HONG KONG - A dazzling array of cutting-edge Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian and Pakistani art will take pride of place in Christie’s Hong Kong Asian Contemporary Art sale to be held on 27 May. Reflecting a wide and dramatic variety of styles, media and forms, these exceptional works capture the creativity and extraordinary concepts by eminent artists in Asia, as well as the exciting art scene throughout the region.
In this Spring auction series, Christie's Hong Kong will introduce a real-time multi-media auction service Christie’s LIVE™, becoming the first international auction house in Asia to offer fine art through live online auctions. Christie’s LIVE™ enables collectors around the world to bid from their personal computers while enjoying the look, sound and feel of the sale.
Contemporary Chinese Art Section: China’s contemporary art movement, which arose in the 1980s, sees artists expressing their doubts and critiques of traditional values, culture and ideas through avant-garde works. Whilst the country was marching towards a vigorous modernization, a rapid surge of new viewpoints in the arts and humanities occurred.
In particular, the Art Current in 1985 sparked some of the most dynamic debates amongst both the artists themselves and the society at large. One of the most important groups of artists in the movement was the Southwest China Art Group whose key members included Zhang Xiaogang, Mao Xuhui, and Ye Yongqing. Through a rough and abrasive style, they intended to present to the viewers their inner thoughts and subconsciousness. Their expressive works often create high visual impact.
Zhang Xiaogang (born in 1958) - La Vie Continue - Love is the largest work by Zhang Xiaogang executed in the 1980s (estimate: HK$1,800,000-2,500,000/ US$230,800-320,500) reflects the artist's exploration and continuing questions about the nature of life, will, death, rebirth and love. Painted in 1988, it was the time when Zhang’s insights into Western philosophy were melded with a more profound comprehension on Chinese thoughts and Eastern philosophy. Through his unmistakable brushstrokes, Zhang shows his concerns about human existence and particularly, the identity and specific dynamics of the Chinese people.
La Vie Continue - Love was also a vivid incarnation of Zhang’s observations and fervent feelings about life. In this exceptional piece, the fundamental impulses of creativity return to an instinctive level where art conveys a genuine power and undeviating impact. Its primitive yet lyrical style is filled with a strong sense of gravity and depth, creating a suggestive and metaphorical language that would be further developed in Zhang’s later works.
The entry of La Vie Continue - Love into China’s first official exhibition of contemporary Chinese art – namely Avant-Garde Exhibition staged by the National Art Museum of China in 1989 – marked the first peak in Zhang’s career, as well as one of the landmarks in the development of the China’s contemporary art scene.
Also on offer are two unique portraits by the artist: Portrait in Red (estimate: HK$4,000,000- 6,000,000/ US$512,800-769,200) depicts Zhang’s friend Mao Xuhui who is also an artist himself. The red colour of the sitter’s face symbolizes the flowing lifeblood that metaphorically suggests purity and sublimity in Eastern philosophy. A nail-like object piercing Mao’s chest towards the purple rose in the background sets off the reality of Zhang’s subject against the imaginary space of the surrounding.In Portrait of Brother (estimate: HK$4,000,000-6,000,000/ US$512,800-769,200), Zhang’s younger brother is connected to a TV set showing a beating heart. This suggests the close relationship between individual, society and the nation. The work is also an inspiration to Zhang’s later Bloodline series. In fact, these two portraits project respectively the artist's self-identification as an artist, and his strong ties to the family.
Mao Xuhui (born in 1956) - Guishan Women (estimate: HK$300,000-500,000/ US$38,500-64,100) is the largest work by Mao that took on the theme of Guishan, a mysterious land situated on a plateau, inhabited by an ethnic minority called the Yi. Mao’s Mother of Red Earth-1, Mother of Red Earth-3, and Mother of Red Earth-Encounter (estimate: HK$250,000-350,000/ US$32,100-44,900) will also be offered, in which thick oil pigments and red patches of colour imply the artist’s yearning for life and desires.
Ye Yongqing (born in 1958) - Ye Yongqing produced in 1980s an array of paintings that revealed his longing for a simple lifestyle. In Wing Blowing and Dreamers (estimate: HK$40,000-60,000/ HK$5,100-7,700), the people seem to be interacting with trees and vines. On the other hand, City and Bird Cages (estimate: HK$100,000-150,000/ US$12,800-19,200) shows the smokestacks that confront the artist everyday, along with bird cages and unemployed youths loitering around. These icons stand for the cruel reality and the stifling atmosphere in an industrial society.
Yue Minjun (born in 1962) - Portrait of the Artist and His Friends by Yue Minjun (estimate: HK$3,500,000-5,500,000/ US$448,700-705,100) is a large work and of crucial significance in the artist's career. It was painted in 1991, during which time China was on its fast track of opening-up and reforms after the 1980s. Undergoing tremendous transformations, China’s new generation of artists were pushed towards a new awareness of themselves, as well as a recognition of the outside world. Yue was on a quest to depict the characters of the ordinary people amidst that extraordinary period in China’s history.
Illustrating himself for the first time on canvas, alongside the faces of his friends, Portrait of the Artist and His Friends demonstrates Yue’s interest in re-exploring the identity of his fellow countrymen, the society and the role of himself as a new artist. Average men on the street were thus placed as the main subjects in this work to represent the rapidly-changing community in China.
More importantly, Yue had produced a style that would establish the later creative direction for much of his art through his distinctive brushworks and composition – his friends were portrayed in foreground close-up, pressing forward with exaggerated facial expressions, and seemingly ready to pop out of the frame to give personal greetings to the viewer. They all set out on in a sailing rig towards the sea of Yue’s enthusiasm to pursue his artistic career upon graduation. Meanwhile, an angelic flock of fighter jets escorts them on their way to the great unknown of the larger world.
The ‘self-images’ of Yue, depicted in his later works, appear with absurdly broad grins in dramatic poses that project a high degree of self-confidence. These ‘self-images’ are also set in specific and pre-determined situations where the backgrounds reflect the recent developments of China. Representative works playing on the themes of survival such as Pagoda (estimate: HK$500,000-700,000/ US$64,100-89,700); themes about growing-up as illustrated by No. 5 (estimate: HK$200,000-300,000/ US$25,600-38,500) and No. 16 (estimate: HK$50,000-100,000/ US$6,400-12,800). Also on offer is Sky, Animal, Human Being that centres upon globalization issues (estimate: HK$400,000-600,000/ US$51,300-76,900). Pagoda Sky, Animal, Human Being.