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Sotheby's Hong Kong announces 20th Century Chinese Art Autumn Sale 2013 on 5 October
Chu Teh-Chun’s (b. 1920) Vue en songes to be offered at Sotheby’s Hong Kong 40th Anniversary Evening Sale,

1995 – 2003, oil on canvas, 199.7 x 250.2 cm, est. HK$8 – 12 million / US$1 – 1.5 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong Autumn Sale 2013 will take place from 4 to 8 October at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Focusing on the works by Chinese artists living in Paris, the 20th Century Chinese Art category will present a line-up of works from important private collections from around the world in two sales - 25 important works by such modern Chinese artists as Chu Teh-Chun, Chen Yifei, Wang Yidong, Pan Yuliang, etc will be featured at Sotheby’s Hong Kong 40th Anniversary Evening Sale on 5 October. The highlight will be a remarkable group of seven museum-quality works by modern Chinese masters from A Distinguished Private Collection, featuring seminal works by Zao Wou-ki, Sanyu and Wu Guanzhong, most of which will appear for the first time at auction or after a long absence from the market. The 20th Century Chinese Art Day Sale taking place on 6 October will also present over 140 exceptional works by renowned modern Chinese artists, including a specially-curated section, ‘The Art of Paper’, on modern works on paper. The two sales together will offer over 160 lots estimated in excess of HK$480 million / US$62 million*. Selected highlights will be showcased in Asia travelling exhibitions this month.

Sylvie Chen, Head of Sotheby’s 20th Century Chinese Art Department, said: “The 20th Century Chinese Art sale this season will introduce works by Chinese artists living in Paris, including Wu Guanzhong, Zao Wou-ki, Sanyu and Chu Teh-Chun, among others, in two sales on 5 October (Evening Sale) and 6 October (Day Sale), of which the works were created at seminal moments in the artists’ respective careers. The specially-curated section, ‘The Art of Paper’, highlights the diversity of artistic output by modern Chinese artists, offering great documentation value. It is also worth noting that the works by Hee Hon-Chew and David Wu Ject-key – Chinese artists who developed their career in the United States – will be on offer again this season, following the successful sales of their works in Spring 2013 and Autumn 2012 respectively. As we celebrate Sotheby’s 40 years in Asia, the upcoming sale will undoubtedly provide an outstanding buying opportunity for discerning collectors.”

In addition to the offering from A Distinguished Private Collection in the Evening Sale, important paintings in oil by Chu Teh-Chun and Sanyu will also be featured.

Chu Teh-Chun (b. 1920), Vue en songes, 1995 – 2003, oil on canvas, 199.7 x 250.2 cm. Est. HK$8 – 12 million / US$1 – 1.5 million
Chu Teh-Chun summoned great courage in the 1990s to tackle large-format paintings. The completion of Vue en songes, which took eight years long, coincided with a glorious chapter in Chu’s career, during which he became the first Chinese member of l’Academie des Beaux-Arts de France in 1999. Delineated in this work is a light source, its brightness freely spreading out in all directions like waves in a vast ocean. Administering the large canvas with a long-handle paint brush, colour pigments are forcefully applied to transform them into dots, upward and downward strokes and compressed colour portions, in alignment with Western aesthetic ideals.

Sanyu (1901 – 1966), Horse Grazing, 1950s, oil on cardboard mounted on board, 33 x 40.9 cm. Est. HK$7.5 – 9 million / US$960,000 – 1.2 million
To Sanyu, horses brought back memories of his father and wife. Among his animal-themed paintings, it is the portrayal of equine creatures that provided him an apt expression of his inner feelings. In Horse Grazing, a lone horse is seen feeding on waterweeds, the vast expanse of open plains around it serving as a metaphor for the artist’s enlightened worldview, informed by age and sweeping changes to the Parisian art scene in the 1950s. The stretch of grassland is painted in green with subtle variations in colour tones, while the white lines across it seem to echo the concept of void space from traditional Chinese paintings, as well as the oriental antler-shaped branches from the artist’s ‘flower-and-vase’ themed paintings.

A Distinguished Private Collection
A remarkable group of seven museum-quality works by modern Chinese masters from A Distinguished Private Collection will be the highlight of the Evening Sale. These highly important paintings in oil by Sanyu, Zao Wou-ki and Wu Guanzhong – widely recognised as the most sought-after artists in modern Chinese art today – were created at seminal moments in their respective artistic careers. All of the works have been exhibited at major art institutions or museum exhibitions and will appear for the first time at auction or after a long absence from the market. Estimated at over HK$211 million / US$27.1 million, the group of seven works provides an outstanding collecting opportunity for discerning collectors.


Wu Guanzhong (1919 – 2010), Lotus Flowers, 1973, oil on canvas, 60.5 x 50 cm. Est. HK$6 – 8 million / US$769,000 – 1 million

The cover lot so the Day Sale, Lotus Flowers, represents one of Wu Guanzhong’s earliest attempts at depicting flowers. As opposed to the 1980s and 1990s where Wu created both ink and oil paintings in parallel, this work was created in 1973 when Wu’s output was still dominated by paintings in oil in the 1970s. Lotus Flowers bears testament to the painter’s efforts to overcome a low point in life and scale new heights of artistry in this medium. None of the lotuses from the painting are in full bloom; except for a few plants in the front, almost all the lotus buds featured are overshadowed by the lush foliage surrounding them. Wu deliberately omits scenic depictions to focus viewers’ attention solely on the flowers and leaves. As a focal point, a lotus bud is prominently featured in the middle to impart symmetry to the work, resulting in both the painting’s left and right portions looking perfectly balanced, which also brings a sense of stability and tranquility experienced to the viewers.

Zao Wou-Ki (1920 – 2013), 2.6.70, 1970, oil on canvas, 94.6 x 104.3 cm. Est. HK$8 – 12 million / US$1 – 1.5 million
Zao Wou-ki’s 2.6.70 was painted at the cusp of the 1960s and 1970s. In this robust and mature work, the universe’s infiniteness is fully exposed through powerful brushwork, a legacy of the artist’s breathtaking style from the 1960s, to unveil a state of artistic magnificence. Forces of nature seem to emanate from the tip of his paintbrush, flowing smoothly in a confluence of cobalt blue, ultramarine, indigo and crystal hues, in which dark and lighter tones interact. Dynamic motions depicted in the painting seem perpetuated not just horizontally and vertically, but also in circular swirls that match the strong colours applied. Since the 1970s, Zao Wou-ki had boldly embraced the art of traditional Chinese landscapes in his exploration of the universe, with its formlessness and natural forces. Lyricism and philosophical reflections are also woven into the abstract worlds he conjured up.

Chu Teh-Chun (b. 1920), Composition No. 297, 1968, oil on canvas, 64 x 91 cm. Est. HK$4.8 – 6 million / US$615,000 – 769,000
In the 1960s, Chu Teh-Chun drew on his deep foundation in Chinese art for the abstract works he created. In this endeavor, he developed a distinct painterly style, based on the expressiveness of his practiced calligraphy combined with an acute sensitivity to natural landscape. Conveying a sense of gravitas, Composition No.297 is made prominent by the depiction of a triangular shaped mountain. In this scene, a cascade of bright yellow colours gushes forth like a river of gold, moving sideways as though to lengthen the canvas width. The artist’s penchant for ink painting is also evident from the dark, oppressive colours used, juxtaposed with the bright and rich tones inspired by his upbringing in Western aesthetics. The contrast not only heightens the painting’s visual impact dramatically, but also forebodes Chu’s pursuit of light and shadow techniques in his future works.

Yun Gee (1906 – 1963), Windmill, circa 1933 – 1936, oil on canvas, 41.2 x 50.7 cm. Est. HK$600,000 – 800,000 / US$77,000 – 103,000
Yun Gee was considered in the United States academia as the pioneer in the development of modern art in the West coast. The present work Windmill was painted by the artist during the Great Depression of the United States in the 1930s. Influenced by the Ecole de Paris movement, his paintings from the New York Period address the nuances of urban life and the natural landscape. But with the onset of difficulties in the societal environment and his personal life, Yun Gee’s use of intense colours became inevitably tinged with melancholy. Windmill reveals a leisurely ambience, which melds comfortably with the sense of abandon that one acquires in a distant land, where the Dutch-style windmill depicts a European-like small town landscape. Brimming with Ecole de Paris overtones, the painting is most likely set in a villa district on the fringe of New York City, where he often took inspiration for his sketches. It was during one of the leisurely trips he undertook that this painting was accomplished.

Works by Chinese Artists Living In The United States

Hee Hon-Chew (1905 – 1993), Chinese Junk of Qing Dynasty, oil on canvas mounted on board, 90.7 x 38cm. Est. HK160,000 – 250,000 / US$21,000 – 32,000

Following the success of the 100%-sold special series of works by Hee Hon-Chew in Spring 2013, Sotheby’s Hong Kong will present this season Chinese Junk of Qing Dynasty, a selected work by the artist who developed his career in the United States. Hee Hon-Chew spent much of his life living abroad. Despite this, the artist still retained strong feelings for his native hometown, inspiring him to introduce Chinese art to his host country, albeit with a contemporary touch. Chinese Junk of Qing Dynasty describes the epic tale of a group of ethnic Chinese opening new frontiers far away from home. Presented here as a cultural metaphor, the Chinese junk sails across Pacific Ocean to Hawaii, where its passengers are warmly received by the aboriginal natives with a song-and-dance welcome ritual. The colour tones applied by the artist are distinctly joyful and vibrant, which symbolises the artist’s love for his two hometowns – China and Hawaii. Also featured is a semi-cubist style of composition, where the intersections of mast and mainsail depicted are marked by cube-like forms, with wave-like patterns adorning the background.

David Wu Ject-key (1890 – 1968), Bullfighter, oil on canvas, 51 x 40.4 cm. Est. HK$150,000 – 200,000 / US$19,000 – 26,000
Sotheby’s Hong Kong presented 11 works by David Wu Ject-key in Autumn 2012 will all lots sold. This season, another work by the artist – who was one of the earliest Chinese artists to study abroad in the United States – will be on offered in the Day Sale. Bullfighters have always been a favorite subject with the contemporary Western masters, appearing in some of Manet’s and Picasso’s most outstanding works. David Wu Ject-key was armed with exceptional realist techniques and an impressionist style, and was skilled at evoking the spirit, personality and status of the characters he portrayed. Offering a tribute to the contemporary masters in Bullfighter, the artist delineates the protagonist’s image through the clever use of lighting and body language portrayals. The bullfighter appears sombre with a distant look in his eyes that inspire awe and respect, demonstrating the artist’s acute observation and meticulous composition skills.

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