Sotheby’s Celebrates 50 Years in Asia with the Sale of Two Exceptional Fossils

The auction house has rapidly expanded its presence in Asia in recent years, coinciding with a growing population of collectors in the region.

In 2016, the remains of a young Gryposaurus were excavated from the Judith River Formation in Montana. Now, the remarkable dinosaur skeleton will become the first of its kind to come to market when it is auctioned by Sotheby's later this month.

Dinosaur skeleton set against white background
The skeleton of a rare juvenile Gryposaurus. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

The sale, scheduled for October 6 in Hong Kong, will celebrate Sotheby’s 50th anniversary in Asia by offering its first natural history auction in the region. Prehistoric Earth is just one of a host of anniversary initiatives planned by the auction house, which has rapidly expanded its presence in Asia in recent years, coinciding with the area’s growing population of art and ephemera collectors.

Gryposaurus lived in the late Cretaceous period (100 million to 66 million years ago), and adults of the species were about 27 feet long. The skeleton up for auction is far smaller, however, and quite rare in its completeness and the fact that it belonged to a juvenile that was less than 9 feet long. It is expected to bring in between $1.5 million to $2.6 million.

SEE ALSO: Instead of Heading to Museums, Rare Dinosaur Fossils Are Being Snapped Up By Wealthy Collectors

The second lot in the anniversary sale is the skull of a wooly mammoth—a species that roamed the earth 2.6 million to 10,000 years ago during the Pleistocene period. With an estimate of between $306,000 and $511,000, the fossil, which was discovered in Siberia, has tusks that are especially rare due to striking blue and blue-green striations. These only occur in fossilized wooly mammoth ivory and are caused by the presence of a phosphate-rich mineral known as vivianite.


Skull of woolly mammoth, with blue and green colored tusks, shown against white background
The skull of a wooly mammoth. Courtesy of Sotheby's

Sotheby’s celebrates 50 years in Asia

Sotheby’s hosted its inaugural Hong Kong auction in 1972, achieving a then-record for porcelain with the $2.3 sale of a bowl, and the auction house staged its second auction of modern and contemporary artwork in Shanghai this year. The sale followed Sotheby’s 2022 auction in Singapore—its first in 15 years—launched in response to increased demand for artwork in Southeast Asia. The auction house’s anniversary celebrations also included the opening of a building in Shanghai and the introduction of its first Korean gallery space in Seoul, plus the hosting of an Indochine art exhibition in Vietnam.

Asian collectors are becoming an increasingly important part of the art market and other markets. In the past five years, they represented 32 percent of bidders on artwork valued at more than $1 million, exceeding European bidders, who made up 29 percent, while North Americans represented 34 percent. This growth isn’t just limited to sales hosted by Sotheby’s—according to Christie’s annual 2022 report, the Asia Pacific region contains the fastest expanding base of new art collectors for the auction house.

As of next year, Sotheby’s plans to introduce a new sale calendar of scheduled live and online auctions in Asia. Its new Hong Kong headquarters will open in 2024, alongside an exhibition space in the city that will host auctions, private sales, shows and a Sotheby’s cafe concept.

Several other auction houses, galleries and fairs are banking on Asia’s status as a growing hub for art sales. Christie’s, which recently hired a former Sotheby’s executive as chairman of the auction house’s work in Asia, is set to open a four-story and 50,000-square-foot headquarters in Hong Kong next year, while Phillips opened its Hong Kong headquarters in March. Meanwhile, international fair Art Basel has been expanding its presence in the area through collaborations with Art Week Tokyo and Singapore’s S.E.A focus. Pace, the mega-gallery that has long had permanent outposts in Hong Kong and Seoul, plans to add a new location in Tokyo by spring of next year.

Sotheby’s Celebrates 50 Years in Asia with the Sale of Two Exceptional Fossils