George Frandsen’s astounding collection of fossilized faeces held a great deal of public interest, even garnering him a Guiness World Record in 2015. Five years later, 79 bones of a T-Rex were uncovered in Montana, USA and are going on public sale in Hong Kong as part of a Christie’s Autumn auction on 30 November 2022. Prior to that, the fossil sculpture, affectionately titled, “Shen the T-Rex” will be on display in Singapore next weekend.
Private collecting of fossils has generated much controversy, since these bones, of high scientific value, when taken from the public domain into homes, may cause them to fall out of the radar from researchers. This forbidden-fruit garnered increased interest in recent years, with Stan the T-Rex being mysteriously sold to an anonymous buyer for a whopping USD 31.8 million on 6 October 2020. It was later revealed that Stan will be on display at the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi, scheduled for completion by 2025.
Christie’s Head of Classic Art APAC, Ms Georgina Hilton and Managing Director of Singapore, Mr Kim Chuan Mok, shares more about their upcoming preview of Shen in Singapore, prior to the greatly anticipated Hong Kong auction, which will also feature Yayoi Kusama’s iconic Infinity Net (TWHOQ).
Popspoken: Fossils have been in the market for a while, with an increasing interest in it since Leonardo Di Caprio bid for it. Should the difficulty in restoration and preservation prevent less serious collectors from assessing this art form?
Georgina Hilton: Fossils of prehistoric creatures are extremely rare and highly sought after by museums, cultural institutions, and private collectors from across the globe, of all ages and interests. Given Shen the T. rex’s importance, value and scale, we anticipate that it will find a buyer – whether an institution or private collection, that will appreciate its significance.
The current owner of Shen the T. rex has worked with leading academic palaeontologists on its restoration and preservation, and the skeleton has been expertly prepped. Christie’s have a professional handling team who are trained in transporting and mounting Shen the T. rex for display, and will be doing so for the previews in Singapore and Hong Kong. The buyer of Shen the T. rex will be able to have this professional handling team, who know the ins and outs of this particular skeleton, install it wherever they wish.
Popspoken: Tell us more about how Shen the T. rex was assembled.
Georgina Hilton: Shen the T. rex was prepared and mounted by Kriegerbarthold Palaeontology in Germany.
Christie’s are working with a professional handling team who are expertly trained in transporting and mounting Shen the T. rex for display, and will be doing so when the skeleton is previewed in Singapore and Hong Kong.
The bones are carefully transported in multiple crates and are placed in these crates in a specific order. The process of mounting Shen the T. rex for display takes 3 days.
Once the auction is over the bones will be placed back in the crates ready for their new home.
Popspoken: What would the difference be in seeing this T. rex at an art auction as opposed to that in a natural history museum?
Georgina Hilton: The presentation of Shen the T. rex at Christie’s Autumn Auction previews in Singapore and Hong Kong will be unique. The skeleton will be exhibited amidst highlights from across Christie’s categories – including 20th/21st century art, Chinese paintings, and luxury items – providing a dynamic and diverse viewing experience. The presence of Shen the T. rex enriches Christie’s auction offerings and connects our natural history from 68-66 million years ago, to the contemporary art that is being created now.
Unlike many museums/institutions, entry to Christie’s Autumn Auction previews is free of charge, offering an incredible opportunity for collectors, science enthusiasts, and dinosaur fans alike to view and learn about this iconic prehistoric predator. Christie’s are dedicated to sharing monumental moments such as this as widely as possible, as part of our commitment to fostering education and appreciation for art and cultural treasures.
After its preview displays, ultimately Shen the T. rex will be sold. By offering the skeleton at auction, Christie’s will facilitate an open, fair auction process, in which museums, cultural institutions and private individuals all have the ability to participate at the same time. Given Shen the T. rex’s scale and significance, it is possible that a private buyer may loan or donate the skeleton to a museum, and it is also possible that the skeleton will be purchased directly by a museum.
Popspoken: Which are some collections you have sold that saw a phenomenal uptake and interest amongst Singaporean collectors?
Kim Chuan Mok: In recent years, we have witnessed surging demand across art and luxury from buyers in Southeast Asia, including Singapore. There has been a growing demand for Chinese paintings and works of art, in fact, we saw a +200% of South-East Asian buyers in our Hong Kong Spring 2022 auctions as compared to Spring 2021. Other categories that have done well include classic and decorative arts, as well as luxury categories such as handbags, jewellery and watches.
The strong growth is backed by an influx of millennial buyers. South-East Asian artists and eras most favoured by collectors include the pioneering group of Modern artists, Georgette Chen, Cheong Soo Pieng, Chen Wen Hsi, Liu Kang and Chen Chong Swee; and contemporary artists such as Christine Ay Tjoe, Jane Lee, Ronald Ventura and Heman Chong.
Shen the T-Rex’s pre-launch viewing in Singapore will be at Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall, 9 Empress Place, Singapore 179556 from October 28-30, 2022, 10am to 10pm. Register your interest, here.