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In October and December 2022, Sotheby’s will hold auctions in Hong Kong and London of the late Sir Joseph Hotung Collection. Descended from a prominent Hong Kong family, he was a distinguished art collector and philanthropist. As a trustee of the British Museum, he donated many antiquities and sponsored the refurbishment of the exhibition halls that bear his name – where Queen Elizabeth II visited at its inauguration in 2017.

Showcasing more than 400 works from his collection, the sale will feature a wide range of works – Chinese art and furniture, paintings by Old Masters and Impressionists, as well as European furniture and silverware.

In Hong Kong, a blue and white ‘fish’ jar from the 13th to 14th century tops the sale and is estimated at HK$20-25 million (about US$2.5-3.1 million). Westward, in London, the French painter Edgar Degas’ Portrait of Eugene Manetleads the sale and is estimated at £4-6 million (about US$4.6-7 million).

Following this article, readers can consult Values Coming exclusive interview with Ellen – Sir Joseph’s daughter – revealing a more intimate side of the family and its collection.

Buddhist sculptures and Chinese artwork have been displayed at Sir Joseph’s London home

Born in mainland China in 1930, Joseph was the grandson of Sir Robert Hotung Bosman and the son of Edward Hotung. Together, the Hotung family in Hong Kong were influential businessmen and many descendants are still recognized today – most notably the late Hong Kong-Macau casino billionaire, Stanley Ho.

After attending secondary school in Shanghai and Tianjin, Sir Joseph went on to earn a law degree from the University of London. He then worked as a securities analyst for Marine Midland Bank in New York, traveled to Hong Kong and was primarily involved in the development of commercial properties. He became an influential leader in the city’s business and arts industries, having served as a director of HSBC and the first chairman of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council.

In 2021, Sir Joseph died aged 91.

Degas’s Portrait of Eugène Manet was kept in the house of Sir Joseph Hotung (top center)

In the early 1970s, Sir Joseph’s love for collecting art was sparked. Due to a flight delay, he acquired a pair of perfectly matched Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) white bowls from a gallery in San Francisco. Since that first purchase, his passion for art has become a lifelong passion and has brought together works from different times and places.

His extensive collection was displayed in the London home he personally curated and designed – such as Chinese and English furniture, Old Master and Impressionist paintings, antique jade, bronzes and porcelain.

In 2017, the British Museum Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia officially reopened, and Queen Elizabeth II was accompanied by Sir Joseph Hotung

Devoted to the arts and a generous philanthropist, he invested in various cultural institutions. In 1992, Sir Joseph funded the establishment of the British Museum’s Joseph E. Hotung Gallery of Oriental Antiquities, then donated a large collection of Chinese art. Then, in 1993, he was knighted by the Queen.

As well as being a trustee of the British Museum from 1994 to 2004, he was also highly respected as a member of the board of trustees of prominent American art museums – such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Freer Washington DC Gallery of Art.

After its first renovation in 1992, Room 33 of the British Museum called Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia was again refurbished in 2017. It was officially reopened and Queen Elizabeth II came in person to the ceremony of inauguration.

Chinese Buddhist works are on display at the British Museum Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia

At the British Museum, visitors can discover nearly 1,700 pieces from Sir David’s collection of Chinese ceramics. Originally hosted at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London; many coins were in play due to financial difficulties. Fortunately, Sir Joseph provided funds for new galleries to be exhibited at the British Museum. In 2009 the galleries opened and are part of the Sir Joseph Hotung Center for Ceramics Studies, which includes facilities to use the collection for teaching and research.

During the last stages of his life, Sir Joseph bequeathed different works of art – such as blue and white Chinese porcelains, jades and bronzes – to the British Museum. Collectively, these donations were one of the most generous donations ever received by the museum.


Blue and White ‘Fish’ Jar, Guan

Created during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)

Estimate: 20,000,000 to 25,000,000 HK$

In the Hong Kong sale, many kinds of Chinese artworks are displayed. A 13th to 14th century Chinese fishbowl tops the sale in Hong Kong. Decorated with a dynamic and realistic scene of four different fish swimming, it ranks among the most emblematic porcelains of the innovative Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). Its size indicates the skill and production process required for its creation.

Next to this jar, a gilt bronze Avalokiteshvara from the 11th to 12th centuries (he who hears the suffering of the world) is also featured. Exuding a calm face, it is the only known example in this form from Dali’s kingdom in southwestern China.

A fourteenth- to seventeenth-century huanghuali folding horseshoe-back armchair is also offered. In 2021, a similar type of chair fetched HK$65.9 million (about US$8.5 million) – setting a new auction record for a huanghuali folding chair.


Seated Gilt Bronze Figure of Avalokiteshvara | Dali Kingdom

Created in the 11th-12th century

Estimate: HK$15,000,000-20,000,000

Huanghuali Horseshoe Back Folding Chair

Created during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

Estimate: HK$10,000,000-15,000,000

Large box and lid in cinnabar lacquer

Created during the Yongle period (1402-1424)

Estimate: 8,000,000 to 12,000,000 HK$

Archaic silver-inlaid bronze corner piece

Created during approximately the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-256 BCE) through the Warring States Period (475-221 BCE)

Estimate: 5,000,000 to 7,000,000 HK$

Junyao Purple and blue enamel tripod narcissus bowl

Created at the beginning of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644)

Estimate: 4,000,000 to 6,000,000 HK$


In the London auction, works by Old Masters and Impressionists are offered. Inspired by his contemporary’s masterpiece, Breakfast on the grass, Edgar Degas depicts Edouard Manet’s younger brother, Eugène, as a well-dressed figure sitting on the ground outside.

Alongside Degas, Sir Joseph also admired the works of Edouard Vuillard. A central member of the Nabis and inspired by Japanese prints, Vuillard experimented with textures and patterns through color distinctions – approaching his brushwork with a mediated flattening of color. In this next sale, his works such as The Gentlemen in Black (gentlemen in black) and On the Japanese couch (On the Japanese couch) are offered.

In terms of Old Master paintings, a portrait by Dutch Renaissance master Frans Hals and a still life by Spanish artist Luis Melendez are also included.

Edgar Degas | Portrait of Eugène Manet, Oil on paper mounted on board

Created in 1874

Estimate: £4,000,000 – 6,000,000


Edouard Vuillard | Gentlemen in Black, Oil on panel

Created around 1895-1899

Estimate: £2,000,000 – 3,000,000

Edouard Vuillard | To the Japanese couch (To the Japanese couch)

Created around 1890-1891

Estimate: £1,500,000 – 2,000,000

Frans Hals and Studio | Three-quarter length portrait of a man, oil on canvas

Estimate: £600,000-800,000

Luis Melendez | Still life with basket of apples, boxes of sweets and jar of honey, Oil on canvas

Estimate: £500,000-700,000


Pair of late George III carved mahogany armchairs, attributed to Thomas Chippendale

Created around 1755-1760

Estimate: £80,000-120,000

Many 18th century British and French pieces are also on offer in the London sale, such as a pair of carved mahogany library armchairs by George III, as well as a pair of neoclassical candelabra from Robert-Joseph Auguste’s famous table service. supplied to George III.

From August 31 to September 20, selected works from Sir Joseph Hotung’s collection will be exhibited worldwide notably in Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei and New York. Readers can refer to the schedule below for more details.


Auction details:

Auction house: Sotheby’s
Sale: Hotung | The personal collection of the late Sir Joseph Hotung
Auction dates and times:

  • hong kong | October 8 – 9, 2022
  • London | December 7 – 8

Exhibition dates:

  • Shanghai | August 31 – September 1, 2022
  • Beijing | September 4 – 5, 2022
  • taipei | September 17 – 18, 2022
  • New York | September 15 – 20, 2022
  • New York | November 5 – 19, 2022