Art auction sells over 60% of masterpieces during pandemic

In its recent auction that took place in March 2021, HBAA netted a total of RM4m, with 73% of the catalogue sold

by NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK / Pic source: KLAS Art Auction / KL Lifestyle Art Space

THE Covid-19 pandemic has driven art auctions in Malaysia to the virtual platform with sustained interest from collectors and investors, and the market now is evolving to offer digital art in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Demand from buyers saw “Ni Pollok Weaving” by Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur, for instance, go under hammer for RM145,600 at the KLAS Art Auction on June 27, 2021.

Other pieces sold at the same auction house was Datuk Ibrahim Hussein’s “Untitled from the London Series” (1964) at RM57,120, followed by “Siri Langkawi” (1979) by Abdul Latiff Mohidin at RM42,560 and “Balinese Lady” by Chen Chong Swee at RM39,200.

“Ni Pollok Weaving” by Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur

Some other pieces sold were “Squirrel and Rambutan” by Chen Wen Hsi at RM25,760, “Chattering II” (1983) by Lye Yau Gatt at RM12,230 and “Land’s End V” (Dover, UK, 2017) by Rafiee Ghani at RM11,560.

Henry Butcher Art Auctioneers (HBAA) director Sim Polenn said the auction house has managed to net over RM4 million in its previous auction.

“In our recent auction that took place in March 2021, we netted a total of RM4.02 million, with 73% of the catalogue sold,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

The same auction house is holding one at Galeri Prima, Balai Berita Bangsar on Aug 8, 2021, at 1pm.

The highest estimate for the pieces going up for the upcoming auction is Ibrahim Hussein’s “Watery Dance” (1987) for between RM860,000 and RM1 million.

This is followed by Affandi’s “Ploughing Sawah Under the Sun” (1980) for a price between RM390,000 and RM600,000, and Abdul Latiff Mohidin’s “Landscape 97 (Siri Gelombang)” (1997) from RM340,000 to RM500,000, as well as Ibrahim Hussein’s “Kanchana” (1967) between RM260,000 and RM400,000.

Sim said for this upcoming auction, the house will try to do its best.

“I foresee August to be a tough battle, but we can only do our best and hope for the best outcome for the auction,” he said.

Taman Larangan, 2012 by Ismail Abdul Latiff

In November last year, HBAA sold 67% of its catalogue for some RM2.74 million in total, a follow-up to its August 2020 auction which netted RM2.83 million, with 81% of its catalogue sold.

Recently, art ownership has taken the form of NFTs, a digital asset which represents art, music, in-game items and videos, which has taken the world by a storm earlier this year.

A contemporary Malaysian artist Red Hong Yi has launched her first NFT with Meme Banknotes series, comprising six designs.

Creeping into the contemporary art scene in Malaysia, NFTs exist on a blockchain, much like cryptocurrencies and therefore, cannot be replicated.

They represent ownership details and provide proof of piece ownership and authenticity, and can value up to US$390,000 (RM1.62 million), which is for a 50-second video by musician Claire Elise Boucher, also better known as Grimes, which suggests there is a lot of money to be made in the market.

Although any digital object can be copied and saved on the Internet, the NFTs provide people with a way to own the original, for as long as the artist chooses to sell the NFT to their pieces to the buyers.

However, there is controversy that stems from the blockchain technology that supports NFTs and cryptocurrencies, and it is that they require a network of electricity-consuming computers in order to power them.

The amount of energy required in their creation could very well have an impact on the environment, in which according to CryptoArt.wtf, a site which calculates the carbon footprint of NFTs, one piece of NFT called “Coronavirus” consumed 192kWh of power in its creation, representing one European Union resident’s energy consumption for two weeks.