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Sotheby's HK to offer contemporary Chinese masterworks from the Ullens Collection
Fang Lijun (b. 1963)’s Series 2 No. 4, 1992, oil on canvas, 200 x 200 cm, est. HK$25 – 35 million / US$3.2 – 4.5 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- This Autumn, Sotheby’s Hong Kong will present a remarkable group of contemporary Chinese masterpieces from the esteemed Ullens Collection. These museum-quality works by renowned artists such as Fang Lijun, Zeng Fanzhi and Zhang Xiaogang have never before appeared at auction. Each considered highly representative of the artists’ oeuvres, together they are an exceptional selection of seminal works which define the early development of contemporary Chinese art. Thirty-seven pieces in total will be separately offered in the Modern and Contemporary Asian Art – Evening Sale and the Contemporary Asian Art Day Sale taking place on 5 and 6 October respectively, with a total estimate of HK$111.5 million / US$14.3 million.

Evelyn Lin, Head of Contemporary Asian Art at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, said: “Following the record-breaking sale of Zeng Fanzhi’s The Last Supper at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in October 2013, we are very proud to be entrusted once again by Baron and Baroness Guy and Myriam Ullens de Schooten with a number of works from their prestigious collection of important contemporary Chinese art pieces. Throughout the past decades, the Ullens couple has established one of the most highly-prized collections of contemporary Chinese art in history. Having long collaborated with the Baron and Baroness, it is Sotheby’s honour to offer these works of great prominence, which presents an unprecedented opportunity for collectors to acquire such exceptional masterpieces.”

Laurence de Failly, Director of the Ullens Foundation, said: “The Ullens Collection is one of the most comprehensive collections of contemporary Chinese art which has been built up over the past 30 years with a focus on supporting young artists. Collecting is a very personal activity and collections are often organic. As is the case with this very special auction, occasionally we sell works to other passionate collectors in order to make new acquisitions.”

The Modern and Contemporary Asian Art – Evening Sale includes six works from the Ullens Collection of unparalleled academic and artistic importance. Amongst these are Fang Lijun’s Series 2 No. 4 (1992), Zeng Fanzhi’s Mask Series No. 4 (1997), Zhang Xiaogang’s Bloodline: Big Family (1995), Yue Minjun’s Happiness (1993), Yu Youhan’s Circle 87-2 (1987), and Wang Xingwei’s Blind (1996).

Fang Lijun (b. 1963), Series 2 No. 4, 1992, oil on canvas, 200 x 200 cm Est. HK$25 – 35 million / US$3.2 – 4.5 million
Fang Lijun's Series 2 No. 4 comes from the most important period of the artist’s career. A group of simply-clad, bald- headed figures dominate the piece, poised in front of a dark and portentous grey sky. Exuding an air of boredom and monotony, and underscoring the social atmosphere of China, the bald men – drawn based on the artist’s own appearance – underscored Cynical Realism, one of the most important contemporary Chinese artistic trends, and is arguably the most important work throughout the artist’s oeuvre. Since the groundbreaking Series 2 was first shown in the Fang Li Jun, Liu Wei Exhibition in 1992, two other works from the series have become permanent additions to museum collections, which highlights the importance of the present piece. Appearing at auction for the first time, Series 2 No. 4’s vast size and its extensive exhibition history in France and Japan have all contributed to the rareness of this brilliant piece, making its debut in the Evening Sale an opportunity not to be missed.

Zeng Fanzhi (b. 1964), Mask Series No. 4 1997, oil on canvas, 169 x 199 cm Est. HK$25 – 30 million / US$3.2 – 3.8 million
Zeng Fanzhi's Mask Series No. 4 is an early work created in 1997, and belongs to the most representative and mature period of the series. One would be hard-pressed to find a Mask work featuring more than three figures, which makes the present Mask Series No. 4 all the more rare, considering that it includes four masked men. The men, in modern dress, are grouped in pairs, with their arms draped across each other’s shoulders, and can be seen walking up to the viewer on a beach. Mask Series No. 4 captures the very essence of the Mask series, revealing the loneliness and anxiety modern Chinese people felt during the economic boom of the nineties.

Yu Youhan (b. 1943), Circle 87-2 1987, acrylic on canvas, 131.5 x 130 cm Est. HK$1.5 – 2.5 million / US$192,000 – 321,000
Circle 87-2, painted in 1987, is one of Shanghai artist Yu Youhan’s earliest and most representative abstract works from his seminal Circle series. Yu was the earliest among contemporary Chinese artists to experiment with Abstraction, and created Circle works between 1985 and 1988. Deeply influenced by the Chinese philosopher Laozi’s teachings, the Circle series is a meditation on Eastern philosophies such as reincarnation, constancy and eternity, and exudes an aura of serenity and celebrates the sublimity of nature. With its black background and white speckles of paint forming a symbolic circle, Yu Youhan’s Circle 87-2 achieves a spiritual realm that is quintessentially Chinese, transcending and elaborating upon the discernibly Western Abstractionist method he has employed.

• Zhang Xiaogang (b. 1958) Bloodline Series: Big Family No. 1 1995 Oil on canvas 99.5 x 130 cm Est. HK$20 – 30 million / US$2.6 – 3.8 million

• Yue Minjun (b. 1962) Happiness 1993 Oil on canvas 181.5 x 249.5 cm Est. HK$9 – 12 million / US$1.2 – 1.5 million

Thirty-one rare works by notable contemporary Chinese artists from the Collection will be presented in the Contemporary Asian Art Day Sale. These works include those by Yu Hong, Gu Dexing, Chen Zhen, Wang Guangyi, Wang Luyan, Xie Nanxing, Liu Wei and Song Haidong, among others.

• Yu Hong (b. 1966) Young Pioneers 1990 Acrylic on canvas 138 x 184 cm HK$700,000 – 900,000 / US$90,000 – 115,000

• Wang Guangyi (b. 1957) Visa 1998 Oil on canvas 150 x 150 cm HK$800,000 – 1 million / US$103,000 – 128,000

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