Christie’s Hong Kong Will Bring CryptoPunks and Bored Apes to Asia This September

Liz Catalano
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First Dedicated NFT Auction in the Region Offered by an International Auction House

Yuga Labs, Bored Ape Yacht Club #8746, 2021. Image courtesy of Christie’s.
Yuga Labs, Bored Ape Yacht Club #8746, 2021. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

Christie’s Hong Kong will soon become the first international auction house to host an NFT sale in Asia. Its upcoming No Time Like Present event, slated for mid-September of 2021, will offer a selection of profile picture (PFP) NFTs. This subgenre is especially popular on Twitter, where celebrities such as Jay-Z have welcomed CryptoPunks, Meebits, and Bored Apes with open arms. Up until now, these PFP icons have only appeared on specialized NFT trading platforms. 

The auction will run from September 17th through September 28th, 2021. This sale continues Christie’s pioneering efforts in the world of NFTs, which started with its record-breaking Beeple auction in March. It also reflects the company’s interest in expanding further into Asian markets.

Larva Labs, CryptoPunk 9997, 2017. Image courtesy of Christie’s.
Larva Labs, CryptoPunk 9997, 2017. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

Christie’s NFT Journey (So Far)

Christie’s reports that it sold more than USD 93.2 million in NFTs so far in 2021, which the company maintains is more than double the rate of any competitor. Beeple’s EVERYDAYS represents the majority of that total. The massive NFT compilation took the auction world by storm in March. The $69 million hammer price set off a string of digital art auctions across the industry. Christie’s followed up with a $17 million auction of CryptoPunks and a $2.16 million auction of FEWOCiOUS’ coming-of-age artworks in June. More recently, Christie’s offered customizable NFTs by Micah Johnson during its cross-category Trespassing sale. 

These efforts have yielded a growing price database for NFTs in the traditional auction market. Various CryptoPunks have crossed auction blocks in recent months. A set of nine Punks sold for $16.9 million with Christie’s in May, and Sotheby’s offered a few in early July. The other PFP NFTs lack a price history at auction, though the Bored Apes and Meebits remain wildly popular on platforms such as OpenSea. Christie’s is counting on younger buyers to drive the upcoming auction’s success.

A rendering of the planned Christie’s Hong Kong headquarters (The Henderson) by Zaha Hadid Architects for Henderson Land. Image courtesy of Christie’s.
A rendering of the planned Christie’s Hong Kong headquarters (The Henderson) by Zaha Hadid Architects for Henderson Land. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

Expansion Into Hong Kong Art Market

The upcoming No Time Like Present event marks the first dedicated NFT sale in Asia hosted by an international auction house. While this move sets an important precedent, it is not entirely unexpected. Christie’s is no stranger to Hong Kong and has relied on the city’s thriving art market to sustain revenues during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent sales figures confirm a trend toward Asian markets that started years before. 

Christie’s Hong Kong recently announced plans for a new headquarters in the central part of the city. The auction house will become an anchor tenant of a new skyscraper called The Henderson. It will lease 50,000 square feet and four floors for salerooms, galleries, and offices. Construction will finish in 2023, and Christie’s plans to begin a year-round auction schedule by 2024. The new headquarters will be more than four times larger than the present facilities, allowing for a significant increase in the company’s selling capacity. It will also rival the size of Christie’s main location in London.

In the view of Christie’s Hong Kong, the city is quickly becoming “the preeminent art and culture hub in Asia.” Francis Belin, Christie’s Asia Pacific president, spoke about the planned expansion: “It took decades to build the vibrancy and depth of Hong Kong as the centre of the Asian art market. We are confident that we will remain agile and competitive going forward.”

Christie’s Hong Kong auctioneer Elaine Kwok. Image courtesy of Christie’s.
Christie’s Hong Kong auctioneer Elaine Kwok. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

Staying Ahead of the Trends

Christie’s expanding presence in Hong Kong mirrors a broader shift in the auction industry. Christie’s auctioneer Elaine Kwok partially attributes the city’s new reputation as an art destination to Art Basel Hong Kong. The comparatively young edition yielded stunning results in recent years. The most recent Art Basel Hong Kong ran during 2021’s second quarter with great success. Millennial collectors in Hong Kong and throughout Asia have been the primary drivers of this growth.

Auction houses are increasingly taking advantage of the city’s momentum. Asian buyers spent over $1.04 billion at Christie’s alone during the first half of 2021. This accounted for 39% of the company’s global sales from the period, pulling ahead of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (33%), as well as the Americas (28%). Auction sales in China have particularly boosted revenues and helped Christie’s recover losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Despite the recent advances in Hong Kong, Christie’s must also face off against competitors Phillips and Sotheby’s. Phillips’ established relationship with Poly Auction bore fruit earlier this year after the houses achieved back-to-back white glove sales in Beijing and Hong Kong. Sotheby’s has even deeper ties to the region. It established a presence in Hong Kong as early as 1973 and has since expanded to offer year-round events. However, the explosion of NFTs has challenged each company to reimagine its efforts in Hong Kong and beyond. The upcoming NFT sale at Christie’s Hong Kong may open the floodgates to a new digital art market in Asia.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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