If you think the contemporary art market is reaching peak oil status, check out the market for Hermès Birkin Bags (or, better yet—the market for Jeff Koons Birkins—see Jeff Koons Turned Sofia Coppola's Birkin Bag Into a Readymade). A record-breaking price of HK$1.72 million (approximately $221,836) was set earlier this week in Hong Kong for one the coveted bags, which are named after '60s silver screen siren Jane Birkin.
The bag, which is made of fuchsia crocodile skin and embellished with 18k white gold and diamond hardware, was part of a Handbags & Accessories auction at Christie's Hong Kong, with a pre-sale estimate of HK $1 million–1.5 million.
Jane Birkin with her Birkin bag.
The previous auction record for a handbag was set in 2011, for another Birkin bag which sold for $203,150 at Heritage Auctions in New York (seeChristie's Snatches Purse Specialists, Heritage Sues for $60 Million), according to the Wall Street Journal.
The bag was reportedly sold to an Asian bidder over the phone, with "fast-paced bidding from start to finish," according to a statementfrom Christie's. Neither the identity of the buyer, nor the seller, is known.
The auction featured over 300 designer bags, including an Hermès Kelly (named after the actress Grace Kelly), which was sold for a record-breaking HK$1.12 million ($145,000).
The records come despite a downturn in luxury spending in China that has caused brands like Gucci and Chanel to slash prices. The demand for Birkins, however, remains strong, thanks to the waiting list for the bags imposed by the brand.
Kanye West commissioned this painted Birkin from George Condo for wife Kim Kardashian.
In a recent New York Magazine piece, Annie Lowrey interviews the author Wednesday Martin about her latest book, Primates of Park Avenue. Lowrey writes, "When a shopgirl disses her Birkin, Martin thinks to herself: “You'd have to sell a lot of cashmere sweaters to pay for one, even one like mine. If you could get anyone at Hermès to sell you one."
The rabid demand for a Hermès handbag, however, didn't stop Kanye West from allowing his then-15-month-old daughter to paint on one (seeKanye and Kim's Baby North Uses Hermès Bag as Canvas).
We look forward to seeing that on the auction block, someday.