art appreciation

5 Extraordinary Pieces Of Chinese Art To Bid On

This week, all eyes turn to the major auction houses in Hong Kong as the delayed spring sales finally spring into action. Will it be the art market’s summer of reckoning? In any case, these works may entice you into action.

[Left] 24.10.63 (1963), Oil on canvas, 194 x 97 cm, Estimate: HK$ 45,000,000 – 65,000,000; [Right] 22.6.63 (1963), Oil on canvas, 146 x 89 cm, Estimate: HK$ 38,000,000 – 58,000,000

01 | Zao Wou-Ki ǀ 22.6.63 and 24.10.63

Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 8 July 2020

With its solemn stillness ruptured by explosive lines bursting forth with energy, 24.10.63 by Zao Wou-Ki (1920-2013) has entered the auction market for the very first time. It comes from the collection of Walter R. Beardsley, a prominent American collector who had amassed an extraordinary collection of modern and contemporary art. Though beautiful on its own, 24.10.63 is particularly magnetic alongside 22.6.63, a second piece from the Beardsley collection also completed during Zao’s “Hurricane Period” of the 1960s.

Works from that decade mark the culmination of Zao’s training in traditional Chinese techniques and transition towards a more majestic style that synthesised Chinese, Western, ancient and modern elements. Auctioneer Phillips’ Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Hong Kong, Isaure de Viel Castel observes: “It is rare to see two such works by Zao side-by-side in red and gold, two auspicious colours in Chinese culture”. In 2018, five years after his death, Zao’s name hit new highs when his 10-metre long Juin-Octobre 1985 sold for US$65 million. The triptych once hung in Singapore’s Raffles City complex.

View the lot here.

Verdant East Lake (1981), Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper, 66.5 x 136 cm, Estimate: HK$ 40,000,000 – 60,000,000

02 | Zhang Daqian ǀ Verdant East Lake

Christie’s Fine Chinese Modern and Contemporary Ink Paintings, 8 July 2020

One of China’s most prodigious artists, Sichuan born Zhang Daqian (1899-1983) was a master of the art of guanxi (social reciprocity) and often gifted his paintings to friends and influential contacts. Verdant East Lake was created in 1981 at his residence in Taiwan and was presented as a birthday gift to the wife of his close friend of 30 years, Wang Hsin-heng. Besides the thoughtful gesture of depicting Dongqian Lake in Zhejiang, China, where the couple hail from, Verdant East Lake revisited Zhang’s popular abstract splashed-ink artistry of the 1960s, making it distinct from the Chinese landscape style of his later years. It is one of 21 works from the Wang Hsin-Heng Family collection that goes under the hammer at Christie’s.

View the lot here.

Heavenly Lake in Mount Changbai (1986), Ink and colour on paper, framed, 95 x 180 cm, Estimate: HK$ 12,000,000 – 18,000,000

03 | Wu Guanzhong ǀ Heavenly Lake in Mount Changbai

Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Paintings Spring Sale, 10 July

Sotheby’s postponed spring auction series will see some 200 modern Chinese paintings and calligraphy go under the hammer; among them, a collection of works by Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010) that were executed at the peak of his career from the late 1970s to early 1990s. The one to keep an eye on is Heavenly Lake in Mount Changbai, his six-foot long idealised version of Heavenly Lake — one of his rare portrayals of scenery in North-eastern China. Painted a year after his 1985 summer visit, he took liberties at transforming its surrounding volcanic mountain range into a tranquil wintery snowscape. Also looking to score a top bid is Wu’s watercolour of China’s other heavenly lake. Alive in vivid blues, purples and greens, Heavenly Lake in Xinjiang captures the intense beauty of one of Wu’s favourite subjects.

View the lot here.

Magpies on Autumn Branches (1936), Ink and colour on paper, framed, 82.6 x 99.4 cm, Estimate: HK$ 2,200,000 – 2,800,800

04 | Xu Beihong ǀ Magpies on Autumn Branches

Bonhams Fine Chinese Paintings Sale, 7 July

Magpies on Autumn Branches by Xu Beihong (1895-1953) was part of an 11-piece assemblage of works presented in gratitude to The Universities’ China Committee in London for providing hospitality to Xu’s students who studied in post-Blitz London. While the collection was exhibited in London in 1950 and later hung at the Buddhist Society in London and at the University of Leeds, the artworks remain largely unknown, and are offered for the first time at Bonham’s 7 July sale. Regarded as harbingers of good fortune, magpies featured heavily in Xu’s oeuvre. The father of modern Chinese painting received massive support across Asia, including Singapore where he found numerous peers and staged fundraising exhibitions for war relief efforts in China.

View the lot here.

The First Morning (1971), Oil and aluminium on canvas, 64 x 64 cm, Estimate: HK$ 1,400,000 – 2,000,000

05 | Richard Lin ǀ The First Morning

Poly Auction Modern and Contemporary Art Sale, 12 July

Acquired directly from the artist Richard Lin (1933-2011) by the present owner, The First Morning is representative of his White series, on which he rose to international fame. Born in Taiwan, educated in the UK and architecture-trained, Lin was a pioneer of the minimalist canvas whose coolly unemotional style was executed with precision and dexterity. Even Spanish artist Joan Miro, after visiting Lin at his studio, was moved to remark: “In the world of white, you are without equal.” Realised in 1971, after he had moved to London’s suburbs, The First Morning not only speaks volumes of his geometric restraint and spatial layering, but also marks the beginning of colour appearing in his works — informed perhaps by the nature that now surrounded him.

View the lot here.

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