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Seoul-Searching

Seoul Auction’s Hong Kong sales are achieving strong results  

Seoul Auction’s Hong Kong sales are achieving strong results

 

 
Taking on the world’s mightiest is a bold move, but that’s what Korean auction house Seoul Auction did when it opened in Hong Kong last year. 

So far, so good, the 11-year-old auction house says. The first year of operations in the city delivered strong returns to shareholders, while the company gained a higher profile due to the international exposure. Its executives say these better-than-expected results in Hong Kong have enabled the business to gain a foothold in the lucrative Asian art market.

Founded in 1998, Seoul Auction launched in Hong Kong in October last year with big guns Sotheby’s and Christie’s firmly in its sights. Jun Lee, CEO of Seoul Auction, concedes that the company was entering “uncharted territory” in doing what others were not – offering modern and contemporary western art for sale in Hong Kong.

He explains that the two global auction houses dominating Hong Kong’s art market tend to focus on Chinese and other Asian art and antiques, while selling their western art in London and New York. Seoul Auction challenged that with its pioneering sale of western and Asian masterpieces in its debut.

Rich Spring

  Misung Shim
 

Misung Shim, Managing Director, Seoul Auction Hong Kong

It was immediately apparent that the firm had tapped into a spring of Asian demand for work by western masters. Seoul Auction’s decision to launch in Hong Kong was vindicated at its latest sale in October, which realised HK$53.1 million (US$6.9 million), including a new Asian record for a work by British artist Damien Hirst. The masterpiece from Hirst’s Butterfly Series sold for HK$17.2 million (US$2.2 million), the highest price paid for a Damien Hirst in Asia.

Misung Shim, Managing Director, Seoul Auction Hong Kong, says the firm was “delighted” by the results of the October sale. “The results validate our strategy to present a carefully curated selection of high-quality works by western masters, as well as exceptional works by Asian artists.”

Ms Shim says that when Seoul Auction was looking to expand in the region, Hong Kong was the clear choice.

“We did consider other places, including Beijing, but Hong Kong’s auction market is already well established internationally,” she says.

“There are no taxes on art trade, and Hong Kong’s customs processing is very efficient. Its geographical convenience is also important to us, enabling us to hold preview exhibitions in Taiwan and the Chinese mainland ahead of our Hong Kong sales.”

Brand Exposure

 

Damien Hirst’s celebrated work, The Importance of Elsewhere –The Kingdom of Heaven, set a new price

 

Damien Hirst’s celebrated work, The Importance of Elsewhere – The Kingdom
of Heaven, set a new
price record at auction in Hong Kong

Ms Shim adds that the Seoul Auction brand name has been greatly enhanced as a result of its exposure in Hong Kong.

“Since Seoul Auction became the first auction house to offer western masterpieces in Hong Kong in its debut sale, interest and awareness in western contemporary art have grown significantly in Hong Kong and among collectors from Hong Kong, Taiwan, the mainland and Southeast Asia. We have confidence in the market and are expanding our business in Asia. We are fully committed to helping establish Hong Kong as a truly international art hub and serving our clients throughout the Asian region.”

With the growing trend for crossover art (Chinese buying Japanese art, Japanese buying Korean art, etc), Ms Shim expects more Asian auction houses will look to set up a base in Hong Kong. By moving early, she says, Seoul Auction will gain a strong foothold. “We are preparing now for the good times ahead.”  

Related Link
Seoul Auction

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