Upbeat contemporary art market

There was intense bidding for choice lots at The Edge Auction 2018: Southeast Asian Art, which indicates that despite the weak market, there is still demand for fine art.

(Photos: Kenny Yap/The Edge)

Held on March 11, The Edge Auction 2018 ended on an upbeat note with a record sale for Malaysian contemporary artist Chong Siew Ying — her Laugh 1 (The Champion) went for RM86,268, including the 10% premium.

All the major buyers in the local art auction scene, including those with private art museums, were in the ballroom of the Hilton Kuala Lumpur to add prized works to their collection.

There was intense bidding for certain rare works, including Khalil Ibrahim’s extra-large 100cm by 100cm, 1993 abstract painting, which sold for RM53,088, Redza Piyadasa’s 1996 Forest Ranger and Wife, which fetched RM55,300, and Jolly Koh’s 2001 Refleksi, which went for RM50,876.

Other works that sold well above their top estimates included Noor Mahnun “Anum” Mohamed’s 2002 Girl Skipping, which sold for RM55,300, and Datuk Ibrahim Hussein’s 1986 Sport series (a set of eight artist’s proof prints), which fetched RM57,950. Yusof Ghani’s 2008 Hydrafinity (Wajah series) sold for RM127,490 and Chinese ink master Chung Chen Sun’s 1995 enormous work, Void (145cm by 347cm), went for RM77,420. Another of Chong Siew Ying’s works from her Crying with Trees series was sold RM63,745. All prices quoted are inclusive of a 10% buyer’s premium.


“Collectors are realistic and this is a good opportunity for them to include exciting works at reasonable prices to their collection,” said Au Foong Yee, managing director of The Edge Galerie and managing director and editor-in-chief of EdgeProp.my.

“The interest is there and it is in line with the objective of The Edge Media Group’s art initiative. We are trying to educate readers about art and keep them informed, and to promote art and Malaysian artists especially,” added Au, who noticed new faces at the auction.

Among the crowd of 200 were corporate leaders, including The Edge Media Group chairman Datuk Tong Kooi Ong, Lebar Daun Bhd chairman Datuk Noor Azman Mohd Nordin, Ken Holdings Bhd chairman Datuk Kenny Tan, DTLM Design Group founding director and LM Architect principal Dr Tan Loke Mun, Singapore businessman Ang Lay Leong and Indonesian art entrepreneur Leo Silitonga.

Brunch before the auction ... (Seated, from left) Zain Azahari, Dawn Cheong and Tong. (Standing, from left) Bruce Lu, Au, Dr Tan Loke Mun and Chew May-Ann

“There is a lot more energy at your auction here compared with ours in Jakarta,” said Silitonga, a former art fair director and gallery owner. “I can feel the buzz and the excitement. The general weak market condition is not just in Malaysia but everywhere else. The market here is still active and vibrant.”

Other collectors and art enthusiasts included legal consultants Zain Azahari Zainal Abidin, Pakhruddin Sulaiman and Edward Soo, educationist Prof Dr Krishna Gopal Rampal, film producer Leonard Tee and businessman Mohd Suhaimi Ahmad and his wife, Sarah Abdul Aziz. Also in attendance were Gouw Kim San, Syaharum Amin, Ismail Ani Arope, Inge-Marie Holst and Dr Hans Peter Holst as well as Brian and Carolyn Walling.

The auction also attracted a number of art consultants and dealers such as Pipal Fine Art directors Angie Lee and artist Hoe Say Yong, G13 Gallery directors Kenny Teng and Wendy Chang, PinkGuy Malaysia Art & Frame director Winson Loh, WL Framing & Art Sdn Bhd director James Lee, and A+ Works of Art director Joshua Lim.

(From left) Joshua Lim, Datuk Lim Edin Nom, Yee Tak Hong, Leo Silitonga, Noor Azman, Fauzan Omar and Nikki Ong



The auction started off at a subdued pace, with lots being sold at low estimates or going unsold. However, the mood was lifted by Lot 40, Jalaini Abu Hassan’s Sarang Burung(estimates: RM8,000 to RM10,000). It generated some interest across the saleroom between room bidders and an online bidder, who snapped it up at RM11,590 through Invaluable.com. The price includes the buyer’s premium and Goods and Services Tax.

Ten lots later, the saleroom witnessed frantic bidding for three lots by Anthonie Chong. The three oils on canvas dated 1993 were estimated at RM3,000 to RM5,000 each. Lot 50, heavily contested between room and online bidders, was finally sold to an online bidder for RM6,954. Lot 51 found a buyer in the saleroom at RM6,083 and Lot 52 went to an online buyer for RM11,010.50.

Lot 60 — The Lull (estimates: RM9,000 to RM15,000), from Yusof Majid’s Plantation series— saw enthusiastic bidding between room and online bidders. The 2009 work was finally sold to an international online buyer for RM18,544, inclusive of the buyer’s premium and GST.

Lot 64 (estimates: RM18,000 to RM22,000) — from Ahmad Shukri Mohamed’s Golden Gate series — was sold to an online bidder for RM45,201 after intense bidding.

Datuk Ibrahim Hussein’s Sport series was sold to an online bidder for RM57,950, including the buyer’s premium

The excitement continued with the next lot — a 138cm by 260cm monochromatic landscape from Chong Siew Ying’s Crying with Trees series. After exceeding the RM52,000 estimate, it went to an online bidder for RM63,745.

Lot 67 — Tan Wei Kheng’s Language of Leaves (estimates: RM23,000 to RM28,000) — saw frantic bidding between room and online bidders. The triptych went to an online bidder for RM48,678.

Indonesian contemporary artist Dedy Sufriady’s Animals Hero (estimates: RM7,000 to RM9,000) achieved a remarkable RM25,498.

Said lawyer Edward Soo: “I think the art market is generally weak but good, rare pieces like Piyadasa’s work and Siew Ying’s Laughter series will always be in demand by discerning collectors.” He was referring to Lot 102 — Redza Piyadasa’s Forest Ranger and Wife (estimates: RM25,000 to RM30,000).

The highlight of the sale was Chong Siew Ying’s Laugh 1 (estimates: RM29,000-RM45,000), which graces the cover of the catalogue. After intense bidding, the artwork was sold for RM86,268, a record price for the artist at an auction. The exuberant portrait now belongs to Galeri Z, established by Zain Azahari.

“This piece is so joyful, I just had to get it,” Zain said after the auction. “It is really superior to the coloured one,” he added, referring to a second work from the Laughter series (2003; oil on canvas), which sold for RM16,590.



Based on the bidding trend at the auction this year, the art market remains soft. However, regular supporters were still actively acquiring good artworks. A number of new buyers have shown interest in Malaysian art, proving that the market has developed to some degree, particularly among overseas bidders who participated online.

The auction shows that buyers are now more knowledgeable in selecting the types of artworks, whether for a personal collection or for investment. Affordable decorative works such as those by Loo Hooi Nam and Alex Leong have a niche following. However, high-value works by Datuk Syed Ahmad Syed Jamal and Latiff Mohidin surprisingly did not find new owners, indicating that the factors of price point and market condition are still at play.


This article first appeared on Mar 19, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.

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