From 20 to 26 March 2017, Sotheby’s
will host a selling exhibition of mid-century modern masterpieces at its Hong Kong Gallery – a market first for the auction house.
“In Asia, we’ve never done a show dedicated to this category before,” says Jasmine Yan, Gallery Director, Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery. “Of course, we’ve done these shows in New York and Paris, but until now, the value wasn’t quite there in Asia. Now, we’re seeing a change in taste.”
Along with evolving tastes, Sotheby’s sees a different set of collectors emerging on the market – another factor that influenced their decision to host this show, Masters of Design, at the same time as Art Basel Hong Kong
. “The collector base getting broader and younger,” says Yan. “We see it in contemporary art, especially during Art Basel; there’s usually a more contemporary age group coming in. I would say this group is roughly in their 40s and 50s.”
Selling exhibitions of design works being a relatively new phenomenon in Asia, the auction house chose to focus on four mid-century modern masters: Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, who spent 20 years collaborating; alongside their contemporaries Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand.
Sotheby’s chose these four, says Yan, because of their far-reaching impact on design and architecture, and the way they brought art and design together. “With Le Corbusier, it’s not just about the furniture. It’s about the thinking behind it, which affected architecture until at least the 1980s and 90s. You see a lot of his influence in the buildings around us.”
Adds Yan, “We also thought about what would sit well in Asian clients’ homes.” Prouvé’s works are particularly popular in Asia, she says: “I think his style resonates here. From a business perspective, it makes sense to bring his work here, because there’s a higher value per lot.”
Perriand, meanwhile, was heavily influenced by time she spent in Japan, something that comes through in works like the Nuage wall shelves she created in 1956. These oak and steel shelves are one of the 13 lots for sale in this exhibition.
It’s a deliberately concise exhibition, with each of the lots coming from just one collector, who painstakingly restored some of the pieces, paying particular attention to reupholstery. Prices will start around US$30,000, says Yan, and go up to about US$250,000. “It depends on the rarity of each piece, and the condition it’s in.”
Yan and the rest of the Sotheby’s team are excited to see how sales go next week once the exhibition opens. “We’re confident there’s a collector group here,” says Yan, “but when it comes to price point, style, what are they looking for… we’re testing the market.”
Yan believes interest in original design works will only continue to grow in Asia. “It’s very hard to find original pieces. It’s a matter of supply and demand – there’s only so much available,” she explains. As for other modern design that is proving popular with collectors, “We’re seeing Ron Arad at auction all the time, and the Campana brothers,” she says. “The boundary between designers, artists and fashion designers is no longer well defined. That’s why I think we’re going to see more and more design as art.”
Masters of Design will run from 20 to 26 March 2017, at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery, 5/F, One Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong.