Sun, 28 Dec 2003

Auction house makes name for itself in S'pore

Carla Bianpoen, Contributor, Singapore

It seems that the Indonesian auction house Larasati is rapidly making an impression on the international art market in Singapore.

In contrast to its first international auction in Singapore held six months earlier when Indonesian buyers prevailed, the second auction, held in early December, saw Singaporeans as the majority of the about 200 bidders. It may be a sign that Larasati could become a major player in the Asian art market.

The 83 lots presented as Pictures of Asia Fine Art, with works by Europeans who came to Indonesia early in the last century like Hofker, Sonnega and Dooijewaard, and Indonesians -- primarily represented by Hendra Gunawan, Affandi, Rusli, Sudjojono, Sudjana Kerton and Ivan Sagito. There were also Chinese senior and avant- garde artists like Georgette Chen and Fanglijun, as well as some from Malaysia and Vietnam.

No doubt the old masters were still in great demand, with Hofker's lithographs exceeding by three or four times their estimates, culminating in A Seated Balinese Beauty with Offerings, which was estimated at S$600-800, fetching a remarkable S$5,000.

Willem Dooijewaard's colored chalks on paper Balinese Girl at an Elaborately Sculpted Water Spout, made S$40,000 from the estimated S$16,000-18,000.

Equally significant were Hendra Gunawan's painting Penjual Ikan (Fish Seller) which fetched S$480,000, three times its maximum estimate of S$160,000; Rusli's Puri Dalem Tandjung Bungkak (estimated S$7,000-9,000) went for S$22,000 while Affandi's oil on canvas Semangka dan Kepiting (Watermelon and Crab) made S$190,000, more than twice its estimate of S$90,000.

However, Affandi's Menjemur Ikan (Drying the Fish) and Tangkuban Perahu, remained within estimates, while there was no bid on his work titled Skiing.

Quite memorable was the bidding for Chinese artist's Chen Ya Jie's work Flowers, which started at S$7,000 and went through some heated bidding until it reached S$26,000. But flower painting by Xu Xiao Yen surprisingly went below its lowest estimate.

Perhaps less spectacular but still noteworthy were the lots that went for prices slightly over or twice the estimates.

These included Lee Man Fong's Two Rabbits which went for S$32,000 from the estimated S$20,000-25,000); Rusli's Prayer and Offerings (estimated S$6,000-8,000) which fetched S$15,000; Jeihan Sukmantoro's Ibu Andi (estimated S$5,400-7,000) went for S$5,600; Sudjojono's Bouquet Wicky (estimated S$35,000-45,000) went for S$46,000; Renato Cristiano (estimated S$25,000-30,000) fetched S$38,000, while Abdul Azis' Ibu dan Anak (estimated S$4,400-5,400) went for S$6,000.

A number of the other lots sold for prices within the estimates.

Ivan Sagito's Yang Selalu Mengulang-Ulang Gerak Hatinya (That Which Always Pounds at the Heart) went for S$70,000 (estimated S$50,000-70.000); Wu Guanshong's Boulders Near White Walled House (estimated S$90,000- 20,000) went for S$109,000; Sudjana Kerton's Nike estimated S$80,000- 100,000 went for S$90,000; and Rudolf Bonnet's Portrait of a Balinese Dancer (estimated S$37,000- 45,000) went for S$40,000.

Fang Lijun's 2002.10.1 (estimated S$35,000-45,000) went for S$38,000, and Zhang Xiaogan's Bloodline no. 3, Bloodline no. 7 (estimated S$25,000-30,000) went for S$25,000.

With 72 percent of 83 lots sold at a total hammer price of S$17,85,300, the auction, which was held at a time when holidays and wedding receptions abounded, reaped a relatively good result. Above all, the auction revealed both a professional maturity in realistic pricing, as well as increased selectiveness of the bidders.

Larasati launched its first auction on April 30, 2000. Titled Pictures of Indonesia, the show featured 140 paintings, ranging from old masters to young artists, including also senior artists whose names had yet to climb the ladder of popularity. That first auction generated almost US$470,590 against a pre-sale estimate of $294,118.

In the same year, Larasati formed a strategic partnership with Glerum, said to be the largest independent auction house in the Netherlands. Mr. Glerum was a longtime Sotheby's director before he established his own company in Amsterdam in 1989. Focusing on Indonesian works, it went to Singapore in 1994. But six years later Glerum teamed up with Larasati, to the benefit of both.

Looking back at their three-year existence, one is struck by the success of the team behind the auction house. They have emerged in the new dynamic of the young generation, who come from various backgrounds but have a shared appreciation of and vision for their auction house.

Amir Sidharta's background flows along many fields, such as architecture, museum science, communication, as well as in the roles of art critic and curator. Daniel Komala is a scientist, familiar with the art world through his mother, a collector. Yudi Wanandi is an architect whose family has artistic interests.

Larasati proceeds to highlight young Indonesian painters but does not forget the old masters, at the same time pursuing the development of an Asian international forum with professionalism of international standards. In a short period of time, it has become the first and most reputable Asian auction house -- and one to be reckoned with internationally.

"We want to be the best in Asia and we're going for that," said Daniel.