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Sotheby's Hong Kong to hold 20th Century Chinese Art Autumn Sale 2012 on 7 October
Liao Chi-Chun’s legendary Scenery In Yehliu to be unveiled for the first time.
HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong 20th Century Chinese Art Autumn Sale 2012 will be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on the 7th October 2012. Following last season’s success, the meticulously curated sale this Autumn will continue to trace the ebb and flow of Chinese art history, as we offer more than 150 lots estimated over HK$140 million / US$17.9 million.* Works from the most exclusive private collections from Europe, America as well as Asia will be on offer, including many that are completely fresh to the market: from Liao Chi-Chun’s most celebrated masterpiece, Scenery in Yehliu, Sanyu’s Potted Chrysanthemums in full blossom, to the wintry scenes in its glistening splendor as seen in Chu Teh-Chun’s Complexité Hivernale. Not to be missed are rarely seen works by the pioneers of Chinese modernism including Zao Wou-Ki, Wu Guanzhong and Wang Huaiqing, which will also be on offer.

Sylvie Chen, Head of Sotheby’s 20th Century Chinese Art Department, said: “Sotheby’s is most honoured to offer an exceptional and classic array of enduring, noble works by modern Chinese masters, in the midst of the flourishing development of the 20th century Chinese art market. Our international team of experts together with the continued support from private collectors have allowed us to assemble the most comprehensive and exciting range of chef-d’oeuvre from the likes of Liao Chi-Chun, Sanyu, Zao Wou-Ki, Wu Guanzhong, Wang Huaiqing and more. The two special highlight sections: Cover Story, centering on the art of Wu Dayu, China’s master of abstract expressionism, and Overseas Legacy, which brings the work of David Wu Ject-key to the fore, will offer great opportunities for our collectors to rediscover and unearth these two formerly hidden gems from a contextual, art historical perspective.”

Liao Chi-Chun’s Legendary Scenery In Yehliu To Be Unveiled For The First Time
Scenery in Yehliu (Est. HK$18 – 28 million / US$2.3 – 3.6 million) is one of the most ground-breaking masterpieces by the ’Colour Magician’ Liao Chi-Chun, created at the height of the prime time of his artistic prowess in the 1960s. At heart a committed student of chromatology, Liao showcased his aptitude with his bold use of multifarious and contrasting hues in depicting Taiwan’s tranquil North Eastern coastline. An interweaving tapestry of vibrant tones is applied and the audience is at once transfixed by the vivid specks brimming with vivacity. The artist’s commanding wield of his paintbrush, complemented by the mellow, clement colour tones, offer altogether an impassioned display of the island terrain of subtropical Taiwan in its year-round reign of sunshine. The use of rosy hues is a classic aesthetic characteristic of the artist’s works in the 1960s, whilst the overwhelming serenity of the painting alludes to the thriving atmosphere of the island at the time, giving the painting an extra veneer of sentimental and symbolic value.

The painting is the epitome of Liao Chi-Chun’s artistic achievement: the largest work by the artist to date preserved in excellent condition in the hands of an important Asian private collector over the past four decades. The painting’s debut in the market is set to stir up interest of our collectors.

Sanyu’s Potted Chrysanthemums – A Splendid Beauty and A Treasured Classic
Potted Chrysanthemums (Est. HK$20 – 30 million / US$2.6 – 3.8 million) is Sanyu’s pièce de résistance of the 1950s: painted with oil paint, a Western medium, through his artistic conception based on the bravura of the East, this is well and truly a painting where ‘East meets West’. The painting boasts the talent and savvy of Sanyu with its unique constellation of cultural attributes: encompassing the artistic sentiments of magnanimity, transcendence and erudition, it accomplishes the perfect matrimony of traditional culture and Modernism. This is, to say the least, an awe-inspiring marvel in the history of Chinese art. Sanyu applied Eastern skills and aesthetics to depict a common Western subject-matter: using the apparatus and agenda of Western art, the present example expresses the traditional Chinese spirit. Although harnessing Western oil paint as raw material, and Western still-life as the chief subject, Sanyu replaces his usual muted, unassuming style with a riot of vivacious colours, from its background to its subject-theme. The burgeoning chrysanthemums burst forth from its blue and white jardinière, presenting a kaleidoscopic of colours: the scintillating white, the lustrous navy, the blushing orange-red, the rich chrome-yellow and the dappled green, all contribute to a scene of festivity and joyous celebration.

Highlights of Chinese Abstract Expressionism - Zao Wou-Ki and Chu Teh-Chun
This sale also offers three of Zao Wou-Ki’s representative pieces dating from the 1950s to the 1960s. Among them, 22.3.61 (Est. HK$9.8 – 16 million / US$1.3 – 2 million) makes its debut on the market in this sale. Created at the height of Zao’s international fame and abstract prowess in 1961, this masterpiece was later acquired by a French collector in Paris in the 1960s. A professor in Philosophy from a renowned university in the United States, the French collector acquired the work directly from Zao after being introduced to the artist by his friend, Henri Cazer. A highly desirable work of art created at the pinnacle of Zao’s artistic career in abstract art, the present example has not been seen before for the past four decades despite being included in many of Zao’s important scriptures.

Using cobalt-blue as the primary colour, as well as vaporous jet-black and white hues, this work recreates the epic scenes akin to the landscape paintings of the Song and Yuan dynasties. The entwining colours of blue, white and black set the painting ablaze: its dynamism conjures up the mythical scenes of Ancient Greece, when Zeus (God of the Sky), Hades (God of the Dead) and Poseidon (God of the Sea) crossed paths in an earth-shattering, momentous encounter. Be it its portrayal of the sorcerous energy of the universe, or its arresting depiction of the powerful element ‘water’ in nature, this painting is a tour de force that will fire the imagination of any observer.

Chu Teh-Chun’s Complexité Hivernale (Est. HK$10 - 16 million / US$1.2 – 2 million) is a classic belonging to the Lyrical Abstraction artist’s impassioned Snow Scene series. Completed in 1985, Chu espouses the distinctive ‘Pollock’s technique’ (‘drip and splash’) to evoke the poignant, rousing awe of observing the cascading snow. Using lyrical and gallant brushstrokes akin to Chinese Calligraphy, Chu synchronizes a splattered-ink (pomo) technique of ‘dripping, splashing, slashing and daubing’ with rhythmic body movement and breathing, luridly creating an ornately-textured wintry scene. The stately mountains shod in snow ascend from the vertically-aligned canvas in interlocking folds; the dense, bleached snow glisten in the shimmering, white light; the frosty, bitter cold is adorned with snowflakes which pirouette the sky. The ethereal purple hues of the painting are alluring, lending the painting an undeniably tranquilizing effect. This work is no doubt Chu’s cordial invitation to the audience: to venture with him between heaven and earth.

Wang Huaiqing’s Opus, Nest of the Man – 3 Nest of the Man – 3 (Est. HK$5.8 – 7.8 million / US$744,000 – 1 million) is a work completed in 1990 by one of the most outstanding Chinese artists, Wang Huaiqing. With the use of bold black, refined lines and the colour block as his basic topography, Wang depicts a corner of a housing community, where a window hangs centrally, with pillars on each of its side. The ostensible simplicity of the composition, however, conceals the artist’s wit, thought and dexterity, all of which are manifest in this work.

The composition is highly unorthodox: take the intrepid, black lines as an example: far from being conspicuous straight lines, they are all unique and inimitable. Every brushstroke seemingly evokes the rhythm and flux of the heartbeat, altogether contributing to a magnetic structural space. Similarly, the central window may be interpreted as an allusion to Ancient Chinese Zhong Yong (‘Doctrine of the Mean’). Apart from the tinted black, the white backdrop is far from au naturel: created with techniques used to create a pastiche, the background peels in contrast with the delicate, variable brown-yellow colour, blotted with age, with its ornately textured surface deftly evocative of a nostalgic yearning of the bygone days. With every flick of his brush, onlookers are, at the blink of an eye, taken back to a distant, uninhabited space that is steeped in history. In a vast expanse where all sounds are hushed, the black, wooden pillars stand unwaveringly, as if they are sentient carriers of life. The tender daylight trickles in from the window slits, bringing warmth to this humble home, as one recollects, envisages and laments about the past. As a seamless hybrid work of the Chinese artistic, visual realm and Western abstract art, Wang’s painting assumes distinctive art-historical and Eastern literati significance.

A Tribute To Wu Dayu - Forerunner Of Chinese Abstract Expressionism
Headlining the Cover Story section of the Autumn Sale is Chinese Abstract Expressionist artist, Wu Dayu. Wu was of the first-generation artists who studied art abroad in France, and upon his return to China, he started teaching in the National Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou, the cradle of Chinese modern art. His radical, eliciting method of teaching, compounded with his elaborately abstract and expressionist art, earned him many zealous followers. Known for his tightly organised composition, Wu is especially celebrated for his Oriental-flavored Beijing Opera and Colour Rhymes series, which makes use of geometrical segmentation as well as distinctive yellow and Prussian blue hues. Abandoning religious, figurative depiction of his subjects, his work meditates on the principles of Abstract Expressionism, with its extemporaneity seen as avant-garde in his epoch. Having lived a troubled life with limited resources, Wu’s paintings are often constrained in format and size. Nevertheless, he makes the most of his limited canvas with a style of painting that is immediate and heart-felt, while vitality and authenticity always emanate through his charmingly audacious works. In pertaining to the fundamentals of Abstract Expressionism, and in dedicating his art to the unequivocal expression of beauty, Wu’s passion and his endless quest for aestheticism is one that will touch the hearts of many.

Sotheby’s is also presenting two of Wu’s outstanding paintings from the 1970s from the collection of the Wall Street legend and philanthropist, Theodore J. Forstmann. They are respectively Untitled - 37 and Untitled – 16. Known for his prodigious, coveted collection comprising the works of European and American contemporary artists from the likes of Pablo Picasso, the late Mr. Forstmann is a mature art collector. This in no doubt also illustrates the tremendous power of Wu Dayu’s creations that breaks traditional ideological conventions and transcends national and ethnic boundaries.

Untitled -37 (Est. HK$3.5 – 5 million / US$448,700 – 640,000) is a rare large-format work by Wu Dayu, measuring at 76 x 53 cm. The painting features the use of geometrical shapes and symbols for its composition: amidst the interlacing brushstrokes, Wu evinces his take on aestheticism that is both rhythmical and poetic. At the centre of the canvas, a human figure with his arms out-stretched can be seen, where he is ostensibly pictured as a circus daredevil treading on thin wire on a unicycle. As an allegory of life, where life imitates art just as art imitates life, the work is expressive of the figure’s docile and sanguine mood in the face of all that may betide.

On a similar note, Untitled -16 (Est. HK$2.5 – 3.5 million / US$320,500 – 448,700) fully exemplifies the aesthetic essence of the Beijing Opera series – with its imposing, powerful brushstrokes and its pulsating use of the colour palette, the painting masks the face of a Beijing operatic character under the fascia of its abstract but animated geometrical composition. It seemingly captures the emotions of life at a glimpse. Both paintings are of great provenance and have been documented in many catalogues, making it an exemplary work collectors are bound to eagerly look forward to.

‘A Fallen Star In The Artist Realm’: David Wu Ject-key
We are also delighted to be especially offering a series of works by the remarkable David Wu Ject-Key, one of the earliest artists to study abroad. Born in Zhongshan, Guangdong to a cultured family of scholars, Wu immigrated to Canada in 1902, studying, respectively, at the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in Montreal, Grand Central School of Art in New York and the Arts Student League, specializing in oil paintings and Western art history. During his time at school, he was particularly active in participating in art events and, upon graduation was recruited as a teacher for his outstanding performance. Wu has been especially known for his impressive portrait and landscape painting: although his works demonstrate the overriding use of Western painting techniques, it is equally redolent of the distinctive flavor and ambience of Chinese art. This sale hopes to revive the artistic life of 13 of his works: complemented by an article written by the artist himself about his artistic aspirations and works at the Hong Kong preview alongside the paintings, we hope to pay homage to Wu’s attention to artistic detail, typified in his paintings that embody characteristics of both the East and the West. With this special session, collectors are certain to embark on a novel voyage of discovery.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium





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