Hong Kong Phooey takes his revenge at Sotheby's

An employee of Sotheby's stands next to a ceramic mosaic of 1970s US cartoon character Hong Kong Phooey created by French street artist Invader, on January 15, 2015 (AFP Photo/Philippe Lopez)

Hong Kong (AFP) - A popular piece of street art destroyed by Hong Kong authorities and later re-made has fetched almost HK$2 million ($258,000) at a Sotheby's auction, a new record for its French creator.

The ceramic mosaic of 1970s American cartoon character Hong Kong Phooey -- a mask-wearing dog who is an expert in kung fu -- was recreated by high-profile French street artist Invader after being removed from a city wall last year.

It was expected to sell for HK$1.5 million but exceeded that at Tuesday night's auction in Hong Kong when it went for $HK1.96 million.

That set a world record at auction for the artist, according to Sotheby's, who said it had been bought by a European private collector.

"We have seen strong market interests for cutting-edge contemporary works, both Asian and Western," said Isaure de Viel Castel, Sotheby's head of mid-season sales for contemporary and modern fine arts, adding that collectors had responded "enthusiastically".

The mosaic sold alongside the first ever work to be auctioned in Hong Kong by British artist Tracey Emin -- a turquoise neon sign that reads "Trust Me" -- which fetched HK$562,500, far exceeding its HK$350,000 price tag.

Castel said there was a "deep pool" of new, young collectors driving sales of edgier works.

Invader's Hong Kong Phooey mosaic, entitled "Alias_HK 58", first went up on a wall in a quiet street in the upmarket Happy Valley neighbourhood in January last year.

But the artwork, which measures 1.3 metres x 2.1 metres (52 inches x 82 inches), was taken down within weeks by Hong Kong authorities, sparking outrage from residents.

The French artist recreated the piece -- which has the character performing his signature flying kick -- after expressing his deep disappointment over its removal.

"What message would you send to your citizens? What modern cultural heritage do you want to leave them?" Invader said in a statement published by the South China Morning Post in February.

Hong Kong has emerged as one of the world's major auction hubs in art and wine thanks to cash-rich mainland Chinese buyers with an appetite for luxury items.

The government is also developing a new art and culture district on the Kowloon waterfront where contemporary art museum "M+" is expected to boast a world-class collection.

But the city's authorities are also frequently criticised for failing to preserve Hong Kong's cultural heritage, with the rapid pace of development leading to the demolition of historic buildings, and iconic graffiti scrubbed from walls.