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Sotheby's Modern & Contemporary Southeast Paintings Sale Announced
S. Sudjojono’s A New Dawn. Est. HK$1.6-2.5 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong will hold its Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings Autumn Sale 2010 on 4 October at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, offering over 150 exceptional works with a total estimate in excess of HK$30 million / US$3.9 million.

MOK Kim Chuan, Sotheby’s Head of Southeast Asian Paintings said, “The success of our Spring Sale is a testament to the growing global interest in rare and quality Southeast Asian paintings. This season, Sotheby’s will continue to present a careful selection of works by established modern masters, highlighted by S. Sudjojono’s A New Dawn. The Contemporary section will feature record-breaking artists led by I Nyoman Masriadi, as well as a group of exhilarating works of young, up-and-coming artists who have demonstrated outstanding creativity and potential in their creations. There will also be innovative 3-D installation works that, along with the other bold selections in this Autumn Sale season, are sure to stimulate the collecting interests of new and established art collectors alike, and to present another opportunity for them to acquire interesting works.”

Sotheby’s will continue to present the most revered names in Modern Southeast Asian paintings. Affandi, Le Mayeur, Amorsolo and Manasala, who hail from Indonesia and the Philippines, are the undisputed masters in their fields. Their paintings from the early 20th century provide an insight into the rich and inspiring Southeast Asian culture, while demonstrating its impact on the lives of artists and common man alike.

A highlight from the Moderns is an outstanding work by Indonesian artist S. Sudjojono (1914 – 1986), whose revolutionary ideas of realism earned him a reputation as the Father of Indonesian Modernism. Reality, as he defined it, went further than the conventions of realism or social realism; it illustrated the human condition. A New Dawn (est. HK$1.6-2.5 million; image on P.1) was executed in 1956, a period marked by Sudjojono’s deepening involvement in politics and restlessness, which led to a body of many unfinished works. The current work is a large format (120 x 240 cm) comparative to his other canvasses, and is one of the rare paintings that the artist completed during this period.

Depicting the morning rituals of a village, three central figures of different genders and generations stand side by side gazing at the dawn of a new day. Created the same year that Indonesia severed its last ties as a colony from the Netherlands and during the time when Sudjojono began his relationship with the love of his life, Rose Pandanwangi, the painting speaks of new beginnings, hope and progress. A work of supreme importance on both an art historical and personal level, it epitomises the depth of Sudjojono’s role in shaping the progress of Modern Indonesian Art.

Another fascinating highlight on offer is Atelier de Tissage (Weaving Atelier) (est. HK$2.7-3.9 million) by Belgian artist, Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur De Merprès (1880-1958). One of the last great impressionists, Le Mayeur’s voyage to Bali represented the culmination of his great quest for beauty. Executed in the 1940s, this painting is an exquisite example of the artist at the pinnacle of his creativity. It showcases Le Mayeur’s unsurpassed expertise and dexterity at capturing sunlight and beauty in an instant. The composition, textured impastos and expressive brushstrokes rendered vibrantly on a luminous picture plane form a most enthralling Impressionist palette and portray a most elegant balance between movements, colour and form. With the majority of his works in private collections, oil on canvas works of this theme and size is a truly rare gem.

Executed in 1979, Self Portrait (est. HK$900,000-1,500,000) by Indonesia master, Affandi (1907-1990) is one of the spotlights. His paintings are uniquely streaked with hard wisps of colour – an effect of his own technique, by which he often squeezed paint directly onto the canvas from its tube and used his fingers as a brush. Being an abstract expressionist, Affandi reveals his self-perception on canvas, and the result is a valuable insight into his very core. As ever-changing as his mood, no two selfportraits are identical. Charged with emotion, the Self Portrait’s dynamic brushstrokes and paint impasto represent Affandi at his most soulful and intimate. It is an incredibly fine example of his mastery of expressionism. Other excellent works by Affandi, such as Cockfight, Temple, and Landscape, will also be on offer.

Workers in the Fields (est. HK$380,000 – 550,000) is an exceptionally rare, early painting by Fernando Amorsolo (1892-1972) – one of the most important figures in the history of painting in the Philippines. His works from the 1920s are avidly sought-after by collectors. They were created at the time when Amorsolo had finally achieved his quest for mastery of light, colour and shadow. These works are also typically smaller in size. The scarcity of his 1920s works in the art market is indicative of its great popularity and great uniqueness; most of these works are held in the esteemed collections of private collectors and fine museums.

Throughout the later phase of his career, Amorsolo recreated some of his earlier compositions in numerous editions. Therefore, among connoisseurs his first-edition early paintings, such as this one, are referred to as his “original” originals. Executed in 1926, Workers in the Fields is a stunning example of Amorsolo’s early talent.

River Landscape (est. HK$160,000-250,000) by Felix Martinez (1859-1907), another Filipino artist, will also be featured.

From 1925–1945, the esteemed painter and art professor Joseph Inguimberty devoted his life to championing a modern reform of lacquer technique at the Hanoi School of Fine Arts (L’école des Beaux Arts de Hanoi). This special Coromandel Screen (est. HK$480,000–680,000) is among the first of its kind to be executed in Vietnamese art history. Commissioned by Governor General Brévié in 1938 at the School of Fine Arts in Hanoi, it is a proven original work of art made collectively by a group of lacquer masters graduated from the School that year and this sale sees its first-ever public exhibition.

On the screen’s main facade, against a vermillion background, is the last Vietnamese emperor, Bao Dai. He is surrounded by a procession of his followers, including imperial dignitaries and military generals, soldiers, servants and musicians, as they all left the imperial palace in Hue. The opposite facade is awash in gold paint, scenic with tranquil images of the phoenix Annam and two cranes moving among Asian flowers and plants.

Other magnificent works by Vietnamese artists include a selection of five paintings by Mai Trung Thu (1906-1980), the master of Vietnamese Modernism; as well as a collection of exquisite lacquer boxes commissioned by the Tobacco Company of Indochina (est. HK$40,000-50,000).

This sale will offer an exciting group of contemporary paintings that grip the imaginations of art collectors everywhere, as well as the works of a new generation of innovative artists who have burst into prominence in recent years.

In Sotheby’s Hong Kong Spring 2010 sale, I’m Still Lucky by Indonesian artist I Nyoman Masriadi (b. 1973) was sold for HK$4.94 million (US$633,333), achieving the second highest auction price for the artist. This season, Sotheby’s will continue to present a well-rounded, important collection of Masriadi’s works from three significant periods of his life: Untitled (1999); Masriadi Fans Club (2005); and his latest work, the superbly witty, multilayered Sok Ngirit (Pretending to be Prudent) (2010). They illustrate the celebrated enfant terrible of Southeast Asian Contemporary at his best, and highlight the Contemporary section of the auction.

Masriadi's powerful muscled men have been recognised as one of the greatest breakthroughs in Southeast Asian Contemporary Art. Bold, black and unyielding, these now-iconic figures resonate with strength and determination in Masriadi's world, where struggle, conflict and power-play occur as a matter of course, and where the human body and spirit may be the only asset one has in order to move forward. Sok Ngirit (Pretending to be Prudent) (est. HK$1.4-2.2 million) reflects the artist’s trademark humour, where Masriadi depicts a man monopolising a phone booth while a hoard of people angrily awaits him. They have stripped down to their underwear – from agitation, heat and perhaps to draw attention to themselves – yet their efforts are in vain. Very rarely does Masriadi feature so many protagonists in his composition; apart from one or two central subjects, other figures are usually relegated to the background. However, the present work demonstrates most successfully his dexterity with balance and composition. His nonchalant yet piercing examination of the human condition expresses sensitivity to the soul and essence of society and humanity in search for a way to validate their lives.

Handiwirman Saputra (b. 1975) speaks with a visual language that is solely his. Stylistically and aesthetically, it is neither an extension nor a reinterpretation of any artwork we have seen before. Nothing-Something-Nothing 3 (est. HK$750,000-950,000) is a prime example of this ingenuity. Part of the limited “Seri Gambar Hias” (Decorative Picture Series), executed in 2005, the present work evokes a gamut of contradictions: subtle yet strong, familiar yet strange, realistic yet unreal. The title itself alludes to these qualities which seem to exist, negate one another, and yet is no less real in spite of it. Through a fantastic composition, objects that are "nothing" become "something", but its real meaning depends on our own understanding and perspective. The allure and inimitability of Handiwirman's work rest on the moral and philosophical values that Handiwirman unveils to the most assiduous observer.

Landscapes from the eyes of Indonesian artist Rudi Mantofani (b. 1973) are more than just a landscape. They straddle the borderline between the surreal and the plausible. Perfectly rendered, pseudo-realistic green pastures and blue mountains are mysterious and slightly idealised backdrops while the main subject matter takes its place in the centre of the picture plane. His images are simply composed, yet are often bewildering, thought-provoking and profound. The current work, Bayangan Terang (Bright Shadow) (est. HK$320,000-480,000), is one of Rudi Mantofani’s finest works, in which the artist takes the viewer to explore a mysterious riddle that contains a powerful statement about the human condition.

A further highlight of the Contemporary section is by Filipino artist Ronald Ventura (b. 1973). The current work, Natural-Lies (est. HK$180,000-280,000) introduces dialectics with tension where an empty black vision offsets against a cluttered, dirty, white environment; quiet contemplation against chaos.

The little vermin in this painting, purposely annoying the child by playing musical instruments into his ear, are wearing gas masks; with their mouths fully covered, they create paradoxically a deafening silence. A winged figure casually drops a bomb, while a perverted bronze figure politely makes his way through the child’s parted limbs - both pertain to a tender brutality. The child fights for tranquil composure against the relentless violence of the world. His grotesque Pinocchio-like nose is not a product of lying but of stress, of innocence in a malicious world, a horrible manifestation of trauma. As he clutches his strangely aged gut, his resolve and reverie cannot hold any longer. Desire is setting in and he is finally, unfortunately, becoming human.

Sotheby's | Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings | MOK Kim Chuan |

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