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Sotheby's to present Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings Autumn Sale
Lee Man Fong, Fortune and Longevity, 1951, 86 x 260 cm. Estimate: HK$12 million / US$1.54 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong will present its Southeast Asian Paintings Autumn Sale 2012 on 7 October at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The auction will bring to market an exceptionally strong line-up of modern masterpieces, many of them fresh-to-market with an emphasis on impeccable provenance, rarity and quality. Rounded off by some of the finest examples in Contemporary Southeast Asian art, the collection represents the original, the eclectic, the cutting edge, and the timeless. Offering more than 150 works, the sale is expected to fetch in excess of HK$45 million / US$5.8 million*.

MOK Kim Chuan, Sotheby’s Head of Southeast Asian Paintings, said: “This Autumn, Sotheby’s is proud to present a sophisticated array of outstanding works by prominent Southeast Asian modern masters, amassed from prestigious private collections around the world. This attests Sotheby’s leading position in this market, which enables us to source some of the finest properties for auction. Headlining the sale is Lee Man Fong’s Fortune and Longevity, a unique work among Lee’s corpus and a masterpiece that balances the East and the West. No known work by the artist rivals it in its scale, rarity, significance, historical context, as well as creative and technical brilliance. It is an immense privilege for Sotheby’s to be entrusted with such important painting.

Other important modern works by major artists from the region are also worthy of note: from early pieces by Le Pho, rare lacquer works by Pham Hau, paintings from different periods by Fernando Amorsolo, to a rare assemblage of works by the five pioneer Nanyang artists from Singapore, among others. Bringing together works of such calibre in one season is an extremely rare occasion, and the sale is sure to attract active participation by new and established art collectors alike.’’


In April 2010, Sotheby’s Hong Kong presented Lee Man Fong’s (1913 –1988) Bali Life which achieved an impressive HK$25.3 million / US$3.2 million world record for any Southeast Asian painting at auction. This season, Sotheby’s will offer another rare painting by the artist - Fortune and Longevity (expected to fetch in excess of HK$12 million / US$1.54 million. Executed in 1951, during the most pivotal years of the artist’s career, this epic painting (86 x 260 cm) is one of his largest and most exquisitely executed. Extremely rare in Lee Man Fong’s oeuvre, Fortune and Longevity was kept in private hands since its completion and is offered at auction this Autumn for the first time in more than six decades.

Fortune and Longevity is a compelling masterpiece that reaffirms Lee’s contribution and influence as a pioneer Southeast Asian artist who created a brilliant synthesis of Eastern and Western art. The serene depiction of people of different generations feasting and dancing is brought alive by his striking brushstrokes, exhibiting immense technical skill which emulates the fluidity of Chinese ink, but using oil. The painting celebrates peace, prosperity, abundance and good health, expressed through the Chinese calligraphy used by the artist in addition to the auspicious symbols such as the pumpkin – a symbol of prosperity, abundance, good luck spanning generations – and the qi lin, a symbol of good omen, protection, prosperity, success and longevity. It is Lee’s deepest empathy for humanism that imbues the painting with soul, bringing with it the artist’s vision and wishes for a better life for the people.

Among the highlights from Indonesia are two inspiring works by Affandi (1907 – 1990). Executed in 1976, the sensational Self Portrait, Eating Watermelon (Est. HK$1.6 – 2.5 million / US$207,000 – 323,000), rich in colour and texture, is one of the most emotionally-charged works of Affandi’s career. Its particular composition stands apart from most pieces in Affandi’s signature Self Portrait series in that it captures the artist biting into a slice of juicy watermelon that covers the lower part of his face, thus giving it an element of candidness, enthusiasm and immediacy. His method of applying paint onto the canvas by squeezing it directly out of the tube is passionate and distinctive. The vibrant, swirling, seemingly moving impastos of this work echo the vivacity and gusto with which Affandi consumes the luscious ripe watermelon. The raw hunger and emotion it depicts resonates with his intense fervour for painting, and ultimately celebrates his joie de vivre.

Also by Affandi is Ginza (Est. HK$1.2 – 1.8 million / US$155,000 – 233,000). Affandi’s travelling series is one of the most important in his body of work, and he was the only Indonesian artist up to the mid-20th century to travel so extensively around the world and to paint so incessantly what he experienced and observed during these trips. Executed in 1970, this piece records Affandi’s journey to Ginza, the most vibrant district in Tokyo, a place which enabled him to translate the energy and vitality of the urban monuments and lights celebrating the triumph of man. Affandi reveals his fascination with the “modernity” and glamour of grand cities and luminous skyscrapers. Ginza not only serves as a milestone in Affandi’s career but it also articulates his unique expression, fascination, awe and passion for life and perhaps even more significantly, confirms his international standing.

Le Pho’s (1907 – 2001) Mother and Child (Est. HK$780,000 – 1.2 million / US$101,000 – 155,000), executed in the late 30s and early 40s, is an excellent illustration of his expertise with silk painting. Maintaining a balance between Western artistry and Vietnamese soul, Le Pho’s art indicates the unstoppable progress of time and innovation and yet the unchanging yearning for humanism. Le Pho has probed into portrayals of motherhood continually in his oeuvre, but each composition is infused with its own spirit, drawing the viewer’s attention to his articulation, richness and complexity. Layered with themes of divinity, motherhood, hope, Western influence and Indochinese identity, these elements firmly establish Mother and Child as one of Le Pho’s masterpiece works of Vietnamese Modern Art.

Expressing the artist’s interest in social comment, Sekaten 1926 (Est. HK$4.5 – 6.8 million / US$585,000 – 880,000) by Walter Spies (1895 – 1942) is one of a limited number of oil on canvas works by Spies remaining in private hands. There are less than 50 oil works depicting his seminal Indonesian themes, of which twelve were destroyed or their present whereabouts unknown, and 7 are in museums or institutions. The present work’s rarity and unconventional subject matter and composition, truly makes it invaluable.

Gambuh Dancer (Est. HK$5.5 – 6.8 million / US$710,000 – 880,000) by Romualdo F. Locatelli (1905 – 1943) illustrates the best interpretation of painterliness. With broad, energetic brushstrokes, Locatelli conveys a sense of constant movement and skillfully captures the essence of his sitter – a performer of the gambuh, the most archaic dance form in Bali. Executed in 1939, Gambuh Dancer exemplifies a masterwork from Locatelli’s Bali period, which is one of the most liberating and important in the artist’s career. This painting is an important example of Locatelli’s great artistic expression, illustrating a perfect synthesis between his European academic training and the indigenous elements in his new home.

This season, Sotheby’s will present an extraordinary ensemble of important works by the five pioneer Nanyang artists, namely Cheong Soo Pieng, Georgette Chen, Chen Wen Hsi, Liu Kang and Chen Chong Swee, who have played a significant role in shaping the style and philosophy of the artistry in Singapore.

The contemporary section is led by Filipino artist Ronald Ventura (b. 1973)’s The Dive (Est. HK$480,000 – 680,000 / US$62,000 –88,000), in which the artist explored a theme that has always been a constant preoccupation throughout his career, that of preserving a world that is filled of hope for the future generation, a sustainable world for his son, who is his inspiration. This work is also a reflection of the Filipino consciousness the importance of environmental preservation, not only for the present, but also for a world in which there is a tomorrow.

Handiwirman Saputra’s (b. 1975) Tutur Karena, Nelan (Est. HK$680,000 – 880,000 / US$88,000 – 114,000) illustrates the artist’s view of beauty which is sincere and original. Part of the important Tutur Karena series, executed in 2008, this highly conceptual work blurs the boundaries between abstraction and figuration, provoking viewers to associate the strange objects in his paintings with things that are familiar. The name of the series was derived from his cultural roots in Padang and can be understood as a way of saying something without mentioning the thing itself. It juxtaposes the strength of this idea with the sophisticated subtlety of the colours and composition and embodies the quintessence of Handiwirman.

Another highlight in the contemporary section is a powerful painting by Ay Tjoe Christine (b. 1973). The Workers (Est. HK$220,000 – 320,000 / US$28,400 – 41,300) is a key work created in 2010 that bridges two of the most pivotal styles for Ay Tjoe Christine: that of Lama Sabakhthani Club (a series that signaled her spiritual awakening) and Layer (a stylistic breakthrough). Straddling the line between abstraction and figuration as well as strength and fragility is Ay Tjoe’s forté and it could not be expressed more finely in the current painting.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium

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