‘Ultra-Contemporary’ Artists Lucy Bull, Trey Abdella and Ayako Rokkaku Stand Out in Hong Kong Auction

In an evening sale dedicated to modern and contemporary art held by Phillips in Hong Kong on Tuesday that brought in $27 million, Lucy Bull, Trey Abdella and Ayako Rokkaku were among the select few artists who grabbed attention when their works soared past expectations.

As always, works by young contemporary artists, to whom art speculative buyers are known to be drawn, remained in high demand during Phillips Hong Kong sale. Other works by established names like George Condo, Lee Ufan, and Pierre Soulages were among the highest sellers of the night, going for prices above $1 million.

But Bull and Abdella were among the handful of young artists who made their auction debuts in Asia this week. Entrances like these into Hong Kong sales typically spur attention among bidders. In a statement following the sale, Phillips Hong Kong specialist Isaure de Viel Castel, said the house aimed to put a spotlight on artists of a “new generation,” who she described as “ultra-contemporary.”

Lucy Bull’s painting 8:50, a vibrant abstraction executed on an elongated horizontal canvas, set a new record for the 32-year-old artist whose works have been compared to those of Max Ernst and Howard Hodgkin. Sold by an Asian collector, it went for HK$11.4 million ($1.5 million), for more than seven times its high estimate of HK$1.5 million ($192,000).

The sale follows Bull’s breakout show at David Kordansky in 2021, on the heels of other solos presentations in Arles and Los Angeles that saw her large scale canvases attracting collectors’ attention. She came on the auction circuit only just last month, when Sotheby’s sold her 2019 abstraction Special Guest for $907,200, where it sold for 15 times its $60,000 estimate.

Alongside Bull, a 2019 painting by Trey Abdella set a new record. During the sale, Some Things Aren’t Worth Waiting For (2019), in which a cartoonish bald figure is shown gauging out his own eyes against a blurry office scene, sold for HK$2.6 million ($337,100). The milestone price comes ahead of Abdella’s first institutional solo show, at the X Museum in Beijing, scheduled to take place in 2022. He was the subject of his first solo show at König gallery’s Berlin location in 2020 and another at its Seoul outpost the following year.

Like Bull and Abdella, Japanese artist Ayako Rokkaku’s Untitled (2019) took a similar course. Done in pink-hues with a finger painting technique, appearing in the canvas is one of Rokkaku’s barely visible Kawaii-inspired adolescent girls that the artist repeats through out her work. The painting sold for HK$8.1 million ($1 million), for almost four times its low estimate at Phillips—riding the momentum gained from its showcase at the Netherlands’ Museum Jan van der Togt the same year it was executed.

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