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Sotheby's Hong Kong Announces Spring 2008 Sales
The Forbidden City by Guo Bochuan (Kuo Po-ch’uan; 1901 – 1974) (estimate HK$30-40 million). © Sotheby's Images.

HONG KONG.-Sotheby’s Hong Kong is proud to announce that its Spring Sales 2008 will be held at the Grand Hall of the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre from 8th to 11th April 2008. In addition to the long-established sales of Chinese classical, modern and contemporary paintings, Chinese works of art, jewellery as well as watches, Sotheby’s will, for the first time, hold the Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings sale in Hong Kong.

Over 1,400 lots with an estimated value in excess of HK$1.3 billion will be showcased during travelling exhibitions in Asia and New York in March, followed by a public exhibition held in Hong Kong from 5th to 7th April 2008.

Mr. Kevin Ching, Chief Executive Officer, Sotheby’s Asia, said, “Following on from Sotheby’s Hong Kong’s remarkable record-breaking performance in 2007, we shall be offering in the forthcoming April Spring sales a strong and exceptional line-up of objects which are extraordinary in terms of both their freshness to the market as well as their superb craftsmanship.”

Mr. Ching continued, “In addition, for the first time, Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings will also be sold in Hong Kong in April as a new category after its relocation from Singapore. This is consistent with our worldwide strategy of ‘sourcing globally and selling centrally’, thereby ensuring even greater international exposure and success for Southeast Asian Paintings.”


Following the successful achievement of the new sale record in autumn 2007 in Hong Kong, the forthcoming Sale of Contemporary Chinese Art will again bring to the market important works by many of the renowned Chinese contemporary artists in the field. The total pre-sale estimate for the series over 270 total lots stands at HK$250 million.

The sale is highlighted by the exceptional Battlefield Realism: The Eighteen Arhats by Liu Xiaodong (b. 1963) (estimate upon request), one of the most prominent neo-realist Chinese contemporary artists. This large-scale work consists of nine pairs of 200 by 100 cm paintings each juxtaposing which pair a Taiwanese soldier with a soldier from mainland China. This monumental group of paintings represents the artist’s profound response to a sensitive issue: China’s relations across the Taiwan Strait. Within Liu’s entire oeuvre, this is the only work that directly addresses political issues.

Battlefield Realism: The Eighteen Arhats is bold statement by the artist, standing in contrast to his usual non-judgmental and even impersonal approach. It’s a powerful indictment of the present nationalistic controversy raging across the Taiwan Strait. “In art, it is easier to put them (the soldiers from Taiwan and Mainland China) together, to have them collaborate. I was also trying to show that they are not so different, they are like brothers.” he says.

The piece was executed in 2004 for the “Bunker Museum of Contemporary Art – 18 Solo Exhibitions” curated by Cai Guo-Qiang, another notable Chinese contemporary artist. The museum is on Kinmen (Quemoy), a small archipelago in the Taiwan Strait controlled by Taiwan, once the location of fierce fighting between Taiwan and the mainland. Cai invited 18 Chinese artists from Taiwan and mainland China to exhibit their works of art in one of the bunkers, and this present lot was one of them. Liu spent three weeks in the soldiers’ barracks on both sides of the Strait, portraying nine soldiers from each side, and establishing their names and nationalities despite the fact that it was difficult to distinguish one from another. Liu thus successfully transgresses and blurs the border between mainland China and Taiwan, with the clear message: beyond nationality and politics, all humans are the same. Liu affirms the essential universality of humanity.

The sale also features another remarkable painting The Forbidden City by Guo Bochuan (Kuo Po-ch’uan; 1901 – 1974) (estimate HK$30-40 million), an important Chinese artist from Taiwan. Executed in 1946 during the artist’s stay in Beijing well before the establishment of the People’s Republic of China when Western aesthetics and philosophy were more prominent, the present lot is a true rarity, a gem: one of the few paintings dealing with this subject matter that survived the Cultural Revolution and the biggest of its kind in Guo’s oeuvre.

Guo’s twelve years in Beijing were the most significant phase of his artistic career. Here he combined the spirit of Chinese painting with Western painting techniques, and was greatly influenced by his intimate friend from Beijing, Ryuzaburo Umehara, a student of Renoir. They often went sketching together, captivated by the beauty of Chinese architecture and the magnificence of the Forbidden City. This gradually became the inspiration behind a series of important works featuring Beijing.

The painting is a vista from a vantage point in the renowned Jingshan Park while the strikingly coloured roof tiles of the palace are rendered in shades of flaming red, textured by Guo’s unique calligraphic brushstrokes. The Forbidden City is resplendent in light hues, like in an opaque watercolour. This is a strikingly refreshing and yet traditionally majestic view of the palace. The rhythm of the short brushstrokes is a vivid testament the influence of Chinese calligraphy, the distinctive Chinese spirit so redolent in Guo’s art.

Highlighting the Indo-European oeuvres is a long-lost work by Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias (1904-1957), Latin America’s most influential artist in the Southeast Asian region. The present gouache on paper version of Balinese Fishermen with Outrigger (est. HK$700,000-1.1 million) was last known to have been illustrated in a 1937 edition of Life magazine (“Mexican Covarrubias in Dutch Bali”) and whose whereabouts were henceforth unknown. Covarrubias and his wife travelled twice to Bali and its surrounding islands in 1930s, staying for extended periods; the strong influence of Balinese culture and society on both his artistic and anthropological work cannot be doubted. As such, it is an extremely exciting discovery; Covarrubias’ exceedingly rare Balinese works are highly coveted and Sotheby’s is delighted to be able to showcase this magnificent work.

Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès’ (1880-1958) Temple de Bancal (Temple of Bancal; est. HK$1.9–2.75 million) belongs to a series of paintings that the Belgian Impressionist executed, the one to be offered in our rooms numbered and titled on the reverse ‘Nr. 20 Temple de Bancal’ depicting a traditional Balinese offering ceremony called banten. The gentle hues of Temple de Bancal are somewhat of a rarity in Le Mayeur’s canvasses of luscious and vivid reds, greens and oranges showing his home and his love Ni Pollok, dressed in her striking kaïns. The exquisite colours in this oil on canvas, subdued and yet at the same time, strikingly captivating capture a scene of Balinese contemporary life – a female priest (pedanda istri) sprinkles holy water upon four women; a group of elegantly-clad women proceed towards the temple carrying upon their heads their offerings for the gods; four men challenge their fighting cocks to a battle in the village wantilan (battleground). The natural elegance and sensual movement of the women’s curves in contrast to the men’s physical squatting is typical of both Le Mayeur’s and the Balinese manner. Boasting an excellent provenance, Temple de Bancal was acquired directly from the artist by the father of the present owner and exhibited in Delft at the Museum Nusantara from 30 March – 27 August 2006.

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