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Sotheby's to offer the Didier Hirsch Collection of Contemporary Chinese Art from the 1990s
Yue Minjun Flying oil on canvas 1993, 170 x 170 cm (Est. HK$ 9 – 12 million / US$ 1.15 – 1.5 million). Photo: Sotheby's.
HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong announced the sale of an exceptional private collection from French collector Didier Hirsch, In Transition – The Didier Hirsch Collection of Contemporary Chinese Art from The 1990s - at the Contemporary Asian Art Spring Sale 2013 on 5 April. 46 lots of important works are estimated to fetch in excess of HK$31.1 million / US$4 million*. Having previously resided in Hong Kong, Hirsch began collecting contemporary Chinese art in the mid-1990s. Many of the prestigious works in this collection draw reference from China’s reformation period, from which commercial, urban and popular cultures were derived. At the same time, the art world also evolved in this critical decade of 1990s. At a time of rapid globalisation and economic boom, the artists of the era expressed an overriding concern for social issues, steering away from the utopian ideal in the 1980s towards a new artistic style guided by the norm to return to reality. The unprecedented creative freedom enabled the artists to unreservedly convey their personal experiences and emotions in their works, as well as depict the contemplation and ironies of people’s identity during the times of changes. This has charmed Mr. Hirsch and formed the essence of his collection.

Evelyn Lin, Sotheby’s Head of Contemporary Asian Art department, said, “Following the resounding success of two sales of The Ullens Collection in 2011, we are privileged to present another exquisite contemporary Chinese art collection from European art collector, Mr. Didier Hirsch - In Transition – The Didier Hirsch Collection of Contemporary Chinese Art from The 1990s. This meticulously curated sale offers many significant works spanning the 1990s by contemporary Chinese artists. Pioneers in Chinese art at the time, such as Wang Guangyi, Liu Wei and Yu Hong began to capture international attention, coming into prominence at the ‘Chinese Avant-Garde Art Exhibition’ in Berlin in 1993 as well as the 45th Venice Biennale. Since then, New Generation Art, Cynical Realism and Political Pop have become so influential that they continue to exert a profound impact on the development of Chinese art nowadays. The importance and historical value of this collection is self-evident, and Sotheby's is most honoured to be entrusted by Mr. Hirsch to offer this unparalleled opportunity for connoisseurs to acquire these rare masterpieces.”

French collector Didier Hirsch commented on the sale, “There is a long tradition of art collecting in my family. I started collecting at the age of 18. In fact, I never had a real desire to build a collection. It just happened, gradually over time. After my first purchase in March 1996 (Yue Minjun's Flying), I collect contemporary Chinese art very episodically, sometimes in waves. On the rational front, I recognised the historical importance of contemporary Chinese art. On the emotional front, I was overwhelmed by the power of the images, the vivid colours, the creativity, the tensions, the underlying suffering in the
Contemporary Chinese art works. I am selling a part of my Chinese collection to maintain the distance between my collection and my life, because I want others to enjoy what I have enjoyed. It also enables me to embark on new adventures. The auction exhibition and the catalogue will also represent precious shared memories for my three children, my wife, and me.”

HIGHLIGHTS
Yue Minjun (b. 1962) Flying oil on canvas 1993 170 x 170 cm
(Est. HK$9 – 12 million / US $1.1 – 1.5 million)

Flying was completed at the early stage of Yue Minjun’s artistic career. The realistic depiction of the characters peels in distinctive counterpoint with Yue’s later standardised portraiture. This painting is extremely rare in itself for this creative interlude of Yue’s career that only lasted for three years. Common to pioneers of Cynical Realism, Yue Minjun’s work has a sense of passive resistance, where laughter is considered the ultimate weapon, whilst the repetitive wanton, smiling faces reflect the fragility of Chinese people vis-à-vis the intrinsic and complex social and political realities in China in the early 1990s. In the present work, three of his signature laughing figures are aligned to the left of the canvas. Juxtaposed with its background of Tiananmen Square turned upside down, the composition is strongly allegorical in a political sense, and the artist’s creative manner of casting ridicule on reality undoubtedly cements his style.

Zhou Chunya (b. 1955) Green Dog No. 3 oil on canvas 1997 249 x 199 cm (Est. HK$7.5 – 8.5 million / US 970,000 – 1.09 million)
In 1997, after returning from studying in Germany, Zhou Chunya experimented with drawing his German Shepherd dog, “Black Root (Heigen)”, in green for the first time. The inviting power of this artificial “Green Dog” means that there is more to it than immediately meets the eye. Green Dog No. 3 represents one of Zhou’s first five “Green Dog” portraits. In this painting, the artist exploits taupe landscapes as its background; his quick sketches of human characters display a sense of exaggerated affectation, and their facelessness contrasting distinctively with the elation of the toothy, green dog. The natural beauty of animals is affectingly displayed. Sadly, “Black Root” passed away in 1999; overwhelmed with grief, Zhou Chunya ceased from creating works related to “Green Dog” for two years. His later paintings refrained from using “Black Root” as his subject, rendering this painting more sentimental, and profoundly emotional.

Wang Guangyi (b. 1957) VISA with Yellow Background oil on canvas 1995 150 x 120 cm (Est. HK$1 – 1.5 million / US$130,000 – 190,000)
Wang Guangyi’s signature VISA Series consists of six works, symbolising the time of creating The Great Criticism series when he shifted his focus from local issues in China to the international arena in his depiction on political themes. Making its debut on the auction market, VISA with Yellow Background sees the artist rendering the portrait of an ordinary man taken from a local publication at the time in Pop Art style. The protagonist is swathed in red writing, denoting his place of birth, name, gender and other personal particulars. The capitalised words, ”PASSPORT”’ and ”VISAS”, are emphatically in focus, where the large print acts as a particularly prominent expression of the artist’s view of mankind as an individual sovereign entity. Yet, the symbolic identity and the meaning of existence is supplanted and obscured by the writing on the visa: the irony is obvious, especially in the way in which visas cast men under the shadows and tensions between national powers.

Liu Xiaodong (b. 1963) The Dalai Lama and his Disciples (triptych) oil on canvas 1999 measuring 58.7 x 49.7 cm each (Est. HK$1.5 – 2 million / US$190,000 – 260,000)
As the forerunner of the New Generation movement, Liu Xiaodong has always been known for his realistic portraits; his focus on the grass root figures, such as migrant workers or escort girls, serves as a vivid reminder of people’s attention to reality. The Dalai Lama and his Disciples is groundbreaking in itself for it deviates from the artist’s usual subject matters to feature an international political figure. He was inspired by his journey to Qinghai, after which he painted Dalai Lama and his two disciples by referring to a magazine portrait of them, making them the subject of such a striking and effervescent triptych in religious style. Dalai Lama, situated in the centre, wears a pair of glasses and an “official” smile. Two disciples on each of his sides are seen with sunglasses that reflect intense, flickering candlelights. Since 2000, Liu Xiaodong has engaged in painting from life, which renders this studio work completed in the late 1990s extraordinarily exceptional.

Yu Hong (b. 1966) Routine – Meet at the Party oil on canvas 2003 177.4 x 151.8 cm (Est. HK$600,000 – 800,000 / US$80,000 – 100,000)
Yu Hong and her husband Liu Xiaodong along with their fellow contemporary artists pioneered a painting style that was true to reality, often facing it uncompromisingly head-on. Her tactile and feministic perspective aptly captures the precious fragments of day-to-day life in the 1990s. Yu Hong completed the six pieces that make up the Routine series from 2002 to 2003, and this work, Meet at the Party, sees her depicting a narrow space with depth of field. The strokes bustle with energy, which serve to complement the dynamism and seize the animated moment of the four personas, including the artist herself, laughing at the party.

Li Songsong (b. 1973) Barbecue oil on canvas 1996 218.2 x 179 cm (Est. HK$800,000 – 1.2 million / US$100,000 – 160,000)
Graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Li Songsong completed his study in studio number four, which particularly focused on modern art. Barbecue, completed by the artist upon his graduation, depicts with bold and broad brush strokes four youths trying to light a fire. It is apparent from their style of dress that they are of the present generation, worlds away from Li Songsong’s later works depicting figures of disappearing history derived from photographs. For Li, portraying scenes of everyday life is his creative origin before entering into Abstract Art, and this painting provides an unusual glimpse into the artist’s creative expedition.






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