HONG KONG - Following the success of its 40th Anniversary Evening Sale last October which established auction records for 12 modern and contemporary Asian artists, Sotheby’s Hong Kong presents Modern and Contemporary Asian Art – Evening Sale on Saturday, 5 April 2014. Offering more than 50 works, many of exceptional quality, from 20th Century Chinese Art, Contemporary Asian Art and Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art categories, the sale is estimated in excess of HK$400 million / US$51 million* in total. Featuring artists such as the leading Chinese realist Chen Yifei, renowned contemporary Chinese artists Zhang Xiaogang and Zeng Fanzhi, modern Indonesian artist S. Sudjojono and contemporary Filipino painter Ronald Ventura, the selection of fresh-to-the-market works will cause great excitement among collectors.
Kevin Ching, Chief Executive Officer of Sotheby’s Asia, says: “Sotheby’s Hong Kong 40th Anniversary Evening Sale which took place in October 2013 achieved the highest total for any comparable sale in Asia, and set auction records for 12 modern and contemporary Asian artists. Following this strong result, our upcoming Modern and Contemporary Asian Art – Evening Sale encompasses many highly desirable works, some of which were created during important periods of the artists’ careers. Leading the Sale is Potted Chrysanthemums – a previously unrecorded, seminal 1950s painting by modern Chinese master Sanyu. This large-format museum-quality masterpiece was especially chosen by the artist to participate in the Jansonne Triennial Art Exhibition in France in 1958, and is now being offered at auction for the first time in over half a century. We have also curated a special section entitled Abstraction: Beyond China devoted to six Asian artists who, by exploring the limits of abstraction, have helped redefine the art form. Taken together with the many other remarkable works on offer, this Evening Sale promises invaluable opportunities to collectors and connoisseurs alike.”
20TH CENTURY CHINESE ART
22 exemplary abstract and realist works by such modern Chinese artists as Sanyu, Zao Wou-Ki, Chu Teh-Chun, Wu Guanzhong and Chen Yifei will be showcased. Among them the highlight is Potted Chrysanthemums – a museum-quality large-format masterpiece by Sanyu, while important works by Chen Yifei and Lui Liu – both are celebrated artists who developed their careers in North America – will also be represented.
Sanyu (1901 – 1966), Potted Chrysanthemums
Circa 1950s, Oil on Masonite, 130 x 74 cm
Expected to fetch in excess of HK$40 million / US$5.1 million
Potted Chrysanthemums is a seminal 1950s piece by modern Chinese master Sanyu. Previously unrecorded, this large-format museum-quality masterpiece belongs to the artist’s celebrated Potted Flower Series, and was especially chosen by the artist to participate in the Jansonne Triennial Art Exhibition in France in 1958. This work uses an upward-extending form suggestive of traditional Chinese scrolls and screens to portray a Western still-life subject – a pot of French marigolds with verdant foliage. The elegant plant stands proud and tall, asserting its honourable spirit and integrity, as though a metaphor of the artist’s own extraordinary yet solitary existence. The graceful use of ravishing shades of emerald green makes reference to Chinese lacquerware traditions, while the greatly simplified background of pure red. and bright yellow reflects the influence of both French and American post-war Abstractionism, including Mark Rothko. The majestic Potted Chrysanthemums boasts a rich composition on masonite, and only the prestigious Sanyu collection from the National Museum of History in Taiwan has a group of works of comparable quality by the artist. Compared with its sister painting of the same English title, which sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in October 2012, the present Potted Chrysanthemums displays an even more nuanced and graceful splendour although they share a similar creative approach. Sanyu’s oil paintings are highly prized among collectors for its rarity, and the auction debut of Potted Chrysanthemums since its creation over half a century ago is set to cause great excitement among collectors.
Zao Wou-Ki (1920 – 2013), 06.01.64
1964, Oil on Canvas, 72.8 x 99.8 cm
Est. HK$9 – 15 million / US$1.2 – 1.9 million
Zao Wou-Ki gained international acclaim in the 1960s. 06.01.64, a stunning composition of parallel panels, is one of the artist’s most celebrated works from this period. Inspired by Buddhist carved tablets, the painting’s depiction of three different portions underscores the Eastern spatial concept of “heaven, earth, mankind” as well as the temporal notion of “past life, present life, next life”. Executing confident brushstrokes with speed and in uninterrupted horizontal sweeps, Zao sets the canvas background in consistent tones of magma red, tempered with heavy coatings of white, pastel orange and yellow to brighten the entire work. Its central focus lies in the centre, where sharp, powerful brushwork is performed in varying degrees of force. Soaring lines also emanate from the centre in a swirling motion, displaying strength and dynamics rendered in perfect mastery and control.
Chu Teh-Chun (b. 1920), Genèse
1993, Oil on Canvas, 130.2 x 162.2 cm
Est. HK$7 – 9 million / US$897,000 – 1.2 million
Named after the book of Genesis from the Bible, Chu Teh-Chun’s Genèse enunciates the artist’s quest to trace the source of Western civilization. After decades of residing overseas, the artist revisited an erstwhile theme in the 1990s, exploring the cultural differences and similarities between the East and the West. Drawn from the artist’s lifetime experiences and combined with a hint of divine inspiration, Genèse embraces an abstract style to recreate the birth of the universe, attempting to unfold the mystery of cosmic changes. The canvas is overlaid with dominant tones of earthen yellow and dark blue to create a fluid and dynamic space. Clashing colours form a spectacle over and above the centre, gradually separating into darkness and light. This calls to mind the masterpiece with the same title by Renaissance master Michelangelo, in which God is surrounded by angels, bestowing life, strength and determination to Adam and unveiling the rules and order on which the world thrives on.
Chen Yifei (1946 - 2005), Morning Prayer
1996, Oil on Canvas, 200 x 200 cm
Est. HK$25 – 35 million / US$3.2 – 4.5 million
Chen Yifei returned to China in the 1990s to ambitiously embark on an aesthetic reform. It was during this period that the Tibetan Series was executed, featuring some of his most brilliant albeit final works. Morning Prayer is an important piece from the Series, and it represented China to take part in the Venice Biennale in 1997. Delineated in the painting is a morning prayer ritual at a Tibetan household, wherein the religious devotion of Tibetans, their strong sense of family unity and passion for life are emphasised. Reflecting the artist’s experiences from an extended stay in Tibet, it is prized for its intellectual value as much as for the sentiments of humanitarian warmth conveyed. The work employs a bold, rugged painting style, revealing the influence of Soviet art which the artist was exposed to in his early artistic career. In terms of visual composition and effect, it is imbued with an indelible cinematic feeling, attributable to the artist’s experiences in movie directing at the time. Morning Prayer has since become an iconic piece for its fresh take on modernity, heralding a new direction in the development of realist art.
Lui Liu (b. 1957), Public vs Republic
2011, Oil on Canvas, 140 x 180 cm
Est. HK$2.8 – 3.8 million / US$359,000 – 487,000
To be offered for the first time at auction, Lui Liu’s Public vs Republic is distinguished by the surrealistic portrayal of an absurd but eerily realistic scene that parodies society while depicting the chasms between traditions and changes. The protagonist bears a physical resemblance to a renowned historical figure of modern China, who is fired by ambition as he fearlessly faces the sinister politicking around him. Surrounded by challengers, flatterers and hypocrites, he is subjected to all kinds of trials and tribulations. Ahead of him is a Beijing opera actress in an imperial headdress, whose face was hidden from view. Lurking everywhere in this larger-than-life setting are pitfalls and puzzles, all injected with a black humour. As viewers set out to interpret the clues offered in the painting, they will come to discover the artist’s insightfulness and down-to-earth wit.
CONTEMPORARY ASIAN ART
A stellar line-up of 17 works by renowned contemporary Chinese, Japanese and Korean artists such as Zhang Xiaogang, Zeng Fanzhi, Yue Minjun, Ai Weiwei, Yoshitomo Nara and Lee Ufan will be on offer, many of which are large-format works and were created during important periods of their artistic careers.
Zhang Xiaogang (b. 1958), Bloodline: The Big Family No. 3
1995, Oil on canvas, 179 x 229 cm
Est. HK$65 – 80 million / US$8.3 – 10.3 million
Bloodline: Big Family No. 3 from 1995 is the most important work from the Bloodline Series. It displays the aesthetical maturity of the Series, and is the largest work created by Zhang Xiaogang during the course of 1994-95. The work showcases the iconic three-member family portrait, and is the only piece from the entire Series using a Little Red Guard as the focus of the composition, whom is in a navy green uniform, wearing a Mao Zedong badge and a red armband. Bloodline: Big Family No. 3 is undoubtedly the most expressive and boldest work from the Series, which powerfully unveils the hidden tension in politics and history behind the creation of the work. Depicting a solemn atmosphere, the dark grey palette is an iconic colour used by Zhang Xiaogang in the post-1989 period, while demonstrating an intense sense of oppression at the same time. Works from the Bloodline Series has participated in important international exhibitions since 1994, most notably the Sao Pãulo Biennial (1994), as well as the Venice Biennale (1995) where the present work was chosen for inclusion, making it a representative piece of the entire Series.
Yoshitomo Nara (b. 1959), Night Walker
2001, Acrylic on canvas, 227 x 181 cm
Est. HK$10 – 15 million / US$1.3 – 1.9 million
The monumental Night Walker from 2001 belongs to one of three exceptional large-scale paintings by Yoshitomo Nara from the early millennium to portray the motif of night and dream, demonstrating the artist’s subtle desire of trotting through childhood memories. Featured in the artist’s first group exhibition Jap in a Box at Stephen Friedman Gallery in London in the same year which the work was created, Night Walker depicts a young girl in pastel blue night dress, bearing a half-slanted smile and closed eyes, obliviously drifting across a creamy white background.
Nara created two other works with the same theme and in the same period as the present work, namely Princess of Snooze and Ghost. All of the little girls featured are marked by closed eyelids and displayed in a floating posture against similarly rendered white backdrops. However, Night Walker is in essence the highlight among them as it showcases an extremely refined treatment to the movement of the body. The work is proved to be all the more significant as it is arguably one of the few large canvas works showcasing the full torso of the young girl, before the artist concentrates fully on shoulder-up portraits in the latter half of 2000s.
Yue Minjun (b. 1962), Garbage Hill
2003, Acrylic on Canvas, 200 x 280 cm
Est. HK$10 – 15 million / US$1.3 – 1.9 million
Created in 2003, Garbage Hill remains one of the most significant contemporary Chinese masterpieces to parody the notion of survival and uniformity within modern China, and is also one of the most important works by Yue Minjun from the millennium. In Garbage Hill, over 50 men in different scales are whimsically piled above one another, with their heads curiously forming the contour of a mountain scape. The figures carry several different types of hairstyles, symbolising faint traces of individualism, while their identical facial expressions ultimately point toward a harmonious whole. If looked upon closely, the uncanny smiles inevitably question the genuineness of the happiness shown, provoking audience to reflect if the smile is a pretentious gesture for one to assimilate into the masses. Along with the rare composition and outlandish scheme, Garbage Hill certainly triumphs over the artist’s other paintings from the same year, as it explicitly encapsulates the idea of self-mockery, and more importantly, explores the meaning of individuality and pretense in a collective society.
Zeng Fanzhi (b. 1964), Mask Series No. 5
1994, Oil on Canvas, 180 x 150 cm
Est. HK$16 – 20 million / US$2.1 – 2.6 million
Created in 1994, Mask Series No.5 is one of the earliest works from Zeng Fanzhi’s Mask Series which was originally named Disguise Series at its early phase. It illustrates a distinctly different aesthetics compared with Zeng’s later works, making it a rare example in the market. In Mask Series No.5, two protagonists in the work have identical attire, both wearing masks and in support of each other, yet behind the masks are the souls of a new generation of Chinese people. The work captures the essence of the early 1990s when the Chinese economy first started booming – the red scarf which embodies China’s past is still being worn, but Western culture has already seeped through the everyday lives of Chinese people as seen from the jeans and leather belts worn by the two characters. Zeng Fanzhi explores the discomfort one felt amidst the cultural changes, and only through the strenuous strokes does the artist hint at the tension created by the need for survival against urban development.
MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY SOUTHEAST ASIAN ART
The Sale of Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings achieved remarkable results in recent years, and in October 2013 the sale realised over HK$200 million in total, establishing a record for a sale of the category. This season at the Evening Sale, 16 exceptional works by the region’s most acclaimed artists will be offered, featuring modern Singaporean artist Cheong Soo Pieng, Indonesian artists Sudjana Kerton and S. Sudjojono, as well as contemporary Filipino artist Ronald Ventura and Indonesian artist I Nyoman Masriadi while showcasing the rich and diverse cultures and heritage of Southeast Asia.
S. Sudjojono (1914 – 1986), Pasukan Kita Yang Dipimpin Pangeran Diponegoro
(Our Soldiers Led Under Prince Diponegoro)
1979, Oil on Canvas, 100 x 199.5 cm
Estimate in excess of HK$20 million / US$2.5 million
Recognised as the Father of Indonesian Modern Art, S. Sudjojono’s oeuvre was largely influenced by his nationalistic ideals and patriotic responsibilities. Executed in 1979, the present work, Pasukan Kita Yang Dipimpin Pangeran Diponoegoro (Our Soldiers Led Under Prince Diponegoro), demonstrates the magnitude of Sudjojono’s creative vision and political dogma through the depiction of the country’s legendary hero, Prince Diponegoro, as well as his military troops’ victory against the Dutch colonial soldiers during the Java war (1825 – 1830). The Indonesia that Sudjojono knew was experiencing an identity crisis for the country was locked in a struggle between foreign influences and revolutionary ideals. By drawing parallels between the Dutch colonialists with the local Indonesian government, Sudjojono’s painting turns into a social commentary about the power of human faith amidst political and emotional tyranny. Painted with energy, passion and hope, Pasukan Kita Yang Dipimpin Pangeran Diponegoro (Our Soldiers Led Under Prince Diponegoro) expresses the artist’s pride and devotion to his homeland, and will be offered at auction for the first time.
Sudjana Kerton (1922 – 1994), Tanah Airku (My Homeland)
1981, Oil on Canvas, 150 x 200.5 cm
Est. HK$ 5 – 7 million / US$644,000 – 900,000
Tanah Airku (My Homeland) is an iconic piece by modern Indonesian artist Sudjana Kerton who is admired for his charming and poetical themes. It is one of the largest oil-on-canvas works by the artist that has ever come to auction, and Sotheby’s is privileged to present it to the public for the first time this Spring. Painted in 1981, during the most seminal period of the artist’s oeuvre, Tanah Airku (My Homeland) portrays the daily lives of the local villagers. Works by Kerton from this period are infused with a strong sense of communal friendliness, sincerity and rural simplicity, and the artist’s vision of Indonesia’s rakyat kecil (common community) is exemplified in the present work. By highlighting the people on such a grand scale, Kerton has transformed ordinary existence into a celebration of human connections, which reaffirms the artist’s love and respect for his country.
Cheong Soo Pieng (1917 – 1983), Malay Life
1981, Oil on Canvas, 82 x 109.5 cm
Est. HK$1 – 1.5 million / US$129,000 – 193,000
Sotheby’s will present Malay Life, a spectacular oil-on-canvas work by Cheong Soo Pieng acquired directly from the artist, which will make its auction debut this season. Recognised as one of the most prominent pioneers of modern Singaporean art, Cheong’s visions of Southeast Asia have become integral to the country’s cultural heritage and artistic identity. Executed in 1981 - at the finale of Cheong’s artistic career, Malay Life recalls the familiar subject of the artist’s well-known Bali and Sarawak female, but the sense of quietude in the painting reflects the mature phase of his life. Reinvigorating the repertoire was perhaps a way to reminisce and rekindle his love for Nanyang and to reaffirm his heritage. The present work is a peaceful rendition of a lost era. The beautifully stylised figures epitomise Cheong’s praise for a distinctive Southeast Asian charm, while showcasing an eclectic style that recalls a gamut of influences from the East and the West.
The Philippines Contemporary
Ronald Ventura (b. 1973), Gateway
2013, Oil on Canvas, 244 x 183 cm
Est. HK$680,000 – 980,000 / US$88,000 – 126,000
The latest work by Ronald Ventura entitled Gateway perfectly illustrates the various dispositions of his art. The imagery which occupies the entire visual field consists of an enormous sharp-toothed lion that holds captive in its mouth a finely crafted children’s carousel, complete with brightly caparisoned horses turning around in circular rhythm - indeed both a magical, as well as frightening sight. Ventura’s powerful images reveal deep insights that ultimately challenge viewers to find their human truth.
Special Section: Abstraction: Beyond China
Traditional aesthetics between the East and the West have coexisted yet remained largely disengaged from each other. As time goes by, the two paths crossed and were meticulously intertwined, creating a labyrinth of the art paradigm. Among the vast schools and trends associated, abstract art indisputably stands at the forefront, exerting equal influence on artists from both ends of the geographical spectrum.
The spirit of abstraction has always existed in traditional Chinese paintings. Up until the mid-20th century, a group of Chinese artists living in France, including Zao Wou-Ki and Chu Teh-Chun, further infused these Eastern sensibilities into their Western artistic approach. While these Chinese artists were seen as the pioneers of abstract art in modern Asian art history, an upcoming force comprising another group of Asian artists is pushing forward Asian abstraction into the 21st century.
Sotheby’s presents Abstraction: Beyond China, a specially curated section devoted to six Asian artists who, by exploring the limits of abstraction, have helped redefine the art form. Kazuo Shiraga and Yayoi Kusama from Japan, Lee Ufan from Korea, Chen Wen Hsi from Singapore, Fernando Zóbel from the Philippines and Ay Tjoe Christine from Indonesia will be represented.