HONG KONG - An artwork by Modernist master Marc Chagall became the most expensive contemporary Western painting sold in Asia when it was auctioned for US$4.18 million (S$5.5 million) after steady bidding in a Hong Kong sale.
Auction house Seoul Auction sold "Bestiaire et Musique," a 1969 oil painting typical of Chagall's whimsical style, to an unidentified Asian buyer.
The auctioneers said the work set a new record in a region increasingly wielding more influence in the global art market.
But the price, though high for Asia, was still relatively modest compared with the millions bid for Impressionist and 20th Century Western masterpieces in London and New York.
The Chagall painting, depicting a bride and a fiddler floating in a night sky amid circus performers and animals, was the star lot at Seoul Auction's Monday sale.
The auction coincides with auctioneers Sotheby's biannual Asian sales in Hong Kong, considered a barometer for the Asian art market, and which will see over US$200 million worth of Chinese and Asian art, jewelry, wine and watches up for sale this week.
While the Impressionist and Modern art market has long been dominated by Western collectors, interest from Asia has swelled with the region's affluence and economic muscle, as Western economies still struggle to recover from the 2008 financial crisis.
A Pablo Picasso portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto was reportedly sold to an Asian buyer in London for 34 million pounds earlier in the year.
A burgeoning crop of Asian art fairs have also raised the profile of Western art among Asians, with works traditionally sold in the West now brought directly to the region's collectors.
A formaldehyde work, "The inescapable truth" by British contemporary artist Damien Hirst, sold for 1.75 million pounds to an Asian buyer in May at ART HK, one of the region's more prominent art fairs.