6 questions for poly auction specialist Jamie Yu about a Yoshitomo Nara record, and what it means for his market
Jamie Yu is a rising star in the Hong Kong auction world. As head of the modern and contemporary art department of Poly Auction Hong Kong, it ushered in an exciting era for the auction house. In Avril, at Yoshitomo Nara’s Berlin Barack, Room 1 (2007) sold for HK $ 120 million in Poly’s Modern and Contemporary Art Sale, setting the highest price ever for a three-dimensional work of art by the artist and second prize highest bid ever for Nara. Then in June, a coordinated sale with Philips set 17 new auction records, many for emerging artists.
We spoke with Yu about his trajectory to his current position, why Nara Berlin barracks, room 1 worth the price, and what’s next for the future of Nara’s market.
How did you find your way to become responsible for modern and contemporary art at Poly Auction Hong Kong?
I majored in fine arts for my undergraduate degree, then visual arts management in graduate school. After graduating, I first worked for an international auction house for a few years, which gave me excellent training and learning experience. Then I joined Poly Auction Hong Kong and dedicated myself to building a whole new platform with a different way of thinking. Next year will be our 10th anniversary!
The installation of Yoshimoto Nara Berlin barracks (2007) sold for a record HK $ 120 million (US $ 15.5 million) earlier this year. The installation is a small house with two works inside, Greenhouse doll and Three Sisters (Berlin version). Can you tell us a bit about the job and why is it so special?
Most artists are best known for their oil paintings, but Yoshitomo Nara is quite the exception. He started to create paintings and collages while studying in Germany. Later he began to work on sculptures and installations.
The installations are one of Yoshitomo Nara’s most important creations. However, many of his creations are specially designed for retrospectives or biennials. Therefore, they are not preserved in their entirety, and very few of them enter private collections.
We proudly presented Berlin barracks, room 1, with two of the largest paintings from a domestic installation to appear in auction history to date. This work in particular fully presents the artist’s 30 years of creation. In every way, from presenting the artwork to video production to setting up the preview, we’ve done our best to bring the perfect look to audiences and collectors.
Did you have any indication that the work would sell as well?
Yoshitomo Nara’s installation work is very rare in the market, to begin with. We set the artist’s world record for Not everything except / Green House and Not everything except / Orange House in 2019. Greenhouse doll, which was sold in a joint auction with Phillips last year, secured the second highest auction price for the artist. I’m happy that Berlin barracks, room 1, which includes another Greenhouse doll, obtained a very successful result.
How did the auction battle go on the night of the auction?
The auction of Berlin barracks, room 1 started at HK $ 38 million. We received written bids prior to the auction, and the highest written bid reached HK $ 70 million. Between the written offer and the two phone offers, this quickly brought the offer up to HK $ 78 million.
The bidding war was primarily between telephone bidders represented by Managing Director Alex Chang, Senior Specialist Joseph Yang, and myself. After 11 rounds of bidding, the price reached HK $ 95 million. In the end, Alex Chang’s phone client won, and he reached HK $ 100 million, eventually selling for HK $ 120 million with bounty, setting a new world record for the three-dimensional work of the artist. artist and the second highest artist auction price.
What does this mean for the future of Nara’s auction work?
Nara celebrated her 60th birthday last year. I remain very confident in the future development of the market for works of Nara. Based on the wide range of collectors, his works are at the same price level on the auction markets in Hong Kong, Beijing, New York or London.
Two major exhibitions of Nara’s work were recently held in Dallas and Taipei. Do you think this helped strengthen the sale or brought attention to it?
The two exhibitions did not necessarily have concrete support for a work of such a high price. However, academic research and analysis on exhibitions, especially large-scale retrospective exhibitions in art museums, is very important for the public to understand the artist’s creative process. It is difficult for an auction house or gallery to fully showcase an artist with multiple works or even a full exhibition. The academic world and the art market must complement each other to bring the best development to the artist.
What does a record price like this mean for the future of the auction house?
First, it gives existing collectors a lot of confidence. After all, art collections and preferences are very subjective choices. The auction record clearly shows that many bidders are willing to offer high prices for the works, which at the same time creates an attraction for existing collectors since there will be a good return on investment, which can become a problem. incentive for them to consider selling.
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