between Max Moore and Alex Branczik. After seven bids, the auctioneer dropped the hammer for HK$58 million dollars, and the painting was sold at HK$68.7 million (around US$8.8 million) dollars with buyer’s premium. Max Moore won the painting for the paddle number 106 client.

Yuki Terase, the former Head of Contemporary Art Sales of Asia, left Sotheby’s earlier in July. In Terase’s place are Alex Branczik and Max Moore – Chairman of Modern & Contemporary Art, Asia, and Head of Contemporary Art Sales, Asia, respectively. The duo, though new to the Hong Kong saleroom, is the house’s hope to fuel the growing appetite for Western art and to take the dynamic market to new heights.

Lot 1114 | Joan Mitchell | Untitled, Oil on canvas

Created in 1967
200 x 150 cm

  • Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris
  • Private Collection 
  • Christie’s, New York, 11 May 2004, Lot 23
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner 

Estimated Price: HK$50,000,000 – 60,000,000 
Hammer Price: HK$55,000,000 
Sold: HK$65,621,000 (around US$8.4 million)

Joan Mitchell (1925-1992) was one of the most important members of American artistic movement Abstract Expressionism, and one of its few female artists to achieve international acclaim. Mitchell’s impressive career spanned more than 40 years and saw her work in a diverse range of mediums, including oil on canvas, water colour and pastel on paper.

The American artist’s painting, Untitled (1967), reflects the stylistic shift in Mitchell’s abstract work, as she began painting on larger canvases. They were mediums which carried her visual incidents, feelings, memories and associations. Though attuned to the trees, flowers and fields that surrounded her, it was not simply the forms of nature that inspired Mitchell  it was also the light and air, the wind rustling the leaves, or the heat of a hot, windless day.


Female Abstract Expressionist Master, Joan Mitchell’s abstract painting Untitled was sold for HK$65.26 million (around US$8.3 million) dollars with buyer’s premium.

This work was estimated at HK$50 million to 60 million dollars. The auctioneer started the bidding at HK$40 million dollars. It was once again a bidding war across Hong Kong and New York. The bidders were also Max Moore and Gregoire Billault. After 10 bids, the auctioneer dropped the hammer at HK$55 million dollars. Max Moore once again won the bidding war, this time for the client with paddle number 123.

Lot 1110 | Adrian Ghenie | The Death of Charles Darwin, Oil on canvas

Created in 2013
280 x 260 cm

  • Pace Gallery, New York 
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner 

Estimated Price: HK$50,000,000 – 60,000,000 
Hammer Price: HK$46,000,000
Sold: HK$54,920,000 (around US$7 million)

The Romanian artist paints dark, eery canvases that weave together personal and collective memories related to the traumas of European history. The artist is preoccupied with ideologies such as communism and eugenics, throughout his work.

Exploring the idea of self and identity in his canvas works since 2010, Ghenie incorporates the recognisable forms of historical figures, such as Vincent Van Gogh and Charles Darwin into his paintings.

Romanian artist, Adrian Ghenie

Other highlight lots: 

Seven emerging artists broke their personal auction records in the sale. 

Nicolas Party | Trees, Pastel on canvas 

Created in 2014 
200 x 109.9 cm 

  • Modern Institute, Glasgow
  • Private Collection
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimated Price: HK$7,000,000 – 10,000,000 
Hammer Price: HK$9,700,000
Sold: HK$11,912,000 (around US$1.5 million)

Jade Fadojutimi | Under the Weather, Oil on canvas

Created in 2017
185 x 175 cm 

  • Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimated Price: HK$1,300,000 – 1,900,000 
Hammer Price: HK$5,000,000
Sold: HK$6,225,000 (around US$800,000)

Shara Hughes | Pink Morning, Oil on canvas 

Created in 2016
152.5 x 137 cm 

  • One River School, Englewood
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimated Price: HK$800,000 – 1,200,000
Hammer Price: HK$4,000,000
Sold: HK$5,015,000 (around US$640,000)

Rafa Macarron | Rutina Fluor (diptych), Mixed media on canvas  

Created in 2019
Each: 226.2 x 145.9 cm | Overall: 226.2 by 294 cm

  • Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner 

Estimated Price: HK$500,000 – 700,000
Hammer Price: HK$3,400,000
Sold: HK$4,284,000 (around US$US$550,000)

Joel Mesler | Untitled (Hope and Dreams), Pigment on linen

Created in 2019
177.8 x 127 cm

  • Rental Gallery, New York
  • Private Collection, New York 
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimated Price: HK$500,000 – 700,000
Hammer Price: HK$2,400,000
Sold: HK$3,024,000 (around US$390,000)

Louis Fratino | Tristan Dancing, Venus, Oil and crayon on canvas

Created in 2017
35.9 x 27.9 cm

  • Thierry Goldberg Gallery, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimated Price: HK$500,000 – 700,000
Hammer Price: HK$950,000
Sold: HK$1,197,0000 (around US$150,000)

Peter McDonald | Chairlift, Acrylic and gouache on canvas

Created in 2010
140 x 114 cm

  • Kate MacGarry, London
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimated Price: HK$180,000 – 280,000
Hammer Price: HK$600,000
Sold: HK$756,000  (around US$97,100)

Auction Details: 

Auction House: Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Sale: Contemporary Art Evening Sale
Auction Date: 9 September 2021 | 8pm Hong Kong local time
Number of lots: 35 
Sold: 32 
Unsold: 3 
Sale Rate: 91%
Sale Total: HK$586,862,000 (around US$75.3 million)

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