2019: the year of all records for Vietnamese art at Christie’s Hong Kong

4 December 2019 Off By Jean-François Hubert

2019 began with a White Glove Sale at Christie’s Hong Kong on May 25.

The year continued with another White Glove Sale of a phenomenal sale of Vietnamese paintings again at Christie’s and again at Hong Kong on November 24 2019.

White Glove Sale are the three words which the British – the real creators of modern auctions – use to describe a sale in which every lot sells.

Such are the constraints of sellers, the requirements of buyers, and the political and economic uncertainties that can make a market hazardous, that a White Glove Sale is an exceptional performance these days.

Several elements explain our success:

Firstly, preparation:

Preparation operates well upstream: the selection of the works proposed determines everything. The Tuan Pham Collections I and II were filled with masterpieces and bore the fingerprint of the collector and his singular history; his extreme sensibility touched collectors. As evidenced by the results, a sumptuous collection.

The Ngo Manh Duc collection, a tribute by a son to his mother (Le Thi Luu), and other works from other vendors who chose to remain anonymous, all combined to create a group of works the like of which has never been seen.

Next, the composition of the catalogue:

To learn, to understand, to surprise, that is my leitmotif, my recurring theme. We must learn every day to try and better understand the works of art, and I always aim to surprise. All this must be contained in the catalogue which must be assembled with great care. The fight against obscurantism and ignorance must be fought with absolute vigilance. Rapidly exhausted, the catalogue is of particular usefulness.

Following on, the exhibition:

Orchestrated by Christie’s Hong Kong to present the works before the sale, and after pre-sale exhibitions at other locations (such as Singapore, Jakarta, Taipei etc.) exhibitions are freely available to all and must be attended. Despite having participated in 46 large sales in Asia, the quality of Christie’s presentation blow me away on every single sale. It is at such exhibitions that direct contact with the work – which must be the sole source of knowledge – occurs. One has to be face to face with a work to learn about it and appreciate its impact on you, the viewer. How many unfortunate regrettables simply gloss over photographs for a few seconds?

Finally, the dialogue:

Always discreet, communication between the expert, the sellers and the buyers, is essential: beauty explains itself, promotes itself, and never ends.

World records for everything: total annual sales for Vietnamese art, total for a sale of Vietnamese art, total for a collection (the Tuan Pham collection), record price for a work, a Vietnamese painting and for a work by the artist :

The prices for these White Glove Sales speak for themselves.

There is no doubt that Picasso, for whom “the sole worth of a painter is the price of his work at public auction” would have appreciated a total of HK$63,651, 250 in 42 Lots all sold on May 25 and 26 2019, and a total of HK$30,246,250 in 42 Lots all sold on November 24 2019.

These figures lead to a 2019 total (without counting online or private sales) of 84 Lots realising HK$93,897,500, namely around US$12m or EUR10.9m.

Lovers of Vietnamese paintings deserve such results. Let them be honoured and thanked here.

Jean-Francois Hubert