A Damien Hirst artwork featuring butterflies stuck onto a surface of wet paint has been sold at Art Stage Singapore for US$1.6 million (S$2.15 million), making it the top sale so far this year.
The artwork, titled Amorous, was sold to a collector from the region last Thursday.
Confirming the sale to The Sunday Times, Mr Aenon Loo, 35, the Hong Kong-based director of gallery White Cube which represents Hirst, said in a phone interview that Damien Hirst is a rare artist "who addresses universal themes through his art. There are issues of life and death, beauty and ugliness, which lend a universal resonance to his art".
What helped secure the sale too is that Amorous, a large 2008 piece, is visually arresting.
Rendered in a lush red with a round, gold frame adding charm to the piece, the colour and scale alone have been enough to stop several visitors in their tracks.
Before Hirst, the artwork that fetched the highest price in previous years was Abstraktes Bild (Abstract Painting, 871-1), a 50cm by 72cm painting that was sold to a local buyer for 1.2 million euros (S$2 million) in 2012.
The 2001 piece was the work of German contemporary great Gerhard Richter, represented by Galerie Michael Schultz which has a presence in Berlin, Seoul and Beijing.
Hirst, a colourful and controversial fixture in Britain's contemporary art scene, is represented by London-based gallery White Cube, which has a branch in Hong Kong.
In 1995, he won Britain's top contemporary art award, the Turner Prize.
However, this led to several British art critics questioning the merits of the prize that went to Hirst for what the jury called "extraordinary" works, which included pickling dead sheep and sharks.
He is widely regarded as among the leaders of what critics call "a brash and brilliant" generation of artists who emerged in the 1980s.
He started experimenting with vitrines and pharmaceutical cabinets while he was still a student at London's Goldsmiths College in the 1980s. One of the earliest incarnations is a 1988 medicine cabinet titled Sinner.
This sale at Singapore's most high-profile art fair, Art Stage Singapore, reflects the fair's growing prominence.
It opened with a private viewing last Wednesday evening. The fifth edition, which ends today, has seen encouraging sales and packed fair grounds even on weekdays.
Several gallerists have been reporting healthy sales. Richard Koh Fine Art has sold more than 20 works by South-east Asian artists. Prices range between $4,200 and $350,000.
Pearl Lam Galleries, which has a space in Gillman Barracks, has sold several works too, with prices ranging between US$10,000 and US$250,000.