Sotheby's is off to a flying start in the second quarter of 2012. Following hot on the heels of its Hong Kong wine auction, which achieved HK$63.6m ($8.2m), its sale of Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings brought similarly impressive results.
Fuelled by the ever-growing interest of Chinese art collectors, the sale recorded a result of HK$96m ($12.3m) - beating its high estimate by 37% and making it the category's second most successful various-owner sale ever held by Sotheby's Hong Kong.
"Following on from the truly record results we enjoyed in 2011 for Southeast Asian art, today's buoyant sale soared above its high estimate by 37%", said Kim Chuan Mok, Sotheby's head of Southeast Asian Paintings.
"There was strength exhibited all over the market with records set for Indonesian Bandung School painters Ahmad and But Mochtar, both of whom had multiple bidders competing.
"As in previous seasons, bidding today came from all over Asia with determined interest from new markets in the Greater China region."
These new markets have led Sotheby's, along with the rest of the world's major auction houses, to focus far greater energies on their Hong Kong sales. Sotheby's is set to unveil its new state-of-the-art 15,000 sq ft exhibition space in May, which will allow it to expand its operations in the region beyond its annual auctions series in spring and autumn.
The sale of Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings illustrates why this new space is so important to Sotheby's. Although regarded as a relatively minor category when compared to the markets in both contemporary and traditional Chinese Art, the sale far exceeded its estimate and achieved numerous world record prices.
These included Ahmad Sadali's Abstract Orange, which sold for HK$2.9 m ($371,795), But Mochtar's Mother and Child, which made HK$2.5 m ($325,641), and Le Pho's Le Rideau Mauve, which achieved HK$2.9m ($371,795) - all record prices for the artists at auction.
It's a simple case of supply and demand - the combination of a rapidly-growing number of super-rich Chinese collectors with a limited number of artworks results in bidding wars, record prices and a positively booming market.
We'll bring you more results from the Sotheby's Spring sale season in Hong Kong later in the week. For investors looking to keep their finger on the pulse of the international art market, you can find our exclusive news, interviews and reports here.