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Painting by Wu Guangzhong tops Bonhams Sale of Fine Chinese Paintings and Contemporary Asian Art
Doubling its estimate, Li Keran‘s (1907-1989) Landscape of Li River was hammered down to a telephone bidder for HK$5,060,000 against intense competition. Photo: Bonhams.

HONG KONG.- The saleroom was packed during the Bonhams Hong Kong sale of Fine Chinese Paintings and Contemporary Asian Art held on 26 May at the Island Shangri-La Hotel.

Over 170 lots went under the hammer and spirited bidding drove the top lots over their high estimates, achieving a total of over HK$52,000,000.

Befitting their star quality, top honours went to the front and back cover lots of the sale. The highest price was achieved by an oil painting by Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010), A Fish Pool in the Mountain City, selling for HK$15,220,000 against an estimate of HK$8,000,000 – 12,000,000. Painted at the peak of his career in 1987 at the age of 68, the composition bears witness to the fact that in his youth he studied European and Chinese painting techniques, producing together a fluent merger of the two traditions. Unlike his teacher Lin Fengmian (1900-1991), Wu Guangzhong continued to paint both in oils as well as the more traditional media of ink and paper for most of his career. This monumental work came from an American private collector, purchased at Hefner Galleries in New York in 1989 and published twice in Chinese Modern and Contemporary Paintings: Wu Guanzhong (People’s Fine Arts Publishing House, Beijing, 1996) and Volume 3 of The Complete Works of Wu Guanzhong (Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, Changsha, 2007).

Doubling its estimate, Li Keran‘s (1907-1989) Landscape of Li River was hammered down to a telephone bidder for HK$5,060,000 against intense competition. This splendid and innovative landscape painting was done in 1963 and is the most iconic work among his early Li River landscape paintings. This painting was exhibited and published in Modern Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Collection of the Kau Chi Society of Chinese Art, the Art Gallery of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, in 1987.

Third place honours went to Ju Ming’s (b.1938) Living World Series: A Pair of Classical People, selling for HK$3,020,000. This pair of life-size sculptures, executed in 1983 and acquired by the previous owner a year later from the Max Hutchinson Gallery, New York, is regarded as one of the most important works among the early production of the Living World Series.

Paintings by renowned artists were highly sought after, achieving multiple times their estimates. Zhang Daqian‘s (1899-1983) Reading in Summer, was one such painting selling for HK$2,060,000, over four times its estimate. Completed in 1945, this painting was acquired in succession by well-known collectors and notable scholars including Zhang’s friend Lu Danlin, the artist Fang Junbi and Professor Sheung Chung Ho.

Lu Yanshao’s (1909-1993) Mount Yandang was another hotly contested lot, selling for twice its estimate at HK$1,940,000. A monumental horizontal landscape by Huang Junbi (1898-1991), titled Cloudy Mountain at Sunset, soared eight times its estimate to an astounding HK$1,700,000 bought by a telephone bidder against a Hong Kong collector in the room. This painting was acquired directly from the artist in 1957 by a San Francisco private collector and bears a dedication to him.

“We are thrilled by the spirited competition both on the floor and on the phone between mainland Chinese and Hong Kong collectors for coveted lots by celebrated modern and 20th century Chinese artists. It is clear that we are still in the midst of a solid and buoyant market for fresh works with established provenance. Bonhams is determined to be a leader in bringing exceptional paintings and fine art sourced from our numerous offices around the world to the Hong Kong market,” commented Meilin Wang, head of Chinese Paintings and Contemporary Asian Art in Hong Kong.

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