Sotheby’s first Singapore auction in 15 years hopes to top $10 million and revive interest in Southeast Asian art


Sotheby’s presents a rich range in Southeast Asia for the first live auction in Singapore in 15 years. The house hopes to reintroduce the category to the global art market as the city-state attempts to become the region’s next art hub.

Of the 50 lots consigned to the August 28 sale unveiled Thursday, 86% are works of art from Southeast Asia. There is no shortage of great modern names, including the Sinaporean pioneer Georgette Chen, whose painting Boats and shophouses (1963-1965) is expected to gross over $1 million. In total, the sale is estimated at $10 million (SG$18 million).

Walter Spies, Tierfabel (Animal Fable) (1928). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Other Southeast Asian highlights include the 1928 painting Tierfabel (Animal Fable) by the Russian-born German painter Walter Spies, who lived in Indonesia. Works by Spies are rare; only 35 Indonesian-themed canvases survived World War II. Coming from a private collection in Southeast Asia, this one carries an estimate of over $2.5 million.

Rounding out the offerings, Hendra Gunawan’s 1980 painting Fish market on the beach (estimate: $687,460 to $868,370), Women dancing in the garden ($542,732 to $868,370) by Belgian-born Bali transplant Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès, and Le Pho’s Vietnamese lady (1938) ($448,658 to $723,642) from an American private collection.

Works by Franco-Vietnamese painter Mai Trung Thu; the Indonesian painter Srihadi Sudarsono, who died in February this year; and Christine Ay Tjoe, who has exhibited with premier gallery White Cube, are also on offer.

Le Pho, Vietnamese lady

Pho, Vietnamese lady (1938). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s launched a biannual Southeast Asian art sale in Singapore in 1996, but centralized its Asian operations in Hong Kong in 2008 as demand grew. Now the tide has changed again as Hong Kong faces an exodus of talent and silver amid ongoing travel restrictions and a Beijing takeover.

“This sale provides us with a special opportunity to engage directly with the growing and significant concentration of collectors and art lovers in the region,” said Jasmine Prasetio, Sotheby’s Managing Director for Southeast Asia, at Artnet News.

In addition to Southeast Asian art, the sale also features top-notch Asian names, such as 20th-century Chinese-French master Zao Wou-ki, whose Untitled, Between August And December 1958 is estimated between 2.8 and 3.6 million dollars. The sale also includes a handful of hip international names popular among young collectors, including Jordy Kerwick, Mr. and Javier Calleja.

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