Sotheby’s Hong Kong Contemporary Asian Art Spring Sale

Sotheby’s Hong Kong will stage the Contemporary Asian Art Spring Sale at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, on the 6th April 2009.

Highlighting this sale is a sophisticated selection of seminal contemporary creations that underscore the exceptional artistic expressions by prominent Chinese, Japanese and Korean artists. Over 155 works will be offered and the sale is expected to achieve in excess of HK$61 million. Of particular note, Sotheby’s Hong Kong will present for the first time a remarkable array of contemporary Hong Kong artworks, bringing Hong Kong’s dynamic art scene to the international stage.

Evelyn Lin, Sotheby’s Head of Contemporary Asian Art Department, said, “By bringing together a fine selection of high-quality works of great breadth, depth and creativity, this season’s sale will broaden the horizons of avid art collectors and connoisseurs. Amongst the highlights are exhilarating conceptual works, installations, and three-dimensional art by internationally acclaimed artists from Asia, all injecting new vigour into the market.”

This season’s sale will feature a series of captivating conceptual art works, highlighted by Sixty-Year Cycle Chariot by Huang Yongping (b. 1954) (est. HK$1-1.5 million). Huang is a leading artist in the New Wave Art Movement that flourished in China in the mid-1980s. He has since produced ambitious works that challenge the established belief of the art world, the individual and society itself.

In the present work, a figure stands atop a chariot with four wheels, around the circumference of which are the years of the sixty-year cycle traditionally employed in China. Huang has inscribed the characters of paired Daoist “five elements” (metal, wood, water, fire, earth) and Roman numerals on the wheels. The cycling of time as the wheels turn suggests that history does not fade into eternity but returns with renewed relevance.

Zeng Fanzhi (b. 1964)’s Mask Series has become one of the most powerful and expressive signature motifs that populate contemporary Chinese art. The masked figures represent the artist’s creative energies for an eight-year period since 1994. Featured in this sale is one of the finest examples by Zeng created in the mid-period of this series. Completed in 1998, the present Mask Series (est. HK$2-3 million) boasts a rare composition among single-figure Masks, depicting a man holding a rose and gazing at the viewer, thereby transforming the masked man into a valentine. It attempts to depict the perception of love amongst urbanites and encapsulate the urbanization of China during the 1990’s.

Also on offer are Table with Three Legs by Ai Weiwei (b. 1957) (est. HK$500,000-600,000) and Un-interrupted Voice by Chen Zhen (1955-2000) (est. HK$450,000-500,000).

Sotheby’s Hong Kong will offer a collection of contemporary Hong Kong artworks for the first time. Of outstanding quality, the art is homage to the distinguished artists from the city. This is the first time any auction house has ever presented a series dedicated to Hong Kong art in a contemporary art sale. The section will showcase the diversity of media and methods which Hong Kong artists employ, as well as how Hong Kong art leaves a unique and original mark on the metropolis.

Chow Chun Fai (b. 1980) is one of the most illustrious young artists in Hong Kong. Frequently set in Hong Kong, his works depict the myriad segments of urban landscape and capture many neglected parts of our daily life from a different perspective. Little Cheung, “This is Kowloon City” (est. HK$40,000-60,000) is a fine example of his acclaimed Painting on Movie Series.

Little Cheung, “This is Kowloon City” is about a scene from the last movie of The 1997 Trilogy by Fruit Chan, a Hong Kong independent filmmaker. The movie tells a story of a local boy and a girl from abroad who witnessed together the changes in Hong Kong during the handover of the city back to China. The work invokes collective memory of Hong Kong and testifies to the rapidly changing cityscape, represented by Kowloon City where The Hong Kong International Airport was previously located. The boy’s line in the movie – “This is Kowloon City. There’s lots to eat here and lots of planes” – is subtitled and depicted in the present work. It underscores the significance of this particular area in Hong Kong amidst the turning chapters of Hong Kong’s history. The appropriative quality of the work clashes with the artist’s deliberately semi-realist rendering to create a veritably enigmatic piece.

Since 2000, Stanley Wong (alias Anothermountainman) (b. 1960) has started creating works with redwhite-blue plastic fabric, a versatile material which is extensively used in Hong Kong for a great variety of purposes. From protecting construction sites to carrying goods for travellers who shuttle between Hong Kong and mainland China, red-white-blue plastic fabric is seen as the witness of the city’s rapid development.

In Wong’s eyes, red-white-blue plastic fabric is ubiquitous yet discreet, which aptly incarnates the spirit and strength of Hong Kong people – industrious, devoted and resilient. Offered in this sale is the artist’s 2003 creation – Redwhiteblue: Building Hong Kong 3 (set of five) (est. HK$40,000-60,000). In the same year, the work was exhibited in the Hong Kong Art Biennial and later became a collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Wong inscribed on the work his earnest wishes for Hong Kong as the city was devastated by the Asian financial crisis and SARS epidemic at the time.

Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929) (est. HK$1.5-2million; pictured on P.1), one of the greatest living contemporary Japanese artist, attracts the limelight in this season’s sale. Many of Kusama’s creations over the last thirty years are covered in the hallucinatory dots that have obscured her vision and mind since childhood. One of them deserving special mention is a mirror room filled with life-size pumpkin sculptures, a successful project for which she was chosen to represent Japan at the Venice Biennale in 1993. Since then, the pumpkin has become a form of ‘alter-ego’ of herself.

Created in 2007, the present work Pumpkin carries a bright yellow skin covered with an intricate pattern of black polka dots, easily capturing the imagination of anyone who casts its eyes upon it. Pumpkin is a prime example of the artist’s work and succeeds in projecting her obsession with repetition, pattern and accumulation. The current work is one of a limited series of seventeen pumpkin sculptures produced by the artist, each unique in colour and dotted pattern.

Yoshitomo Nara (b.1959)’s Peace (est. HK$700,000-900,000) is another highlight of the Japanese section. Like many of Nara’s creations, here a lone child figure is represented by a simple but disproportionate portrait. In Peace, the subject has an overwhelmingly large head with the rest of her body abbreviated. This imparts an innocuous air to the child, cumulating in a cuteness that is thoroughly infectious. Nara suggests in this work how a grown-up might learn from these children in tackling the onslaughts of the harsh reality by being innocent yet unruly, vulnerable yet fearless.

Leading the Korean section in the sale is Watching Buddha by Nam June Paik (1932-2006) (est. HK$800,000–1.2 million). Paik began his artistic journey with music. The random quality of television soundtracks initially appealed to him and precipitated his foray into video art. Over the following three decades, he was to pioneer new uses of television technology as an art form, earning himself the title of ‘father of video art’.

Watching Buddha is an enigmatic piece in which Paik has wielded the television set in an innovative and unpredictable way. It comprises a Buddha sculpture tied down with a rope to the rear end of the figure of an elephant. The Buddha gazes at its own image on a television screen that is captured live by a closed-circuit video camera mounted on a tripod nearby. The Buddha seemingly contemplates its own image, but so does the Buddha in the television. An infinite loop is thus created that reveals the inter-dependence between tradition and modern technology, and modern society’s obsession with the media.

Control by Gwon Osang (b. 1974) (est. HK$250,000-350,000; pictured on p.6) is from Gwon’s Deodorant Type series, for which he creates life-size sculptural forms from hundreds of photographic fragments. Control, a superb “photography sculpture”, expresses Gwon’s viewpoint on how today’s force-fed consumer culture affects us. Nowadays, our identities are often not decided by ourselves, but affected by the way we are modelled and fashioned under the influence of the consumer brands. Through this work, the artist questions and criticizes the consumer culture of the 21st century that controls our identity more than we do.