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Sotheby's to offer Abstract and Realism masterpieces at the 20th Century Chinese Art Spring Sale
Zao Wou-Ki’s 10.03.83, Oil on Canvas, 200 x 325 cm. Est. HK$25 – 32 million / US$3.2 – 4.1 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong 20th Century Chinese Art Spring Sale 2013 will be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on the 6th April 2013. Tracing the variety of aspirations and edifices shaping the history of Chinese art, this auction will feature a lush array of works sourced from around the globe. Led by Abstract and Realism art, this meticulously curated Spring Sale will offer more than 150 lots estimated at HK$150 million/ US$19 million*. Appearing at auction for the first time, Zao Wou-Ki’s rare diptych, 10.03.83, completed at the pinnacle of his career, as well as Wang Yidong’s Teasing the Newlyweds, the first group-portrait painting that derives inspiration from Chinese wedding rituals, serve to highlight the ingenious creative outlooks of Chinese artists of the 20th century at the sale.

Sylvie Chen, Head of Sotheby’s 20th Century Chinese Art Department, said: ‘’The colour Red has always been an auspicious symbol in Chinese culture. Coinciding with Sotheby’s Asia’s 40th anniversary celebration this year, this Spring we are delighted to offer a series of red-hued paintings, the highlight being Wang Yidong’s rubicund and festive masterwork - Teasing the Newlyweds. Apart from the debut of Wang’s outstanding realist painting, we will also be introducing an important work by yet another leading figure in Chinese Realism - Ai Xuan’s Longing, a poignantly beautiful depiction of Tibetan romance. On the Abstract art front, Zao Wou-Ki’s 10.03.83, a diptych that is rarely seen in the artist’s oeuvre, will surely take the collectors’ world by storm. In addition, Chu Teh-Chun’s picturesque rendering of the majestic snow-capped mountains in his 25 Décembre 1985 and Wu Dayu’s dexterous work, Untitled No.7, both delicately elicit the essence of Abstract art. Other highlights include Wu Guanzhong’s landscape paintings, as well as other fine works from such 20th century Chinese artists as Wang Huaiqing, Yun Gee, Hon-Chew Hee, Shen Hanwu, to name a few. These coveted works sourced from around the world make this auction the one to intensely look forward to.”

Chinese Abstract Art
Chinese abstract master Zao Wou-Ki reached the pinnacle of his artistic career in the 1980s. His generous and unconstrained state of mind in this period is reflected in his instinctive brushworks and colour palette. Combining forms of traditional Western and Eastern art, Zao created the present massive 10.03.83 (200 x 325 cm; Est. HK$25 - 32 million / US$3.2 – 4.1 million) which is an exceptionally rare diptych in the artist’s oeuvre. In 1983, the year this painting was created, Zao paid a visit to his artist friend and Chinese art master, Zhang Daqian, and took inspiration from Zhang’s liberal and spectacular colour splash ink paintings, which led to the unique composition in this work. The skyline divides the painting into two parts with multifarious colours, presenting the audience with a panoramic view on the peak of Taishan. Since its completion in 1983, 10.03.83 has been showcased at 18 important international exhibitions. The debut offering at auction of a work of such rarity and prominence marks a remarkable occasion.

At the zenith of his career, Chu Teh-Chun embarked on creating his famous Snow Scene Series inspired by his passion for the magnificence of the Alps. The 25 Décembre 1985 (Est. HK$15 – 20 million / US$1.9 – 2.5 million) which underlines the Series forms a reminiscent of the landscape paintings from the Chinese Song Dynasty. Paris in the snow was another stimulus to inspire the artist when he looked out from his studio in Bagnolet in the Eastern suburbs of Paris. The various shades of oil paint ricochets with ink painting’s technique of ‘coke, thick, heavy, light, clear’. Texture and depth is further enriched with the shades of blue, green and red. The distinctive dripping and splashing techniques often applied by Lyrical Abstract artists distinguish Chu Teh-Chun’s style and also augment the vigour of the ephemeral snow. Yet, the harmony between the spirit of Western Abstractionism and the poetic essence of the East are captured in this work.

A mentor to renowned Chinese artists including Zao Wou-Ki, Chu Teh-Chun and Wu Guanzhong, Wu Dayu is reputed for his forte in working colours to the charm that overrides the mere formal images. In his mature years, his intense passion is fully adorned through the application of vivid colours, and complex yet compact compositions. Sotheby's sold Wu’s Untitled No.37 at its Autumn Sale 2012 for HK$9.02 million / US$1.1 million, achieving a record for the artist at auction. This season, the artist’s Untitled No.7 (Est. HK$3.5 – 5 million / US$450,000 - 640,000) couched in blue hues, looks deceptively abstract, will be on offer. The painting carefully conceals a mask redolent of traditional Beijing opera figures, with the gorgeous costume of the actor imminent in the background.

The Auspicious Red
The auspicious colour Red has a profound significance in Chinese culture as a token of prosperity, fortune, life and hope. Heralded as one of the Chinese Realism art masters, Wang Yidong’s Teasing the Newlyweds, which marks its premier appearance at auction for the first time (Est. HK$12 – 16 million / US$1.5 – 2 million), is amongst the first of his group-portrait paintings to be centered on a Chinese marriage theme, evocative of the jubilant folk customs of his native hometown, Yi Meng in Shandong province. Wang Yidong pays tribute to his beloved homeland with his adroit, rapt depictions of local figures, Chinese rituals such as the wedding toast and teasing the newlyweds, causing a stir amongst his 19 guests whose myriad of emotions and dynamics are meticulously captured. The artist also applies classic Renaissance realist technique, chiaroscuro, foregrounding the painting with its median red candle to illuminate the scene. The beauty of rural life is daintily articulated with his cinematic use of narrative. Since its completion in 1998, Teasing the Newlyweds has remained in the hands of a private collector; its sequel, Teasing the Newlyweds No. 2 - Lucky Cigarettes, was sold for HK$12.98 million / US$1.7 million at Sotheby’s Autumn Sale 2008 and achieved an auction record for the artist at the time. At its debut in auction, Teasing the Newlyweds is an exquisite showpiece set to stir up interest of connoisseurs.

Other works on offer that exemplify the aesthetic essence of the colour Red in Chinese art include: Wang Yidong’s Letter from Far Away, Chu Teh-Chun's Composition, Su Xiaobai's Acclaim, LaLan’s Red and Blue, Hsiao Chin’s La repressione cinese – 1 and La grandezza, Liu Jiu-Tong’s Beauty Beyond Words and Distant Traveler, and Huang Gang’s The World of Mortals.

Chinese Realism Art
Ai Xuan, the acclaimed exemplar of Chinese Realist art, has been known for his inimitable Tibetan series of works. His romantic touch is no more apparent than in his Longing (Est. HK$8.8 - 12 million / US$1.1 – 1.5 million), capturing the characters’ delicate and elusive sentiments. The male figure is seen crestfallen while the girl’s hands tightly clasped. Their juxtaposition seems to suggest that they are in two minds. Multifarious emotions including doubt, helplessness, frustration, anxiety, and longing could be observed from her eyes - the amalgamation provides unlimited avenues for our imagination.

Ai Xuan’s works are a culmination of his forty years of dedicated observation and creation, weaving into a lyrical tale that is telling of his perceptive understanding of life. The quintessence of the landscape paintings from the Song and Yuan Dynasty also finds its expression in the work’s background, where the grandeur of the northern Tibetan plateau landscape is adorned with scintillating snowflakes. It is amidst the simplicity that the viewer is given an insight into the paradoxical beauty and sorrow of humans in the face of harsh environments.

Wu Guanzhong’s Landscape Paintings
Wu Guanzhong's endeavour to voyage through Chinese landscapes is unequalled among artists of his generation. His A Mountain Village of Xibaipo (Est. HK$3.8 – 4.8 million / US$490,000 – 620,000), Bamboo Forest of the Lijiang River (Est. HK$4 – 5 million / US$510,000 – 640,000) and Lijiang Town at the Foot of the Yulong Mountains (Est. HK$3 – 4 million / US$380,000 – 510,000) are all exquisite landscape paintings presented in this auction. At the time of creating A Mountain Village of Xibaipo, the artist was once banned from painting. His experience living in the small village in the Hebei Province inspired him to explore the use of minimal colour and angular housing shapes that reflect the whispered serenity of the rural scenery. Bamboo Forest of the Lijiang River features Wu’s use of bright hues and different textures, exposing the layers of bamboo by the Lijiang River. Lijiang Town at the Foot of the Yulong Mountains from a cavalier perspective shows the artist’s modern take on the mastery of multiple perspectives of Chinese paintings and a manner derived from landscape art of Song Dynasty, expressing the unperturbed ancient city of Lijiang as well as the breathtaking scenery of Yulong Mountains.

‘Intersection ntersection of East and West’ – Themed section of Hon-Chew Hee’s works Following the success of last season’s ‘A Fallen Star In The Artist Realm: David Wu Ject- Key’, we are delighted to offer a series of ten works by yet another Chinese artist who developed his career in the United States - Hon-Chew Hee. The works have previously been kept in different American private collections, and serve to display Hee’s artistic spectrum.

Originally from Zhongshan, Guangdong Province, Hee graduated from the California Institute of the Arts, Columbia University, New York, and the Art Student’s League. Later he taught art at the University of Hawaii. The former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had been a student of his. Since the 1930s, the artist has been dedicated to exploring the aesthetics of Yin Yang and blends abstract and figurative forms to depict the beauty of three-dimensional space. He was twice named Best Artist of the Year by the government of the State of Hawaii in 1971 and 1986 respectively. In 1985, he received Gold Oscar from the Academy of Design in Italy.

Also showcased in this auction are two important works, San Francisco Street Scene and Artists by Yun Gee, a forerunner of Synchronism. He was considered in the United States academia as the pioneer in the development of modern art in the West coast. The two works e exhibit his exceptional talent during his time in San Francisco.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium and prices achieved include the hammer price plus buyer’s premium.

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