Johnni Wong & Sarah Abu Bakar
Publisher: The Edge Galerie
Dimensions: 21.0cm(H) x 15.0cm(W) x 10.0cm(D) / 8.3"(H) x 5.9"(W) x 3.9"(D)
Note: Actual colours may vary due to photography & computer settings.
UNDERSTANDING AUCTION DATA
Auction data compiled in the new book, Southeast Asian Art, Auction Benchmarks & Market Insights, serve to inform the reader, who’s who among the leading artists of Southeast Asia based on auction transactions.
The focus is primarily on artists associated with Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Categorically, there are two basic sets of data.
The first set relates to auction transactions of selected auction houses that generally post reliable figures. The figures are ranked from the highest price recorded to the lowest figure charted among the best-selling artists of a country in terms of auction sales.
These price benchmarks pertain to the artists of each of the selected Southeast Asian countries. The figures are based on the respective hammer price and with the buyer’s premium included, which can range from 10% to 25% depending on the auction house.
Regional & local auctions
The auction records are sourced from Artprice.com and based on online searches of specific Southeast Asian artists.
The second set of data charts the number of lots as well as the percentage and quantum of reported sales of notable auctions that involve Southeast Asian art at the regional and local levels.
The auction houses include:
• Christie’s and Sotheby’s in Hong Kong
• Henry Butcher Art Auctioneers, The Edge Galerie, KLASS and Masterpiece in Kuala Lumpur
• Salcedo Auction and Leon Gallery in Manila
• Borobudur, 33 Auction, Larasati Auctioneers, Masterpiece in Singapore and Jakarta
• Sidharta Auctioneer in Jakarta
• Poly Auction in China
• Other auctions held in Western countries
But merely looking at figures without knowledge of how each artist stacks up against his peers or fellow artists on the local and regional scene only gives half the story or can even be misleading.
Auction data sources such as Artprice.com do not verify the records they receive. They merely upload the records as and when they receive them. Also, if an auction house does not subscribe or send their results to the online database then their data would not be included. Thus, a data subscriber can’t access all the relevant statistics from such a source for a more meaningful analysis.
Also, omissions can and do occur when the works of an important artist of historical significance are unavailable for regional or local auctions. This could be due to reasons of scarcity or unresolved provenance. With such an omission, such as early artists who were once active in Vietnam, they may be erroneously regarded as insignificant or are ranked lowly. And when minor works do turn up and the prices recorded aren’t high, their importance may be dismissed, especially when one just tracks auction records without reviewing other considerations.
Shrouded in secrecy
Contrary to the notion that art auctions are public events, in full view of participants and observers, in many cases, actual sales transactions are quite opaque and shrouded in secrecy. Nominees can bid on behalf of consignors to establish remarkable records without having actually sold the works, especially with telephone or absentee bidders. Therefore, in some cases, relatively insignifi cant artists flying under the market radar can suddenly have works “sold” for a high price in regional auctions. Such an arrangement can happen due to “connections” with market players who are deemed important clients of the auction house.
One of the objectives of such market players, seemingly, is to help raise the profile of the artists in an attempt to help “develop” the art market for the chosen artists. This sort of market strategy is not confined to any one country but is increasingly happening in Southeast Asia.
Whether it is shill bidding to inflate prices or a bidding ring colluding to keep prices low, all such dubious practices have existed since auctions started centuries ago.
The interviews published here are with art dealers and consultants, auction house operators, collectors and artists, among others, offer an insight into how each local art market operates in Southeast Asia.
Operating both an art gallery and an auction house ourselves, and being part of The Edge Media Group, we are in a unique position to observe and question how each level of the art market in Southeast Asia operates. We may not be experts on the art market in Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Singapore but we do have certain resources as a media company to conduct this survey.
As mentioned, auction benchmarks of established artists do not normally happen overnight. Price records of any artist need to be viewed and analysed from the perspective of his career development for those tracking such data.
This publication serves as a guide to understanding the validity of price benchmarks of Southeast Asian artists who have had a level of presence in local or regional auctions.
Published by The Edge Media Group under The Edge Galerie, Southeast Asian Art, Auction Benchmarks & Market Insights is available via mail-order at RM38 a copy. Email: email@example.com to order. Price does not include mailing charges. You may also download for free, a pdf copy of the 596-page book at www.theedgegalerie.com. However, registration is required to do so.
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