Pulse: June / July 2013 Art Auctions

Despite The Edge's best effort to promote exclusivity in its inaugural auction, or the creative offerings of paired works by KL Lifestyle Art Space, both auctions delivered underwhelming results. Local records for a few artists were smashed at the former, bold estimates helping Ahmad Shukri and Bayu Utomo Radjikin up their previous records, while Jolly Koh and Kow Leong Kiang fetched price highs due to the large format works that were not seen in previous auctions. The mood was dull and largely muted amongst a discerning crowd. Most lots had only 2 or 3 bidders, and gems by Cheah Ewe Hoon and Yeong Seak Ling were hammered down but did not sell due to unexpected issues.

Same price as Ahmad Zakii's 'Vase'? Tan Choon Ghee - Kapitan Kling Mosque (1994)

At Sheraton, KL Lifestyle Art Space achieved 90% sales, but will be remembered for the non-sale of an Ibrahim Hussein and a Yusof Ghani, with pre-sale low estimates of RM 400,000 and RM 80,000 respectively. A couple of works were withdrawn before the auction, possibly due to the owner realising its estimates being too low. One of which was by the recently deceased Tew Nai Tong, whose bountiful ‘Harvest’ saw a flurry of paddle activity. Stock watch for the month sees Ahmad Zakii Anwar’s works propelling to modern / "blue chip" territory, while a rising trend is charted for ethnic Chinese painters Tan Choon Ghee, Eng Tay, Khoo Sui Hoe, and the perpetually underestimated Lee Long Looi.

Attractive pairs: Nude Portrait of an Australian Lady (1994) by Long Thieh Shih [L], Khalil Ibrahim [R]

The entry of two new auction houses in town, in a single month, spells good competition and hopefully increases the professionalism at these events. Greg Harris, the auctioneer for The Edge, started each lot’s bidding at 65% of the lowest estimate, a curious figure for a modern art auction. The focus on quality and provenance is very commendable, and it was a pleasure to appreciate works by much-coveted 1990s artists Kok Yew Puah and Wong Hoy Cheong. Variety also emerged, where a number of sculptures and Chinese ink paintings featured prominently at the Masterpiece auction. Installation and video art in the next art auction, perhaps? I am obviously getting too far ahead of myself...

Varied offering: Ch'ng Huck Theng - Dragon I (2011)