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Sotheby's Hong Kong to hold Contemporary Asian Art Spring Sale 2013 on 5 April
A security guard stands next to part of a reproduction of the art work "International Blue" by Chinese artist Liu Ye, 1964, the original acrylic and oil on canvas, valued at 1.55 to 2.58 million USD, on display for the Sotheby's Spring Sale 2013 in Hong Kong on April 2, 2013. Sotheby's are holding their spring Spring sale from April 3 to 8, 2013 offering approximately 3,500 lots estimated in excess of 210 million USD (1.7 billion HKD), according to the auction house.
HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong will hold its Contemporary Asian Art Spring Sale 2013 on 5 April at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, following the sale of private collection of You Are Not Alone - Yoshitomo Nara Works from the Kurokochi Collection and In Transition – The Didier Hirsch Collection of Contemporary Chinese Art from The 1990s, presenting 110 lots of meticulously selected contemporary Asian works. Estimated to fetch in excess of HK$140 million / US$13.3 million*, the auction this season underlines works of great historical importance by prominent contemporary Chinese artists, such as Fang Lijun, Liu Wei (b. 1965), Liu Ye and Zeng Fanzhi. Young Chinese artists including Jia Aili and Liu Wei (b.1972) along with a series of Pumpkin works by contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, will also be offered. The Hong Kong Artists Section will showcase Hong Kong creative forces and their works under the influence of urbanisation, globalisation and the intersection of Chinese and Western culture.

Evelyn Lin, Sotheby’s Head of Contemporary Asian Art, said, “We are honoured to present a group of important contemporary Asian works, including Chinese artist Fang Lijun’s important 1990-1991 painting – Series 1, No. 4, worthy for their scholarly and collecting value to commemorate Sotheby’s 40th Anniversary in Asia. Sotheby’s exceptionally curated Contemporary Asian Art auctions have been well received by collectors, which strengthen our forerunning status in the region. This season, we continue to introduce special sections devoted to recent works by emerging mainland Chinese and Hong Kong artists – while the former show the transformation of contemporary Chinese artists through a period of rapid changes, with their focus shifting from political symbolism and social issues to subjective and personal feelings, the latter further signify Sotheby’s commitment to bringing Hong Kong art to the auction realm, following the 100%-sold special section in our Autumn 2012 Sale. Both sections serve to cater to collector’s eclectic taste.”

HIGHLIGHTS
Fang Lijun (b. 1963) Series 1, No. 4 oil on canvas 1990 – 1991 100 x 100 cm (Est. HK$10 – 15 million / US$1.3 – 1.9 million)

Series 1, No. 4 is a rarely seen work by Fang Lijun dating from the artist’s early creative career. In fact, this work marked the inception of Fang’s internationally-renowned bald head icon, which heralded the Cynical Realism movement in the history of contemporary Chinese art. Fang presented three sketches entitled Bald Heads in the groundbreaking 1989 China Avant-Garde Exhibition that garnered attention at home and abroad, subsequently inspiring him to create seven works in Series 1 from 1990 to 1991, in which he employed only black and white, invoking the two-dimensional quality of sketches. In the present Series 1, No. 4, Fang depicts two bald men, one in the foreground and the other in the background: their faces appear to be identical but their exact relationship remains unclear. These human figures with their derisive deportments present a stark and ironic contrast to reality. Individuality is submerged in the crowd and the meaning of independent existence seems to be lost.

Liu Wei (b. 1965) Revolutionary Family Series: Dad with Mum oil on canvas 1991 80.5 x 99.5 cm (Est. HK$ 5 – 8 million / US$ 650,000 – 1.04 million)
Similar to Fang Lijun, Liu Wei is also one of the pioneering artists of Cynical Realism in the 1990s. Upon Liu’s graduation, he spent three years to create Revolutionary Family Series of which Revolutionary Family Series: Invitation to Dinner was sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for HK$17.46 million / US$2.24 million at its Contemporary Asian Art Autumn Sale 2012, achieving World Record For The Artist At Auction. Works from the Revolutionary Family Series are precious for their extreme rarity in the auction market. From the same monumental Series, Dad with Mum on offer this season features the recurring protagonist father figure in military uniform and is intensely autobiographic. Liu Wei's unique artistic style is marked by the work’s expressive and realist compositions, and its cynical implication and true-to-reality style signify his deviance of the official governmental paintings style.

Liu Ye (b. 1964) International Blue (Diptych) acrylic and oil on canvas 2006 210 x 42cm (Est. HK$12 – 20 million / US$1.55 – 2.58 million)
Liu Ye’s International Blue (Diptych) traces its inspiration to French artist Yves Klein’s patented colour - International Klein Blue. The large dimension of the diptych offered is extremely uncommon and fashions a cryptic dream-world. On the left is the character Miffy, appropriated from Dick Bruna by the artist. The figure, wearing an iconic vermillion sweater, stands with its back to the viewer, apparently looking at the yellow square placed in front of its face. On the right is a little girl, a typical character within the artist’s oeuvre. Her perfectly round head projects a sense of naiveté and pure innocence. The girl looks aloof, seemingly unaware of the cobalt blue canvas right by her; perhaps she has no interest in it whatsoever. She stops halfway, looking with a whiff of despondency at Miffy, as if facing a problem head-on. This painting reinforces Liu Ye’s determination and earnestness in querying his own self. The young girl’s eyes are half-open, as if she is about to awake from a beautiful dream, which can be interpreted as a symbol for the end of childhood, therefore shrouding the work with a tinge of sadness.

Zeng Fanzhi (b.1964) Mask Series (Yellow) and Mask Series (Blue) oil on canvas 1998
Measuring 60.3 x 50.4cm each (Each est. HK$3 – 6 million / US$390,000 – 780,000)

This sale includes two landmark works by Zeng Fanzhi from 1998, Mask Series (Yellow) and Mask Series (Blue). Both mark a departure from the artist’s evolution: the backgrounds of these works are perfectly rendered solid colours, and the masks symbolising hypocrisy are transformed into a solid pale grey from the artist’s previous rendering of dotted grey. In Mask Series (Blue), the boy wearing a red scarf holds himself in a stiff posture, his slightly upturned lips is the only sign of expression, while his empty face captures a sense of helplessness and desolation typical of urban life. Mask Series (Yellow) depicts a businessman with an exaggerated smile, broadening a face that is already bloated, matched with a head of slick hair. In these works filled with criticism and irony, Zeng Fanzhi created these masked characters to expose the attitudes of urban dwellers. Hand in hand with a booming economy, urban life gradually erodes individual identity.

Zeng Fanzhi (b.1964) This Land So Rich in Beauty No.1 oil on canvas 2006 249.5 x 329.7cm (Est. HK$7 – 9 million / US$900,000 – 1.15 million)
Right before the millennium, Zeng Fanzhi embarked on a different artistic path, focusing his attention from human figures onto the environment with his Landscape Series, creating an anti-Utopianism set in a barren, uninhabitable topography. This Land So Rich In Beauty No. 1 on offer even includes the figure of Mao Zedong, which is a unique treatment. Not only is Mao portrayed in his iconic jacket, but the lower hem of his garment is caught in the wind, harking back to the legendary painting, Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan. Set in the background is a sky covered by dark clouds, and behind him are wild grass and unkempt shrubbery obscuring the bare trees behind. Mao’s reflection shimmers on the surface of the lake, slightly blurred. Zeng Fanzhi employs exquisite brushstrokes capturing the tradition of Chinese calligraphy, creating a classical mood, yet the lone figure of Mao Zedong injects reality into the entire canvas.

Cai Guo-Qiang (b.1957) Two Lions (Hexaptych) gunpowder on paper mounted on panel 2005 230 x 465cm (Est. HK$4 – 5 million / US$520,000 – 650,000)
Two Lions is a masterpiece of gunpowder on paper that belongs to the body of works exhibited during the solo exhibition Head On installation, at the Deutsche Guggenheim Museum in Berlin in 2006. Remaining as one of the few works still available from the notable solo exhibition, Two Lions comprises six gunpowder works on screens and takes on an animal theme. Similar to Head On, it is certainly a monumental and rare work by the artist. The 9/11 attacks in 2001 had a dramatic impact on Cai Guo-Qiang that led him to use the theme of animal as a way to investigate and reflect upon the effect of 9/11 on mankind. In the composition, one lion is seen perpetrated by arrows when leaping across the top of the work, while the other has its back facing the viewer, silently viewing the suffering of its companion. Two Lions contains a metaphor of heroism and explicit violence caused by mankind in nature.

Yayoi Kusama (b.1929) Pumpkin acrylic on canvas 1992 131 x 163cm Est. HK$4.5 – 5 million / US$590,000 – 650,000)
Pumpkin was painted in 1992, a year before Yayoi Kusama’s participation in the 1993 Venice Biennale. Pumpkin is regarded as a self-portrayal of Kusama and one of the most ubiquitous motifs in her works. According to the artist, her initial fascination with the pumpkin was originated from her childhood hallucinatory experience in her grandfather’s planting field. The square contours of the pumpkin in this comparatively large scale
Pumpkin remains the artist’s favourite element in her acrylic paintings. The polka dot and infinity net patterns as seen on the body of the pumpkin and the background present subtle hints of growth and proliferation, and more importantly, pinpoints the concept at the core of Kusama’s works: infinite repetition, displaying a linkage with the artist’s own obsessive interest in the uncanniness and strangeness of nature.

Contemporary Young Chinese Artists
Jia Aili (b.1978) February Talk-Past (Bed) oil on canvas 2006 300 x 500cm (Est. HK$2.8 – 3.5 million / US$360,000 – 450,000)

Jia Aili is a representative of the new generation of Chinese artists, his paintings focusing on the psychological aspects of landscapes, delving into philosophical questions such as existence and alienation. At the 2012 Sotheby’s Hong Kong Spring Sale, Jia’s It’s Not Only You Who is Pale (triptych) was sold for HK$6.62 million / US$850,000, achieving World Record For The Artist At Auction. February Talk-Past (Bed) offered this season originates from the artist’s Wasteland Series in 2007 during his period in Shenyang. The canvas depicts a landscape marked by endless desolation, filled with contrast and contradiction. Jia uses intensely expressive brushstrokes to capture such a ruined locale, the sky treated as a flat surface. At the edge of the horizon where earth meets sky, a bed sends out streams of smoke, adding a whiff of grey to the sky. This triptych is one of the grandest works from Jia’s early period, measuring about five metres long and three metres high, a testament to the young artist’s prowess in creating a work of large dimension.

Li Wei (b.1972) Purple Air VI, No.1 (Triptych) oil on canvas 2007 280 x 540 cm (Est. HK$1.6 – 2.4 million / 200,000 – 310,000)
Beginning in 2006, Liu Wei created a series of oil paintings entitled Purple Air. This Purple Ai VI, No. 1, which measures 5.5 metres in length, has been included in the China Welcomes You exhibition at the Kunsthaus Graz am Landesmuseum Joanneum in Austria. There is no trace of brushwork on this canvas because the artist employed computer technology in the entire execution of the work. The main structure is dominated by a grey shade with innumerable vertical lines closely packed together. Apart from the analogy of high-risers typical of Chinese cities, it also seemingly evokes data and pixels typical of the virtual world. Liu Wei is a native of Beijing; through his works we see the capital city that is close to his heart, where reality and the virtual world intermingle together as witness to China’s urbanisation.

Contemporary Hong Kong Artists
At the forefront of globalisation and the crossroad between Chinese and Western culture, artists in Hong Kong display their vital creativity in every corner of the city. Their works are emblematic to the pace development in the city and show insights and unique perspectives on issues such as cultural interaction and globalisation.

Tsang Chui Mei (b.1972) Shattered acrylic on canvas mounted on board 2013 183 x 122cm (Est. HK$60,000 – 80,000 / US$7,800 – 10,400)
A graduate at the Fine Arts Department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Tsang Chui Mei has devoted her artistic energies to painting. Her uniquely feminine touch fills her canvases with emotional sentiments and a fragile quality. Shattered combines aesthetic attributes of China and the West; while an orange tinge is revealed underneath a green background, the composition is distinguished by stylistic elements of Chinese traditional landscape paintings. White triangular shaped snowflakes also dominate the entire painting along with mountain ranges and birds, and poetry exudes from the entire work.

Tsang Tsou Choi (King of Kowloon) ( 1920-2007) Calligraphy on Red Paper ink on paper 2004 126 x 61.5 cm (Est.HK$60,000 – 80,000 / US$7,800 – 10,400)
Self-proclaimed “King of Kowloon” Tsang Tsou Choi wielded his traditional Chinese brush on bridges, electric switch boxes and postboxes in Hong Kong, writing out his genealogy in calligraphy. This manner of expression - tinged with a sense of compulsiveness - shines a light on the city under colonial governorship during a time when people longed for a cultural identity. Over half a lifetime of graffiti has made Tsang the first-ever Hong Kong artist invited to participate in the Venice Biennale in 2003. Tsang’s Calligraphy on Red Paper hails from Lunar New Year 2004, written on red paper, subverts the conventional significance of Spring Festival diptychs. It is a rare and unusual work indeed.

Kevin Fung (Fung Lik Yan) (b.1964) Forgotten Stories of the City (set of three) oil on wood 2013 155 x 20 x 18cm each (Est. HK$200,000 – 300,000 / US$ 25,800 – 38,700)
Hong Kong sculptor Kevin Fung has created many public artworks that have been exhibited in numerous local venues. Forgotten Stories of the City is an extension of his well-known Roof series. The sculptures extend vertically from Chinese tenements at the bottom of tree trunks, expressing Hong Kong people’s longing for amenable living space. In Fung’s sculptures, human figures are miniscule, and provide viewers a mighty perspective from the above. Fung deliberately retains his rough blade work, accentuating the blurring of the individual self in a rapidly changing urban environment.



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April 3, 2013

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