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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Christie’s May Sales Offer Southeast Asian Modern & Contemporary Art

Christie’s Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art Spring Auction on 30 May, at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, presents distinctive highlights from some of the most vibrant and invigorating voices within Southeast Asia’s art scene. Featuring 115 works spanning the history and geography of the Southeast Asian region, the sale brings together modern masterpieces of undisputed provenance and some of the most sought-after contemporary art. The estimated value is in the range of HK$30 million / US$3.8 million.

Headlining the modern section is a rare and exceedingly fine genre scene by Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès, depicting early 20th century Bali at the height of its tropical charm. Temple Festival in Bali (Lot 1799, estimate: HK$1,900,000 – 2,600,000 /US$243,600 – 333,300) deservedly ranks among Le Mayeur’s finest works, offering a comprehensive portrayal of the festive marketplace in front of the village temple, with graceful dancers, lively musicians and villagers in celebration. Carrying a Belgian royal provenance, Le Mayeur’s richly tinted, luminous canvas truly illustrates the idyllic setting of Bali as the Polynesia of the East. This charming portrayal is juxtaposed against works by native modern masters who rose to maturity during the conflicting years of Indonesia’s transition to independence.

A seminal representation of Indonesian society by the politically aware, New Yorktrained Sudjana Kerton, Anak Bermain Layangan (Boys with Kites) (Lot 1810, estimate: HK$1,400,000 – 1,700,000 / US$179,500 – 218,000) reveals a disarmingly naïf village tableau infused with underlying nationalistic sentiment. Despite spending most of his adult life in Europe and America, Kerton never relinquished his deep loyalty to his homeland and concern for its social conditions. With this present work, one of the last full paintings of Kerton’s career, he returns to his childhood memories and captures the unquenchable spirit of Indonesians who can find joy even in the simplicity of a floating kite.

Another equally powerful, highly expressionistic portrait by modern master Affandi, Man with a Fighting Rooster, (Lot 1804, estimate: HK$800,000 – 1,000,000 / US$102,600 – 128,200) reveals an inspired spontaneity and pride for the traditional elements of Indonesia against a rapidly modernising world, calling for a freedom of spirit and fighting tenacity in the face of adversity.

Ronald Ventura (The Philippines b. 1973), Rainbow Punch (detail). Oil on canvas, fiberglass, resin and polyurethane paint, two elements painting: 60¼ x 60¼ in. (153 x 153 cm.) TV sculpture: 15 x 15? x 14 in. (38 x 39 x 35.5 cm.) Executed in 2011. This work is a unique edition. Estimate: HK$500,000 – 800,000/US$64,100 – 102,600. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2011

From The Philippines comes a remarkable selection of modernist works, as the art history of the nation started to move away from the romantic realist genre. Two works which simultaneously contrast and complement each other, shedding light on the breadth of a 50 year span of art history, are The Tinikling by Fernando Cueto Amorsolo (Lot 1771, estimate: HK$350,000 – 500,000 / US$44,900 – 64,100) and Luksong-Tinik (Jumping over Thorns) by Vicente Manansala (Lot 1767, estimate: HK$280,000 – 350,000 / US$36,120 – 45,150). Painted in 1946, The Tinikling is a joyous work by Amorsolo at the height of his career as the leading national painter emerging from the Spanish school in The Philippines. It perfectly presents the elements he is most celebrated for: spontaneity of figurative movement and the vivid use of light, as the couple depicted participate in the national dance ‘tinikling’ performed over bamboo poles. This is juxtaposed against Manansala’s 1973 work of children engaging in another familiar national game ‘luksong tinik’ where children use their hands to form a spine of thorns over which another child has to leap. The dynamism and energy of this work rivals Amorsolo’s composition, but Manansala’s use of a cubist background, which isolates the figures and blocks of colour, heralds a new dawn for the evolution of Filipino art.

Pioneering female artist Anita Magsaysay-Ho’s The Water Carriers (Lot 1765, estimate: HK$350,000 – 500,000 / US$44,900 – 64,100) was painted in America in 1950. It reveals the strong influence of her teacher from that period, the formidable Kenneth Hayes Miller who also mentored Edward Hopper and was instrumental in shaping her compositional awareness and lifelong technique of using interlocking shades of light and dark.

La Piedra IV (Lot 1766, estimate: HK$280,000 – 350,000 / US$35,900 – 44,900) is a stunning work from Spanish-Filipino artist Fernando Zobel. Closely related to his master-series of works based on the Júcar River in Cuenca, Spain, La Piedra IV is an abstract study of the waterdrenched boulders seen through the passage of the moving river and the interplay of light above.

Christie’s is also pleased to present an exceedingly rare and important work, Nativité (The Nativity) by Le Pho (Lot 1782, estimate: HK$1,500,000 – 2,000,000 / US$192,300 – 256,400). This early work by the most acclaimed modern Vietnamese artist of his generation is a graceful portrayal of the birth of Christ as depicted the New Testament. It carries an unparalleled significance as the only known Nativity work by Le Pho throughout his entire career. Le Pho’s characteristic French salon style is seen in the fragile silhouette, translucent colour palette and delicate lines of the entire work. However, by describing the Madonna as one of his classical Vietnamese muses, he introduces an entirely different concept to this celebrated subject, as well as into the canon of formal Vietnamese art history.

Other modern highlights include important works by well-recognised names such as S. Sudjojono, Lee Man Fong, Hendra Gunawan, Theo Meier, Walter Spies and Srihadi Sudarsono.

The above selection of fine modern works is complemented by equally outstanding contemporary artists of today, such as Ronald Ventura, Geraldine Javier, Agus Suwage, Rudi Mantofani, Christine Ay Tjoe, Eko Nugroho, J. Ariadhity Pramuhendra, Samsul Arifin, and Indieguerillas among others. Their visually and intellectually provocative works lead viewers into an exploration of Southeast Asia’s current society and existential concerns through powerfully painted formats and textured materials.

Leading the attractive lineup is Rainbow Punch by Ronald Ventura (Lot 1738, estimate: HK$500,000 – 800,000 /US$64,100 – 102,600). As described by its title, it packs a dual punch in presenting an impactful painted canvas paired with a brilliantly created sculpture-installation. The rare combination of these two mediums, Ventura’s established and acclaimed format of oil on canvas together with his love for sculptural creation, offers collectors a not-to-be-missed opportunity to acquire a unique edition by this sought-after, internationally prominent young artist. A boy clad in popsicle colours sits within a psychedelic TV set, watching the canvas of boxers smashing each other into rainbow-coloured oblivion. This interaction and inversion between 2D and 3D formats raises the solipsistic question, “Who is watching the watcher?”

In comparison, Green by Rudi Mantofani (Lot 1727, estimate: HK$400,000 – 550,000 / US$51,300 – 70,500) shows a vast country landscape dominated by a brick wall shaped into letters which spell out the title. This exercise in semiotics discusses the influence of the mass media that can control and dictate the thoughts and associations conjured up by the viewer. Familiar with advertising culture, Rudi Mantofani effectively demonstrates the significant role of signs and signifiers in our daily life, as well as our inability to process what we observe until the obvious is stated to us.

Permanently Party by Christine Ay Tjoe (Lot 1724, estimate: HK$280,000 – 350,000 / US$35,900 – 44,900) is a highly enigmatic work. It distills a number of dilemmas and contradictions from the artist’s religious and existential sensibilities. Closely related to a series of works derived from the figure of Barabbas in the New Testament, in whose place Jesus Christ was crucified, Permanently Party is fraught with the tension between good and evil, light and darkness. The feasting can be seen as a metaphor for the Last Supper, or even the Tower of Babel, now depicted by Ay Tjoe as an endless banquet before the sacrificial absolution of the following day.

Representing her generation of female artists from The Philippines, a stunning and immaculate work by Geraldine Javier captivates visual attention immediately. Javier’s artistic language is that of oblique references, subtle emotions, and a textured realism paired with whimsical elements. Within this work, Chopsticks on a Saturday Fun Machine Morning, (Lot 1741, estimate: HK$180,000 – 250,000 / US$23,100 – 32,000) Javier recreates the scene of a young girl practicing her scales, likening the staccato rhythm to the tempo of a sewing machine. Yet despite the lively theme, the stillness and introspective air of the painting, combined with its jewel like colours and delicate filigrees of mixed media, convey a powerful emotional experience, drawing viewers back to the early days of childhood solitude.

Agus Suwage’s The Super Omnivore (Lot 1711, estimate: HK$800,000 – 1,200,000 / US$102,600 – 153,900) simultaneously presents Suwage as both carnivore and herbivore in separate canvases. This work was originally a self-portrait of the artist until, tired of beholding his own features, he defaced the canvas with splashes of blue. Individually, each canvas compares man to animals which only consume singular food groups; unified they represent humanity as an elevated being which combines both herbivorous and carnivorous elements. Man is depicted as being more than animal in entirety, while also possessing similarly bestial features and appetites. However, the visage within both canvases has been obliterated by the blue paint, reducing the individual personality to little more than an automaton within an avaricious cycle.

Artistic duo Indieguerillas assault our senses like a force of nature. As quintessential forerunners of the Generation Y collective, they create and manipulate a bizarre hallucinogenic universe within Awake is the New Sleep (Lot 1708, estimate: HK$ HK$60,000 – 80,000 / US$7,700 – 10,300), which pulses with effervescent life. Drawing their influences from street art, pop culture, animation and graphic design, as well as key elements of their traditional Javanese storytelling heritage, they envision our contemporary world as a psychedelic artifice anchored by popular metaphors and passing momentary desires.

José John Santos is a highly significant and respected name in contemporary art within The Philippines. His works are richly textured creations, often deceptively appearing as collages despite their oil-on-canvas medium. The work Paper Dolls (Lot 1737, estimate: HK$80,000 – 120,000 / US$10,300 – 15,400) discusses the apparent ease of transforming appearances, and even one’s character, through a shift of clothing or a change of expression. While the torn and taped together fragments of paper have literal allusions to actual paper dolls, they also symbolize impermanence, and the innate human capacity to change when critically necessary.

The Southeast Asian art selection for the Spring 2011 sale, both modern and contemporary, exemplify the best in current Southeast Asian art practice and indicate the careful selection process for which Christie’s is renowned.

Southeast Asian Modern & Contemporary Art Sale
Monday, 30 May 2011, 10:30am
Saleroom 1, Convention Hall, Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium

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