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Sotheby's Hong Kong presents its Contemporary Asian Art Autumn Sale 2013
Liu Ye (b. 1964)’s Sword (2001 – 2002) to be offered in Sotheby’s Hong Kong 40th Anniversary Evening Sale. Acrylic and oil on canvas, 180 x 360 cm, Est. HK$22 – 25 million / US$2.8 – 3.2 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. The Contemporary Asian Art category will present a series of important works in two sales – 19 significant works created during seminal periods of renowned contemporary Chinese and Japanese artists’ careers will be offered at Sotheby’s Hong Kong 40th Anniversary Evening Sale on 5 October, including Zeng Fanzhi’s monumental work The Last Supper (2001), which was created in the most mature period of the artist’s iconic Mask series, Liu Ye’s rare large-format painting Sword, as well as works by Zhang Xiaogang, Liu Wei, Yoshitomo Nara and Yayoi Kusama, many of which will appear for the first time at auction. The Contemporary Asian Art Day Sale taking place on 6 October will present 193 exceptional works by contemporary Asian artists, including two specially-curated sections – Trendsetting New Image which focuses on young contemporary Asian artists, and Insight Within Details which focuses on the spirit of literati painting in contemporary art. Of particular note, a selection of 18 works by Takashi Murakami from an important private collection will be offered for the first time in Asia. These highly collectible lots including acrylic paintings, prints and sculptures will be represented in both the Evening Sale and the Day Sale. The two sales together will offer a total of 212 lots estimated in excess of HK$320 million / US$41 million*.

Evelyn Lin, Sotheby’s Head of Contemporary Asian Art, said, “Contemporary Asian Art achieved outstanding results in Spring Sale 2013, where top prices were paid for works of high quality, while pieces by emerging artists, such as Jia Aili, were favoured by collectors. You Are Not Alone - Yoshitomo Nara Works from the Kurokochi Collection - the world’s first auction of a private collection dedicated to Yoshitomo Nara’s works - also attracted intense bidding by buyers from all over the world, with the majority of the lots commanding prices far above estimates. Following the success from last season and responding to the market’s demand for high-quality contemporary works of art, a line-up of important works will be presented this season, providing a prime collecting opportunity for discerning collectors. The Sale will be led by Zeng Fanzhi’s The Last Supper from the collection of Baron and Baroness Guy and Myriam Ullens de Schooten and Liu Ye’s rare large-format painting Sword. Other important works by renowned contemporary Asian artists such as Zhang Xiaogang, Yayoi Kusama and Yoshitomo Nara will also be on offer. Two specially-curated sections dedicated to introducing the new facets of contemporary art will be presented in the Day Sale on 6 October, namely Trendsetting New Image which focuses on young contemporary Asian artists, and Insight Within Details which focuses on the spirit of literati painting in contemporary art.”

Contemporary Chinese Artists
Liu Ye (b. 1964), Sword, 2001 – 2002, acrylic and oil on canvas, 180 x 360 cm. Est. HK$22 – 25 million / US$2.8 – 3.2 million

The Evening Sale will bring the debut auction appearance of Sword - one of the three large-format works of the same size from the same series by Liu Ye executed between 2001 and 2002. The other two works, namely Smoke and Gun, are now unavailable on the market, in which the former was sold for HK$3.7 million in April 2006 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong – the world auction record for the artist – and is now in private hands, and the latter is currently held in the M+ Sigg Collection in Hong Kong. The spotlight now naturally falls on the present Sword which is inspired by Ang Lee’s award-winning film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and that it resonates a scene of the film where the two female leads posed in a showdown of might and skill. Sword captures the signature surrealist whimsicality that has become tantamount to the artist’s work, while combining in equal parts Western and Chinese influences, allowing this piece to stand out in all of its exceptional rarity. While the style of the painting is intensely Asian and looks back to a strong history of Chinese art, Western styles of shading and shaping are employed to convey such things as the fleeciness of the treetops or the jagged coldness of the blades.

Fang Lijun (b. 1963), 2003 (quadriptych), 2003, oil on canvas, 400 x 175 cm each. Est. HK$8 – 12 million / US$1 – 1.5 million
As one of the first large-format oil paintings to combine four distinctive compositions into a single visual plane, 2003 (quadriptych) is considered to be an extremely unique piece from the early 2000s by Fang, which captures the beginning of the artist’s artistic and philosophical quest in that period. Comparing with works from the same year, 2003 (quadriptych) has successfully departed from the typical focus of the baldheaded figure, instead concentrating heavily on the ambivalent relationship between the hand and ephemeral backgrounds – the multi-conceptual framework as seen in this piece is certainly rare in his later works. At a glance, the overall thematic as well as the compositional structure echo the form of early religious paintings from the West, presenting an allegorical interpretation of life especially through the rendering of the human hand motif. In relation with the synergy within the four panels, the human hand ultimately serves as a reminder of one’s inherent autonomy and freedom in life, referencing Fang’s own attitude towards his artistic pursue.

Zhang Xiaogang (b. 1958), Bloodline: Big Family No. 12, 1996, oil on canvas, 190 x 150 cm. Est. HK$16 – 25 million / US$2.1 – 3.2 million
Bloodline: Big Family No. 12 is one of the earliest paintings that allude to the close relationship the artist has had with his beloved daughter Huanhuan, featuring a rare and personal composition of a father and young daughter together. The painting also showcases the subtle yet crucial aesthetic transition from the early phase of the Bloodline: Big Family series to the later works in Zhang’s career. In Zhang’s works from the 1990s, the image of his mother is frequently found, including the mother and son composition in Bloodline: Big Family No. 13. The birth of his daughter later on thus naturally becomes another important subject matter in his later works. The present Bloodline: Big Family No. 12 is one of the earliest and finest works, not only in Zhang’s Bloodline: Big Family series, but in his entire oeuvre, to speak of this personal father and daughter bond that holds great importance to Zhang himself. Its first appearance at auction will certainly bring intense bidding.

Zeng Fanzhi (b. 1964), Mask Series, 2001, oil on canvas, 220 x 145 cm. Est. HK$20 – 25 million / US$2.6 – 3.2 million
Mask Series, which will appear for the first time at auction, features many symbols that have underscored Zeng’s career, such as the infamous mask, Maoist jacket, engorged head and hands as well as the blank glower of the solitary character. Not only is Mask Series rare due to its large format – a size that does not feature often in the present series – but also a powerful example of the artist’s more mature work. Compared with Zeng’s earlier Mask works in the early 1990s, his works executed towards the end of the 1990s and into the early part of the 21st Century are more refined and controlled, and the present Mask Series is the representative piece of that period. This striking piece is also a curious blend of German Expressionism, Social Realism and Abstract Expressionism.

Contemporary Japanese Artists
Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929), Infinity Nets (quadriptych), 2005, acrylic on canvas, 194 x 130 cm each. Est. HK$6.5 – 8.5 million / US$833,000 – 1.1 million

The Infinity Nets is the earliest and most iconic series that first established Yayoi Kusama’s position in the Western art world. It has also become a fundamental and distinctive visual code within contemporary art discourse today. Produced in 2005, Infinity Nets (quadriptych) is considered to be an exceptionally monumental work from mid-2000s – compared with smaller paintings from the same year, this four-panel work, measuring over 5 metres long, exemplifies the meticulous skill and stamina of Kusama. Featuring a rare colour palette of red and green that showcases a crucial aesthetics transition within the later stage of the series, the current work bridges with the underlying monochromatic aesthetics of the first Infinity Nets paintings the artist created in the late 1950s. Presenting endless repetitions of minute solid red arcs above a layer of acrylic green paint on the vast canvas, the rendering of the acrylic paint found here also reflects an important stylistic move by the artist in the 1980s when she shifted away from using the oil paint medium.

Yoshitomo Nara (b. 1959), Rock'n Roll the Roll, 2009, acrylic on wood,
227 x 301.5 cm. Est. HK$5.5 – 6.5 million / US$705,000 – 833,000

After the millennium, Yoshitomo Nara began to collaborate with architecture and design collective graf on creating a series of small huts within exhibition spaces, exploring beyond both the surface of canvas and small-scale drawings. The large-scale billboard painting Rock’n Roll the Roll not only manifests this breakthrough within the artist’s creative career, but is also a perfect testament to Nara’s love for rock music. Being selected to exhibit at the 2010 exhibition Garden of Painting: Japanese Art of the 00s at the National Museum of Art in Osaka, this work is proven to be a significant piece. Rock’n Roll the Roll fully exemplifies Nara’s skillful attempt in conquering vast surface, while remaining faithful to his own signatory aesthetics at the same time, such as the boldly scrawled slogan and the unique characteristics of Nara’s children image.

Takashi Murakami (b. 1962), The World of Sphere (diptych), 2003, acrylic on canvas mounted on board, 350 x 350cm (overall). Est. HK$16 – 24 million / US$2.1 – 3.1 million. From an important private collection of works by Takashi Murakami, offering for the first time in Asia.
In 2002, Louis Vuitton’s creative director, Marc Jacobs, invited Takashi Murakami to design for the brand’s accessories line. The present The World of Sphere (diptych) is the most iconic painting from the series associated with artist’s collaborative venture with Louis Vuitton. Making its debut appearance at auction, the work is distinctive for taking the artist’s signature “superflat” style to an entirely new level. Superflat, which began as an explorative play on surface versus three-dimensional depth in 2000 at his exhibition of the same title that featured commercial designers from Japan, soon grew into a blurring of lines between fine art and commercial culture. The World of Sphere (diptych), however, is not only a representation of this blurring of boundaries, but functions as a central threshold of merging worlds. This painting was included in the artist’s 2007 retrospective exhibition © MURAKAMI at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Zhang Xiaogang (b. 1958), Private Notes No. 1, 1990, oil on canvas, 84 x 98.6 cm
Est. HK$4.5 – 6.5 million / US$577,000 – 833,000

The Private Notes series consists of five works, which is very limited in quantity and rarely appears on the market. The present Private Notes No.1 is thus especially valuable as the inaugurating work of the series. Based on Zhang Xiaogang’s early painting style and infused with the dark, brooding mood of the Private Notes series, this work expresses the individual’s trepidations and stresses during epochal changes, where the artist reflected on the social movements happened in China at that time. This painting later inspired the artist to create the tremendously important works Chapter of a New Century - Birth of the People's Republic of China No. 1 and Chapter of a New Century -Birth of the People's Republic of China No. 2, of which the latter was sold for HK$52.18 million in October 2010 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong establishing the then auction record for the artist.

Zeng Fanzhi (b. 1964), Mao, 2003, oil on canvas, 200 x 200 cm. Est. HK$4 – 8 million / US$513,000 – 1 million
Mao is a potent example of the development of Zeng Fanzhi’s work following the artist’s Mask series. The outline of Mao Zedong is covered by circular motions, where his visage is a barely recognisable close-up, and requires distance in order to appreciate. This technique was a development by the artist as an extension of the Mask works to his later abstract style, as if the rounded motion he was inflicting on his new characters, such as Mao, was a new take on the act of concealment and veiling he was once fond of. The technique is seen as an important turning point for Zeng, which marked the beginning of his artistic career for the following decade.

Trendsetting New Image
Contemporary Asian art has developed for years in a fully globalised environment, under which the new generation of artists begin to acquire a radically different vision from their predecessors. These artists are turning away from ideology towards the bare aesthetics and mechanics of painting – this return to pure pictoriality symbolises Asian artists’ further emphasis on their individuality and stylistic distinctiveness. Sotheby’s Autumn Sale 2013 will present works by artists from the Greater China region, Japan and Korea, namely Zhang Enli, Jia Aili, Wang Yin, Tomoko Kashiki and Yu Yasuda, etc. - who withhold commentary on sociopolitical topics and grand historical narratives, and instead focus their attention on the canvas and the brush. Never dramatising their cultural identity, they prefer to engage unabashedly in a global dialogue in and of painting, demonstrating a new phase of Contemporary Asian Art.

Insight Within Details
Traditional Chinese culture underwent radical transformations in the 20th century, and so did ink painting, one of its privileged artistic media. For artists of younger generations, medium specificity is not the key in artistic creation; they chose to transcend the inherited understanding of “Chinese painting” and locate an interface between ink and contemporary art. Insofar as contemporary art necessarily reflects on society and life of the moment, it is in fact consonant with the literati painting tradition. The four artists introduced in this section, namely Jiang Ji’an, Peng Wei, Hao Liang and Xu Hualing, have all seized upon gongbi or fine painting tradition as their expressive means, creating new vistas for both Chinese painting and contemporary art with their highly refined technique.

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