Seoul Auction to Hold Modern & Contemporary Art Sale on 28 November

Seoul Auction, Korea’s leading art auction house, will hold its Modern & Contemporary Art sale on 28 November, 2011 at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, presenting approximately 50 outstanding works by leading Western, Korean, Japanese and Chinese artists with a total estimate of HK$195,280,000/ US$25,035,900.

Ms Soyoung Lee, Managing Director of Seoul Auction Hong Kong, said, “We are proud to have been the first auction house to offer Western contemporary art in Hong Kong at our inaugural sale here in October 2008. Since then, Seoul Auction has continued its mission to introduce major Western art works to the Asian audience in each of our 7 successful sales. Seoul Auction also presents major works by both established and cutting-edge artists from Korea, Japan and China. For the first time in this sale we are also introducing a small selection of Chinese antiques. Seoul Auction recognizes the potential of Hong Kong as a growing art market and therefore is expanding its sales categories in order to establish itself as a multi-faceted auction house.”

The top lot of the sale is Smooth Egg with Bow by leading American artist Jeff Koons (b. 1955) (estimate on request). This monumental piece is from the artist’s acclaimed ‘Celebration’ series and is appearing at auction and in the Asian market for the first time. Started in 1994, the series comprises 16 paintings and more than 20 stainless steel sculptures focusing on toys, presents and other small childhood objects, all rendered with spectacular attention to detail and phenomenal realism.

In this work, Koons takes an everyday object – a chocolate Easter egg with a shiny ribbon – and elevates it to a work of art. As always, Koons creates a work of art that appeals to multiple senses: the piece delights the viewer with its contrasting rich colours, mirror-like reflections and strongly tactile surfaces.

The clarity and dazzling quality of the ‘Celebration’ series, which took him 10 years to finalise, illustrates Jeff Koons’ obsessive perfectionism. Koons’ preoccupation with childlike consciousness and the cycle of life are wellreflected in the ‘Celebration’ series. He is interested in memorable moments such as anniversaries which are marked with flowers, diamonds, cakes and presents. His egg-shaped works are about seduction, romance and birth, and at the same time express ultimate delight.

Koons’ aim is to create ideal archetypes that are bigger and more perfect than anything in reality. The overwhelming beauty of Smooth Egg with Bow evokes the same awe in the viewer as he felt when he was a child. The present lot is a unique work and is one of five versions of Egg, each of which is rendered in a different colour.

Jeff Koons’ ‘Celebration’ sculptures have twice set the world auction record for a work by a living artist: Hanging Heart sold for US$23.6 million at Sotheby’s in 2007, and Balloon Flower sold for US$25.7 million at Christie’s in 2008.

Another highlight is Controlled Substances Key Painting (1994) by the British artist Damien Hirst (b. 1965) (estimate: HK$9,000,000–12,000,000/US$1,153,846-1,538,462). A leading artist of his generation, Hirst is a controversial painter, sculptor and installation artist whose wide-ranging and visually arresting work has made him one of the most commercially successful artists in the global art market. He first came to prominence in the 1990s with his series of dead animals preserved and floating in formaldehyde. His ‘Controlled Substances Key Paintings’ series began in 1993 with paintings entitled with drug names such as Opium or Morphine Sulfate and developed his earlier ‘Pharmaceutical Paintings’ (more commonly known as spot paintings) further by including text.

The present work is a canvas constructed using a rigorous grid of uniform sized dots of different colours, accompanied by the letters of the alphabet in order, and the numbers 1 to 0, that seem to dissect and reorganise the painting. Hirst created this Controlled Substances Key Painting in four sizes, including the present lot. All these paintings contain the same coloured dots and textual additions.

Seoul Auction presents a group of superb works by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929). Highlights include Statue of Venus Obliterated by Infinity Nets (estimate: HK$4,000,000-5,000,000/ US$512,821-641,026). It is one of the most important works in Kusama’s ‘Infinity Nets’ series and is expected to draw tremendous interest from collectors. Seoul Auction set a new world auction record for a sculpture by Kusama when a piece from the same series fetched HK$4,957,000/ US$635,513 at its Hong Kong Sale in May 2011.

The sale also present highlights from Kusama’s ‘Pumpkin’ series including the huge painted porcelain Pumpkin sculpture (estimate: HK$4,000,000–5,000,000/ US$512,821-641,026), Pumpkin (Red) (estimate: HK$220,000-250,000/ US$28,205-32,051) and Pumpkin Chess Set installation (estimate: HK$1,000,000-1,500,000/ US$128,205-192,308).

Kusama has become a legend in Japanese contemporary art and she is one of the most influential and widely collected Japanese artists today. Having experienced hallucinations and severe obsessive thoughts since childhood, she sees everything as if covered by a field of dots, or ‘infinity nets’, giving rise to the name of the series which the artist began in the late 1950s.

Kusama commands some of the highest auction prices for a living female artist. International acclaim for her work is expected to grow, as a string of leading art museums are currently showcasing a major touring retrospective exhibition of her work. The retrospective, featuring 150 works from Kusama’s 60-year career, opened in Madrid’s Museo Reina Sofia in May 2011 and arrived at Paris’s Centre Pompidou in October 2011. In January 2012, the exhibition will move to London’s Tate Modern Gallery (which organized the show) and will go to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in June 2012.

The highlight of the Chinese section of the sale is Zeng Fanzhi’s Mask Series No. 15 (1997). Zeng Fanzhi (b. 1964) is one of the most iconic, expressive and sought-after contemporary Chinese artists (estimate: HK$6,000,000–9,000,000/ US$769,231-1,153,846). Mask Series No. 15 depicts a solitary masked figure, centrally positioned on the picture plane in a grey interior. The non-descript shallow environment is illuminated by a harsh spotlight from beyond the right edge of the painting. The exposed figure seems to be caught in a daydream yet also appears anxious about his situation. In Zeng’s work, the mask is emblematic of the barrier between individuals, while the figure’s strange grotesque hands are disproportionately large compared to his body, emphasizing his feeling of anxiety and psychological torment.

Another noteworthy offering in the Chinese section is Untitled (2005) by Zhang Xiaogang (b. 1958) (estimate: HK$1,700,000-2,000,000/ US$217,949-256,410). The delicately painted tears of the boy seem to express an eternal melancholy. Rendered in monochrome, his pale complexion and empty eyes create a sombre mood, while the light on his left cheek hints at the awakening of a dormant memory. His eyes face downward as he recollects the past with pain and sorrow.

The sale will also present Yue Minjun (b. 1962)’s Life (Set of 2) (1999) (estimate: HK$2,200,000-3,000,000/ US$282,051-384,615). Yue’s works are characterized by figures – actually portraits of the artist himself – in uncomfortable poses, frozen in laughter with brilliant white teeth. They look humorous but in common with works by other members of the Cynical Realism group in China, they express a sense of cynicism and personal confusion.

The sale also features works by established Korean artists including Lee Ufan (b. 1936)’s From Line (1975) (estimate: HK$8,500,000-12,000,000/ US$1,089,744-1,538,462). Lee Ufan is an eminent Asian artist who has acted as a mediator between the East and West through his theories on art that embrace Western thought and logic and interpret them through Eastern ideas and sensibilities. His “From Line” series is the most highly regarded in his oeuvre, as they express his artistic theory of existence, continuous formation and extinction. This year Lee Ufan won international recognition as the Guggenheim Museum, New York held the first retrospective of his work in the USA from June to September 2011.

Another highlight in the Korean section is Floating Drop (1977) by the master Kim TschangYeul (b. 1929) (estimate: HK$1,700,000-2,000,000/ US$217,94-256,410), a leading artist of the Korean abstract painting movement in the 1950s. After moving to Paris in the 1970s, he started depicting crystal-clear water droplets on the canvas in a surrealistic manner. This intriguing motif has since become a major theme of his works in the past forty years of his career. In this work, countless water droplets seem to be rolling down, soaking into the paper or holding on the surface of the canvas. The entire composition creates a visual tension and captures the beauty of an instant.

The sale will also present excellent works by other established Korean contemporary artists including Marilyn (estimate: HK$400,000-500,000 / US$51,282-64,103) (2009) by Kim Dong Yoo (b. 1965) which is composed of numerous stamp-sized, pixel-like units.

Seoul Auction is expanding its sales categories and for the first time in its Hong Kong sale, a selection of rare Chinese antiques and classical Chinese paintings will be presented including a Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) gilt-wood figure of Buddha (estimate: HK$3,000,000-4,000,000/ US$384,615-512,821).

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published.