Christie’s Hong Kong Announce Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Sales

Christie’s will mark another significant milestone in the auctions of Asian 20th century & contemporary art. Previously sold in a separate category, Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art will be integrated into the Asian 20th century & contemporary art sale, enjoying a new level of international exposure when placed alongside the art from China, India, Japan and Korea. This integration – a first for any international auction house – completes the consolidation of contemporary and modern art from different parts of Asia to create a wider pan-Asian category that is a parallel to its Western counterpart.

Four sales of Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art will be held on 26 and 27 November at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, offering more than 540 works of art valued over HK$550 million/US$70.1 million. This season two Evening Sales will be presented on 26 November: Faces of New China: An Important Private Collection and the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale. This will be followed by two Day Sales of Asian 20th Century Art and Asian Contemporary Art on 27 November.

Eric Chang, International Director of Christie’s Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art, says “It has been a decade since we first consolidated our regional Asia sale sites into a full international platform in Hong Kong. Last season we expanded the offerings of our Evening Sale of Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art and introduced works from 20th Century Asian masters from Korea, such as Lee Ufan, and from Japan, such as Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita and Zenzaburo Kojima, whose ‘Nude Reclining on Yellow Chair’ broke the artist’s record at HK$2,660,000 /US$341,810. The strong prices seen across a broad spectrum of Asian masters show that the market in this region is maturing in much the same way that the London and New York art markets have developed.”

Faces of New China: An Important Private Collection Evening Sale
Christie’s Hong Kong will be offering “Faces of New China: An Important Private Collection”, presented in a dedicated single-owner evening auction. The collection is comprised of 14 exceptional works of contemporary Chinese art representing the pinnacle of the earliest years of Chinese avant-garde art. These rare and exquisite works encapsulate the historic moment when these artists established their creative visions and distinct styles, vividly showcasing the conceptual origins of one of the most astonishing cultural and aesthetic shifts in recent art history. Each work from the collection helps elucidate the core aspects of Chinese avant-garde. Through their unique modes of representation and, in particular, attention to self-portraiture and portraiture, they have visualised not only an epoch and the changes within it, but also the ways in which each individual’s lived experience could represent the underlying mentality of China’s new generation.

Fusing East & West: The Great Chinese 20th Century Art Master Zao Wou-ki
Works of the Chinese 20th Century masters are highly regarded for their unique aesthetics and historical value. They are widely sought after by both permanent collections in national galleries around the world and by private collectors alike. Zao Wou-Ki’s works have seen significant price increases over the past several years, underscoring his place as one of the most desirable artists in today’s market.

A series of extremely important and rare work by Zao Wou-Ki will highlight Christie’s Hong Kong Autumn2011 auctions. With chefs-d’oeuvres from the early 1950s “still life and landscape” period, the mid-1950s “oracle” works and “abstract landscapes” from the mid-1960s, Christie’s traces Zao’s creative expedition from figurative representation to abstraction, presenting collectors with a profound insight into the most crucial transitional phase in the evolution of Zao’s career.

In the development of Chinese culture and arts, political movements have always played a significant role. The founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 was a decisive moment for the development of both Chinese modern history and art history. Published in the “Chairman Mao’s Talks at Yan’an on Literature and Art”, the guideline “People’s life should be the only fountain of inspiration for all literature and art” dominated the Chinese art scene for the next forty years. From then on, there was an extensive and in-depth movement in carrying out the principal that “art should reflect real life” in the Chinese art history.

Artists and writers were systematically sent to factories, rural areas and army to experience life and study from their interaction with factory workers and peasants, with a goal to change their mentality. In examining the artistic styles, the works produced during the time derived their contents, compositions and color schemes from real life, and classical European and Russian realism painting techniques were adopted. This kind of focus on the close relation between visual art and real life has shown its impact on the later development of Chinese modern paintings. It helps to position Chinese art closer to people and as a result, modern Chinese art transcends common artistic limitations of content, subject matter, and sentiment. Many aspects of life that had never been portrayed in paintings started to appear, which reflects the establishment of the changed Chinese ideology as the mainstream theme.

LUO ZHONGLI: In the modern art history of China, Luo’s works aroused a wave of realistic portrayals seeking to reveal the truth of experience and the nation’s forgotten folk life. He opened up a new path in Chinese art history, inspiring his peers and successors to think critically about the complicated relationship between the individual and society, and to express their independent interpretations of history and truth in art. He invoked artists to become more aware of their responsibilities towards shaping and representing history. His works became inspiration to contemporary artists, to draw from their observations in Guishan in Yunnan Province, an experience which allowed them to break free from the old political propaganda clichés as they related to depicting the peasantry; instead, these artists simply depicted peasants as the way they were in real life, and in this simple gesture attempted to display their own fundamental respect for their lives, hardships and triumphs alike.

CHEN YIFEI: Chen Yeifei’s figure paintings combine both Eastern and Western aesthetic values with exceptional technique and insight into the personality of his subjects. The Chinese figure painting tradition values two qualities: Chuan Shen (transmitting the spirit) and Xie Zhen (capturing the lifelikeness). Indeed, it is the goal of the artist is to capture not only the physical likeness of the subject, but also, very importantly, to capture the essence and spirit at the same time.

Image: Chen Cheng-Po (Chinese, 1895-1947), Sin-Lau Girls School, Taiwan. Oil on canvas. Painted in 1941, 91 x 115.8 cm. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2011.

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