Mar 25, 2021 07:48 PM

Hong Kong Art Market Roars Back to Life With Record $41.9 Million Sale

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s painting “Warrior” was sold Tuesday at a single-lot Christie’s auction for $41.9 million, including commissions.
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s painting “Warrior” was sold Tuesday at a single-lot Christie’s auction for $41.9 million, including commissions.

Hong Kong’s art auction market is showing signs of springing back into post-pandemic life with the sale Tuesday of the most expensive piece of Western art ever sold at auction in Asia.

“Warrior,” a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), an American artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, was sold at a single-lot Christie’s auction for HK$323.6 million ($41.9 million), including commissions.

The price surpassed the record set by Gerhard Richter’s “Abstraktes Bild (649-2),” which went for HK$214.6 million at a Sotheby’s auction in October 2020.

The Basquiat auction was livestreamed by Christie’s in Hong Kong, with bids starting at HK$160 million before closing at HK$280 million when it was sold to an Asian buyer.

“Warrior” was last offered for sale at an auction in London in 2012, when it fetched around 5.6 million pounds ($7.8 million). The value of the painting has surged over 400% since then.

It has been a dim period in global art sale and auction markets as Covid-19 took its toll. In 2020, global sales of art and antiques shrank by 22% to an estimated $50.1 billion, according to a market report released last week by Art Basel and UBS Group AG.

The report showed that the U.S. market retained its leading position, with 42% of global sales by value. Greater China and the United Kingdom were each well behind with 20%. However, Greater China overtook the U.S. to become the largest public auction market, with a share of 36% of sales by value, according to the report.

Aggregate online sales, nonetheless, reached a record high of $12.4 billion, doubling in value from 2019, the report said. The share attributed to online sales also expanded, from 9% of total sales by value in 2019 to 25% in 2020, the first time the share of e-commerce sales exceeded general retail sales in the art market.

“The year 2020 marked a turning point for digital innovation in the art market,” said Christl Novakovic, CEO of UBS Europe SE and chair of the UBS Art Board.

“The shift to online platforms enabled collecting, increased transparency, and bolstered the market even when national lockdowns forced gallery, live auction and museum closures,” she said.

Contact reporter Timmy Shen ( and editor Michael Bellart (

Download our app to receive breaking news alerts and read the news on the go.

Follow the Chinese markets in real time with Caixin Global’s new stock database.

You've accessed an article available only to subscribers
Share this article
Open WeChat and scan the QR code