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Next week, on November 24 and 25, Phillips Hong Kong will host its fall sales of 20th Century and Contemporary Art & Design. From established names like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gerhard Richter, Zao Wou-Ki, Zeng Fanzhi, and Liu Ye; to emerging artists like Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Nicolas Party, and Genieve Figgis; the sales are rounded out with collectible design from Finn Juhl, Kaare Kling, and Jacob Kjaer.
Looking ahead a next week’s sale, Whitewall spoke with Phillips’ Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art and Deputy Chairman, Asia, Jonathan Crockett.
WHITEWALL: Can you tell us a bit about your role as the Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art and Deputy Chairman, Asia?
JONATHAN CROCKETT: I have strategic oversight of our 20th century and contemporary art and design initiatives across Asia and manage our growing transcontinental team of international specialists as well as the team in Hong Kong. I hired the initial team of three with whom I put together our inaugural Hong Kong auction in November 2016, and have grown the team to its current size which is now 5 times larger. We are still very much in our growth phase and continue to look for the very best talent. I also help to develop our business by supporting our other specialist departments as well as developing and deepening the relationships with our top clients in Asia.
WW: Phillips presents a global roster of works in the Asian sales, additionally presenting some important graffiti and street art elements. Can you tell us a few highlights?
JC: From our first sale it was a priority for me that we present an offering that was representative of current demand in the region. The only other platform doing so in Hong Kong was Art Basel, so it was a privilege to be the first auction house to put together a sale that was relevant to current taste in Asia. We stay true to what is relevant and most sought after in the moment. Collectors in Asia are looking for global names irrespective of origin, which means we are just as likely to include a work by an Irish painter in our sales as a Chinese. Also, as you mention, there is a prevalence of Neo-Pop art in our sales offering which again reflects local taste, especially with our younger generation collector clients. Graffiti inspired artworks range from emerging names such as MADSAKI, and Shepard Fairey right through to the most established and well-known names including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about emerging artists on your radar like Genvieve Figgis?
JC: Absolutely. In the West, Phillips has a reputation for promoting emerging names and in Hong Kong we strive to offer a selection of emerging names in our sales that may not have been seen at auction before in Asia before; Genieve Figgis is one such example. Figgis is a name that is proving popular with a younger generation of collector especially here in Greater China; I particularly like how she bridges the classical with the contemporary with her unique method of painting.
WW: We’re seeing established artists making abstract art. Can you tell us a bit about your thoughts on this?
JC: Interestingly it was Chinese artists such as Zao Wou-ki who started incorporating the use of abstraction in his works after moving to Paris and being exposed to the Abstract Expressionists in New York. Abstract paintings by Zao and others like him including Chu Teh-chun have long proved popular with Chinese collectors. Now that collectors in Asia are considering more Western artists it is natural that they are drawn to abstraction – with the history of their collecting in this genre – as well as to the representative or figurative.
WW: Are you seeing a new demand in the market for any type of art in particular?
JC: Demand continues to evolve and change both seasonally and regionally. There is a thirst for collecting in Asia and collectors here are open to collecting new names as they gain increased exposure to them whether through museum or commercial gallery shows, or via social media or other sources. There is huge demand in Eddie Martinez works now for example, and this coincides with the artist’s much anticipated show at the Yuz Foundation in Shanghai.
WW: What are you personally most excited to see in these sales?
JC: The sheer breadth of work from emerging through to well established, whether Western or Asian – all pieces of the highest quality by some of the most sought after artists globally may be found in these sales, and that is truly exciting. I love the fact that we have a masterpiece by Jean-Michel Basquiat at the front cover of our Evening sale, something that would hold prominence in a London or New York sale, for example, as well as one of the most beautiful Gerhard Richter paintings I have ever seen, alongside masterpieces by Liu Ye and Zeng Fanzhi. The day sale is a truly Phillips sale in identity, and I am happy that it includes a section of exciting names which will be sold to benefit the HOCA foundation as I feel it we all have a duty to support the underprivileged in society.