Sotheby’s Hong Kong to Host Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings Sale on 3 October

Sotheby’s Hong Kong will host a Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings Autumn Sale 2011 on 3 October at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, bringing forward a total of over 170 lots estimated in excess of HK$33 million / US$4.2 million*. A substantial collection of rare and important Southeast Asian modern masterpieces will be on offer, among which a selection of over 40 exceptional Vietnamese works of art is expected to be highly sought-after. On the contemporary front, the sale will feature exciting and innovative creations by both established and emerging talents who have gained international reputations in recent years.

MOK Kim Chuan, Sotheby’s Head of Southeast Asian Paintings, said, “We have seen impressive signs of growth and maturity in this category over the years, as proven by our record sale in Spring which affirmed Sotheby’s leading position in the market. This season, we will present yet another fine selection of works highlighted by a refined collection of important modern paintings of utmost rarity and the finest quality, including over 40 Vietnamese works of art of historical and artistic importance. Iconic Vietnamese artists represented include Le Pho, Pham Hau, Le Van De and Mai Trung Thu, covering diverse subject matters, sizes and compositions, all of which cater to different levels of collecting interests of sophisticated connoisseurs worldwide.

Alongside the works by established contemporary artists, the sale this season will offer creations by a wealth of young talents such as Arturo Sanchez, Jon Jaylo, CJ Tanedo, Louie Cordero and Rolando Ventura, all embodiments of extraordinary passion and energy. They represent the next generation of contemporary artists who are going to shape the future of Southeast Asian art.”


In April 2011, Hendra Gunawan (1918–1983)’s Penari Ular (Snake Dancer) was sold for a stunning HK$16.3 million / US$2.1 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, setting the world auction record for the artist. This Autumn, the Modern Section will be led by yet another rare, magnificent painting by Gunawan – Tuak Manis (Sweet Wine; est. HK$1.8-2.8 million / US$231,000-360,000). Executed on a canvas measuring 211 by 391 cm, the painting is the largest known work by Hendra Gunawan to ever come to auction,

Sweet Wine was executed circa 1980s, after Hendra Gunawan’s release from a thirteen-year incarceration. Hendra’s epic allegory of his country was borne out of his own experiences, observations and complex relationship with his motherland. Full of symbolism and humour, the painting balances gravitas with wit, grotesque with elegance, horror with beauty, and shares a little piece of history that bears testimony to the evolution of a nation.

This powerful, expressionistic painting by Affandi (1907–1990) – Muka Sendiri (Self Portrait; est. HK$1.8–2.5 million / US$231,000–321,000) is one of the finest selfportraits by the artist and illustrates the supreme ease and confidence with which Affandi approaches his art and sense of self: introspective, inquisitive but always self-amused. Dated 1963, this work was completed during Indonesia’s nascent decades, when the nation was building its national identity. During that period, Affandi was celebrated as one of the few Indonesian artists who participated in international exhibitions and thus through his art, he carried the voice of Indonesia among other nations.

In the late 1970s, S. Sudjojono (1914–1986) became fascinated with using wayang (shadow puppet) tales to convey social and political commentaries. In Petruk Dadi Ratu, a Javanese wayang story, the jester Petruk – seen as the embodiment of the common people – becomes drunk with wealth and power as he briefly ascends to the throne. Sudjojono created the present work – Petruk Dadi Ratu (Petruk Becomes King; est. HK$700,000–1.2 million / US$90,000–154,000) in 1979, as a political allegory to criticise the New Order government in his witty and piercing manner. This painting expresses a surge of new artistic creativity in Sudjojono’s late oeuvre, and foretells a significant moment in Indonesia’s history that occurred about two decades after the completion of this painting.

Sotheby’s will present a superb selection of Modern works by pioneering “Nanyang artists” from Singapore this season. Educated in Shanghai, New York and Paris, Georgette Chen (1907–1993) was exceptionally cosmopolitan and successful for a Chinese artist of her generation, having exhibited at various salons in Paris in the 1930s. Her early works show strong influence of Cezanne and Van Gogh, but after several years living in Hong Kong and Penang, Chen came into her own style when she moved to Singapore in the 1950s. Lotus (est. HK$250,000– 350,000 / US$32,100–45,000) is a fine example of Chen’s still life painting. Quietly and humbly elegant, it expresses the beauty of the distinctive culture she embraced while retaining her sophisticated, Western-trained eye for observation and sensitivity.

Created in 1952, Untitled (Balinese Girl) (est. HK$240,000–380,000 / US$30,800–48,800), was an extremely significant work by another first-generation Nanyang artist, Cheong Soo Pieng (1917–1983). His foray to Europe in the 1960s and his friendship with the Western and Chinese artists who lived there, such as Zao Wou-Ki, influenced him to experiment with texture and layering, producing serenely abstract landscapes. He is most well-known for depicting women from the Malayan Straits with elongated limbs, almond-shaped eyes and chiselled faces. The subject of this work is said to be the first Balinese woman the artist met and painted, and this painting was for some time kept in the artist’s collection.

Executed circa 1938, The Three Bathers (est. HK$600,000–800,000 / US$77,000–103,000) is an interesting evolution in Le Pho (1907–2001)’s oeuvre. Veering away from Le Pho’s conventional depictions of Madonna and Child, the present work illustrates three young women in a very natural and realistic setting. The composition captures an activity from daily life instead of the idealised poses, which is rarely found in the market today.

Also on offer is Pagoda Landscape in the North of Vietnam (est. HK$500,000–700,000 / US$64,500–90,000), a magnificent lacquer work by Pham Hau (1903–1995), one of the precursors in this genre. The sixpanel screen, measuring 104 by 188 cm, describes an old Vietnamese pagoda with its gate and garden, surrounded by an abundance of trees. An atmosphere of tranquillity and serenity is elegantly expressed, in the spirit of the Vietnamese poetry and literature of the 1920s and 1930s, exuding an impression of solitude, all wrapped in a harmonious composition of its season’s colours. Executed circa 1935, this screen is among the artist’s early works, making it exceptionally rare.

Dated 1902, this historical album, Grande Tenue de la Cour d’ Annam (est. HK$240,000–380,000 / US$30,800–48,800) comprises a group of 54 exquisite paintings using gouaches and watercolours in well-preserved condition, each inscribed with captions by calligraphy in Chinese and French. Finely executed by Nguyen Van Nhan, an official mandarin-painter of the last Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam, in the 18th century, this collection gives an account of the official and ceremonial dresses of the Imperial Court. Precious and rare, the album gives viewers an important peek into the last splendours of Vietnam’s Imperial past.

Swiss artist, Theo Meier (1908–1982) sought for the same zest and energy that made Gauguin’s Tahitian paintings so captivating, and his unquenchable thirst for exotic beauty brought him to Southeast Asia, where he lived in Bali and Thailand from the 1930s. Executed in 1977, the present work – Women in the Garden (est. HK$850,000–1.3 million / US$110,000–167,000) exemplifies Meier’s favourite subject and his strength: graceful lines that embrace femininity, lush warm colours of the tropics, and his signature orange tones anchored by indigo outlines. This is the largest painting by the artist to come to auction in about a decade.

In April 2011, Filipino artist Ronald Ventura (b. 1973)’s Grayground was sold for HK$8.4 million / US$1.1 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, setting the world record for any Contemporary Southeast Asian artwork. This season, Sotheby’s is proud to present another compelling work by the artist – Battle Field (est. HK$380,000–550,000 / US$48,800–71,000), a powerful and intense manifestation of Ventura’s forte. Combining an apocalyptic scenery with remnants of cartoonised innocence where humanity seem to slowly dissolve into a digitized and commodified world, Ventura’s canvas undoubtedly shines with supreme technique, magnificent details and limitless imagination. Spurts of rainbow-like CMYK colours appear like gems against an otherwise monochromatic background. Battle Field is dark with apprehension and fear, but with a closer look the viewer will see a sliver of light that pierces through the fumes and the gas mask, revealing the glimmer of hope in the figure’s eye.

Are You Sure? (est. HK$1.2-1.8 million / US$154,000-231,000) assembles all witty visual elements that are iconic of I Nyoman Masriadi (b. 1973)’s works. The composition is simple: a zoomed-in image of a couple sitting side by side looking at each other, both faces revealing signs of tension. Ahead of them is a beautiful sandy beach and the azure blue sea – though no one seems to be enjoying the vista. The visual narrative and Masriadi’s scribbles seem to suggest an unspoken plot about the complexities of relationships, yet the concern it poses extends beyond that. The work underlines the importance of open communication, honesty and the courage to go towards the promising unknown. Are You Sure? was completed at the end of 2010, a few months before Masriadi’s first US exhibition in New York in April 2011. Under this context, it is an important milestone that commemorates Masriadi’s foray across the great, vast sea.

Christine Ay Tjoe (b. 1973) approaches art with fearlessness, purity, intensity and vulnerability unlike any other Indonesian artist of her generation. Layers for the Circles (est. HK$200,000–300,000 / US$25,700– 38,500) comes from her most recent series that signifies her artistic evolution and the next chapter of her life. The mood is lighter, the contrasts are softer, and more colours are introduced into the palette. She unravels her life story with complete candour which makes her works as riveting as reading someone’s memoir and as intimate as knowing someone’s secret. Ay Tjoe’s art reminds us that we are only human: fragile and strong, passionate and rational, imperfect but willing to learn, steadfast, but constantly changing.

In Nona Garcia (b. 1978)’s Sitting Still series, the image of a person’s back becomes the frontispiece. It is the reverse side of what seems to be a portrait as to how the sitter arranges herself pictorially. No identity, yet a portrait unmistakably; or at least, a manifestation of the same attention possessed by a portrait-maker in capturing all the nuances to bring out the essence of a persona: the intricacies of her chignon hairdo, the contours of a spine, the straps and ribbons that hold the dress onto the body–all rendered in detail to force an identity, to illuminate an eclipse. Executed in 2010, Sitting Still III is estimated at HK$120,000–180,000 / US$15,400–23,100.

Riding on the success of the debut photography session last April, Sotheby’s will continue to broaden the scope of the collecting community by presenting again this season the most creative works by Yee I-Lann, Agan Harahap, Wawi Navarroza, Juan Caguicla, to name a few.

*Angki Purbandono (b.1971) Circus of Doraemon C-print on positive film, neon box 100 x 100 cm; 39 1/4 x 39 1/4 in. Executed in 2010 est. HK$20,000-45,000 / US$2,600-5,800.

*Agan Harahap (b.1980) The Cabaret Show C-print on aluminium Di-Bond 120 x 150cm; 47 1/4 x 59 in. Conceived in 2008 and printed in 2011 est. HK$20,000-40,000 / US$2,600-5,200.

*Wawi Navarroza (b.1979) X, After the Storm No. 2 / Gestalt Archival pigment ink print, in 2 parts Each image: 102 x 105.5cm; 40 x 60 in. Each sheet: 112.2 x 159cm; 44 x 52 1/2 in. Executed in 2010 / 2011 est. HK$30,000-50,000 / US$3,850-6,500.

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