The Singapore Top Ten



Friday is Top day! Every other Friday, Artprice publishes a theme-based auction ranking. This week: the top ten auction prices achieved in Singapore.

Top ten auction prices achieved in Singapore
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Raden Sjarief Bastaman SALEH 1 990 000$ The Deer Hunt (1846) 31/03/1996 (Christie’s SINGAPORE)
2 Raden Sjarief Bastaman SALEH 1 299 540$ Lying in Wait (1849) 03/10/1999 (Sotheby’s SINGAPORE)
3 Raden Sjarief Bastaman SALEH 1 244 880$ Lions and a Snake fighting outside a Grotto in a Tropical Landscape (1839) 30/03/1997 (Christie’s SINGAPORE)
4 Walter SPIES 961 860$ Blick von der Höhe (View from above) (1934) 30/09/2001 (Christie’s SINGAPORE)
5 AFFANDI 935 160$ Food Stall under the Banyan Tree (1968) 09/06/2012 (Borobudur Auction Ptd.Ltd. SINGAPORE)
6 Adrien Jean LE MAYEUR DE MERPRES 890 898$ Terrace affording a View of the Sea with Pollok under an Umbrella 28/03/1999 (Christie’s SINGAPORE)
7 Walter SPIES 792 120$ Balinesische Legende 30/09/2001 (Sotheby’s SINGAPORE)
8 Walter SPIES 776 020$ Rehlandschaft in Djembrana 01/04/2001 (Sotheby’s SINGAPORE)
9 Miguel COVARRUBIAS 774 100$ Bather Holding Up Her Kemban 12/01/2012 (Borobudur Auction Ptd.Ltd. SINGAPORE)
10 Sindudarsono SUDJOJONO 707 310$ Tempat Mandi di Pinggir Laut (Seaside Bathing Place) (1964) 23/10/2011 (Borobudur Auction Ptd.Ltd. SINGAPORE)


Why Singapore? Because it has become an important centre for the Asian art market. Its reputation has been growing since the mid-1990s, when it first began to hold some notable sales. Over the past four years it has firmly established itself with the advent of Art Stage and the opening of the Gillman Barracks gallery complex. As for the auction houses, three main players are vying for glory – Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Borobudur. Their focus is on local artists from Indonesia and Malaysia and certain prominent Chinese and Japanese artists. Christie’s organised its first Singapore sale in 1993, while Sotheby’s has been building bridges between sales in Hong Kong and Singapore since 1990. Over the last 20 years, these two global leaders have dominated the Singapore market, outstripping Borobudur thanks to the strength of their sales (Christie’s and Sotheby’s occupy seven of the ten places on this list).

In terms of sales, the most noteworthy is Raden Sjarief Bastaman SALEH. Saleh was an admirer of Eugène Delacroix and was close to Horace Vernet. He opened up a whole universe of romanticism and built up an international network over the course of his lifetime. This artistic prodigy left Indonesia at a young age to study in the Netherlands, where he also became interested in lithography. He studied under Cornelius Krussemen and Andreas Schelfhout and proceeded to exhibit in The Hague and Amsterdam. In 1844 he returned to the Netherlands after spending several months in Germany. He became a painter to the royal court and continued to live and travel in Europe, including sojourns in Austria and Italy, until 1851. He ploughed an unusual furrow for a 19th-century Indonesian artist and this, combined with his talent as an artist, makes him a striking figure in the history of both European and Indonesian art. Fans of his work can also be found in many different countries and this global demand for his paintings has been a key factor in maintaining the value of his works. Four of his paintings have broken the million-dollar barrier, with the record being achieved not in Singapore but in Cologne, Germany. His most expensive painting is entitled In letzer Not (Final Distress), an exotic, romantic and dynamic work depicting the terrible moment when its three subjects were facing imminent death. It shattered its high estimate of € 600,000, selling for 1.6 million or over $2.27 million at Van Ham Cologne in 2011. Raden Saleh is the only artist – and the only Indonesian – who is currently capable of attracting bids in excess of one million dollars in Singapore.

Other artists of this genre have broken through the million-dollar mark, but not in the Singapore market. These include Walter SPIES, who sold a piece for $3.483 million in 2013. This was a record for a painting that had previously been sold for some $962,000 in Singapore in 2001 (taking 4th place on our list). Walter Spies was a German painter and musician who spent many years in Indonesia. Even in the 1930s, the works that he created during his time in Asia proved popular with European collectors. Today, his market is centred on Asia, and indeed at present his works are nowhere to be seen in Germany.

Other European artists who lived in Indonesia include the Belgian artist Adrien Jean LE MAYEUR DE MERPRES who takes 6th place in our Top 10. Singapore is the second most important market for his colourful Balinese scenes, which have four times broken the million-dollar barrier in Hong Kong. In his home country of Belgium his works attract lower prices than in Asia. His record sale in Singapore was for $890,000, which represents $500,000 more than his Belgian record (€ 320,000 or $500,000, achieved in Anvers in 2005) for Dames tenant un parasol dans un jardin à Bali.

Mexican artist Miguel COVARRUBIAS is our third example of a foreign artist who is in great demand in Singapore. A friend of Diego Rivera, Covarrubias first discovered Indonesia when he spent his honeymoon there. He immersed himself in Indonesian life to the point that he wrote an ethnographic work on the subject entitled The Island of Bali (1937). His most popular paintings have Balinese subjects and sell equally well in New York and Singapore. Miguel Covarrubias is in great demand among certain collectors. His prices have exploded over the last 10 years, for example the value of a painting of a nude Balinese woman in a river soared by $300,000 between 2002 and 2012. The painting in question, Bather Holding Up Her Kemban, claims 9th place in our Top 10.

Such lofty prices are not unusual for major Indonesian artists or artists who immersed themselves totally in the local culture. Two other top artists, AFFANDI and Sindudarsono SUDJOJONO, have attracted some particularly high prices. Sudjojono’s record was achieved in Hong Kong (where the artist quadrupled his initial estimate for New Down, 1956), which went under the hammer for $1.16 million at Sotheby’s on 4 October 2010. Affandi’s record price was attained at Borobudur Singapore in June 2012, when a painting from 1968 sold for $935,000 compared to its estimate of $116,000-$195,000. As a result, Singapore is proving to be a strong alternative to Hong Kong at the high-end of the Asian art market.