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Sotheby's to offer 57 seminal works at its Modern and Contemporary Asian Art Sale
Liu Xiaodong, Disobeying the Rules, 1996. Oil on canvas, 180 x 230 cm.

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong presents its Modern and Contemporary Asian Art – Evening Sale on Sunday, 5 October during the Autumn Sale Series 2014. Estimated at over HK$400 million / US$51 million, the meticulously-curated evening sale presents 57 seminal works from 20th Century Chinese Art, Contemporary Asian Art and Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings. Works by such renowned 20th Century Chinese masters as Chen Cheng-Po and Zao Wou-Ki are offered alongside contemporary Chinese artist Liu Xiaodong, modern Indonesian artist Lee Man Fong, as well as a selection of fresh-to-the-market pieces, which is set to attract great interest among discerning collectors.

Kevin Ching, Chief Executive Officer of Sotheby’s Asia, said: “Since last year, the Sotheby’s Hong Kong Evening Sale has become one of the most highly-anticipated auctions of the season. The upcoming Modern and Contemporary Asian Art – Evening Sale is no exception. Chief among the many sale highlights are rare pieces representative of the artists’ oeuvres including Zao Wou-Ki’s Oracle Bone Series classic Debut d’octobre, Liu Xiaodong’s large-format work Disobeying the Rules and Lee Man Fong’s singular oil-on-canvas masterpiece Bali Life. By combining works from different periods and regions, this Evening Sale showcases the rich diversity of Asian art, and offers an unprecedented opportunity for collectors to acquire exceptional pieces by legendary Asian artists.”

The 20th Century Chinese Art section is comprised of 18 works by modern Chinese masters including Chen Cheng- Po, Zao Wou-Ki, Chu Teh-Chun and Yun Gee. These works embody both abstract and realist styles, showcasing the diversity of modern Chinese art.

Chen Cheng-Po (1895 – 1947), Chia-Yi Park 1937, oil on canvas, 60.8 x 72.5 cm Estimate upon request
Following his graduation from the Tokyo University of the Arts, Chen Cheng-Po accepted an invitation to teach at the Xinhua Art College in Shanghai. There, he became one of the founders of the avant-garde painting group ‘Juelan Society’, a circle which would go on to nurture his growth as one of the most unique and important artists in the history of modern Chinese art. In 1992, Artists Publishing continued its substantial investment and research into Taiwanese art by attempting a retrospective of one hundred years of Taiwanese fine arts, and Chen Cheng-Po topped their list of modern masters. Chia-Yi Park, an important work created by Chen in 1937, was selected for the cover of the monograph Chen Cheng-Po: Taiwan Fine Art Series 1. After returning to Taiwan from Shanghai, Chen frequently went to Chia-Yi Park to paint, and the famous Biantian Pond is one of his favourite motifs. This painting undoubtedly is a masterpiece which demonstrates the creative turning points of the artist’s career.

Zao Wou-Ki (1920 – 2013), Debut d’Octobre 1955, oil on canvas, 97 x 146 cm Est. HK$25 – 35 million / US$3.2 – 4.5 million
By 1955, Zao Wou-Ki had already perfected his grasp of new artistic expressions with a prolific use of bright, vivid colours in his paintings. Appearing at auction for the first time, Debut d’Octobre is a representative work from his ‘Oracle Bone Series’. Likened to poetry in motion, it sees the emergence of numerous symbols that look like literary characters, created by varying movements of energy, pause and restraint under his versatile brushstrokes. Some of them evoke an air of majesty while others, brisk dynamism. The smooth-flowing rhythms by which the colours are painted make for a stark contrast to the tensions permeating the blank space. Like a cascade of music notes, the symbols capture the fleeting ideas and feelings of the artist at work. Debut d’Octobre was exhibited in the renowned Kootz Gallery in New York, and was then acquired by an American private collection in the 1960s. The painting has been kept in mint condition for over 40 years, and its auction debut is set to cause great excitement among collectors.

Yun Gee (1906 – 1960) Merry-Go-Round; Sun Bathers; Modern Apartment (triptych) 1932, oil on canvas mounted on paperboard 49.5 x 35.7 cm; 52.3 x 45.2 cm; 50 x 35.7 cm Est. HK$5 – 8 million / US$641,000 – 1 million
In 1932, Yun Gee was invited to participate in the exhibition ‘Murals by American Painters and Photographers’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York. In the same year, he was included in Who’s Who in China published in China. Offered for the first time at auction, Merry-Go-Round; Sun Bathers; Modern Apartment is not only a rare triptych by Yun Gee, but also one of his works from the MoMA exhibition, rendering it highly significant within the artist’s oeuvre. Presented in three sections, each bearing a unique scenario, the artwork depicts chronological and spatial leaps much like a cinematic split screen and is suffused with a dream-like ambience. Decidedly cubist in composition and style, the triptych combines the circular form presented in Merry-Go-Round and the spherical Sun Bathers with the network of triangular and rectangular shapes created by depictions of crisscrossing light in Modern Apartment, each resonating with one another.

Chu Teh-Chun (1920 – 2014), Sereines clartes, 2006, oil on canvas, 130 x 195 cm Est. HK$6 – 8 million / US$769,000 – 1 million
Chu Teh-Chun enjoyed international acclaim and reached the height of his career from the 1990s through the new millennium. His 2006 work Sereines clartes – appearing at auction for the first time – renders elements of Oriental philosophy in the abstract language of Western modern art. Chu employs vibrant depictions of light to evoke dynamism and as a counterpoint between two forces of nature he senses in the universe. Gone are the intense hues of dark that informed his works from the late 1950s to the 1960s. Instead, one finds a vivid palette of colours and brisk soaring lines, through which the grandeur and spirit of Chinese landscape painting are fused into the current work. A testament to the artist’s masterful control of composition, Sereines clartes will be included in a catalogue of Chu Teh-Chun’s work to be published by the National Taiwan University. Proceeds from its auction will be donated to the National Taiwan University College of Medicine.

24 works by contemporary Asian artists will be offered, including six contemporary Chinese works of museum quality from the collection of Guy and Myriam Ullens de Schooten (separate press release available on request). These include works by Fang Lijun, Zeng Fanzhi, Yu Youhan, Wang Xingwei, Zhang Xiaogang and Yue Minjun, all of which are representative pieces from important periods in the artists’ careers. Together with Liu Xiaodong’s socially-charged painting Disobeying the Rules, works by young Chinese artists such as Jia Aili, as well as exemplary paintings by Japanese and Korean artists including Yayoi Kusama, Kazuo Shiraga and Lee Ufan, these works form a stellar line-up of contemporary Asian art in this Evening Sale.

Liu Xiaodong (b. 1963), Disobeying the Rules 1996, oil on canvas, 180 x 230 cm Estimate upon Request
Created in 1996, Disobeying the Rules is one of Liu Xiaodong’s most representative works and one of his earliest paintings to thematise migrant workers and express his social concern. Disobeying the Rules depicts a large group of naked migrant workers on a truck, connecting their condition with the Chinese people’s general lack of self-determination. Responding to the economic development of the 1990s, of which disregard for human life was a by-product, Liu Xiaodong’s work reflects the helplessness of the bottom-rung workers. The gas cans on the truck are vessels, representing the burdens of life. Fate has pushed these migrant workers to dangerous extremes, and all they can manage is to smile meekly. Through a scene filled with conflict, Liu records the psychological state of a generation of Chinese and, in a powerfully resonant way, asks us to meditate on the lessons therein. Exhibited widely, including turns at the 1997 Venice Biennale and the 1998 group exhibition Representing People in the United Kingdom, this masterpiece is a robust representation of the artist’s body of work.

Jia Aili (b. 1979), Wasteland Series No.1 2009, oil on canvas, 209.4 x 270.7 cm Est. HK$3.2 – 4 million / US$413,000 – 520,000
Born in 1979, Jia Aili has become one of the most widely-known young contemporary Chinese artists, whose work embodies the mentality of a generation born after the Cultural Revolution. With his vividly imaginative compositions and virtuosic painting techniques, Jia has forged a new space for contemporary Chinese art and influenced subsequent young artists. Painted in 2009, Wasteland Series No.1 is from Jia’s groundbreaking eponymous series. The artist’s signature lightning-like brushwork evokes the ever-changing age of information, while a gasmask-clad figure, standing in for the artist himself, suggests complicated and conflicted emotions amidst the fray.

Liu Wei (b. 1965), We Love Nature 1999, oil on canvas, 149.5 x 149.5 cm Est. HK$4.8 – 6 million / US$620,000 – 775,000
We Love Nature from Liu Wei’s ‘Landscape Series’ is at once representative of its series and rare in its subject matter, as the artist seldom combines landscape and portrait. Rarer still is the single point perspective, unusual in Liu’s landscape paintings. In We Love Nature, a bottom-up perspective is created via a country road leading the viewer’s eye from background to foreground. A family portrait surrounded by a heart-shaped white line contains the artist’s humorous and cynical text, ‘We love nature’, ‘I love smoking’ and ‘I love flower’. A skull and crossbones – a recurring motif in the artist’s work – appears above the group portrait, reflecting not only the artist’s feelings towards life at the moment, but also the depth of appreciation he has for the eternal tension between humankind and nature.

Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929), Pumpkin (DFLO) 2013, acrylic on canvas, 130.5 x 162.3 cm Est. HK$4.8 – 6.8 million / US$620,000 – 880,000
At once recognisable, the pumpkin is ubiquitous to Kusama’s works. In the present work Pumpkin (DFLO), the pumpkin is covered in polka dots and rendered in rich yellow, set against a wall of nets. These unmistakable features of the artist’s style express a language that has evolved and been perfected through decades of near-obsessive production and reproduction. Here, it is hard to tell where the polka dots end and where the psychedelic nets begin; it is as if they are one and the same, blending seamlessly into one another, creating an enthralling piece of oneness and cohesion within Kusama’s universe.

Following the Sotheby’s Hong Kong record-breaking Spring Sale 2014 at which S. Sudjojono’s Pasukan Kita Yang Dipimpin Pangeran Diponegoro (Our Soldiers Led Under Prince Diponegoro) established the world auction record for any Southeast Asian art, 15 exceptional works by the region’s most celebrated artists will be showcased this autumn. Works by modern Indonesian artist Lee Man Fong, modern Filipino artist Anita Magsaysay-Ho and modern Singaporean artist Chen Wen Hsi will be presented alongside contemporary Indonesian artist I Nyoman Masriadi, among others.

Lee Man Fong (1913 – 1988), Bali Life 1974, oil on canvas, 82.5 x 184 cm Estimate upon request
Bali Life is reminiscent of the schools of thought that coloured the history of Chinese classical paintings. Xieyi, for example – the expressionistic style that achieved recognition during the Ming dynasty – focused on animated ink strokes to enhance the emotions that existed within classical depictions of landscape, human interactions, or scenes of wildlife. The incorporation of freehand strokes enabled artists to capture the innate energy within their subject matter. Lee Man Fong has, throughout his career, produced many artworks according to the Xieyi philosophy and method. Bali Life, however, is a unique piece due to its medium – Lee Man Fong rarely painted on canvas, with many of his oil pieces found on Masonite or wooden boards instead. It is one of only two Lee Man Fong works on canvas ever presented at auction, and the other established the world auction record for the artist back in 2010. In 1941, the artist visited Bali for the first time. It was during this trip that he discovered many of the themes which would come to populate his oeuvre. Bali Life is an homage to the island that inspired the artist throughout his lifetime.

Anita Magsaysay-Ho (b. 1914) Paghuhuli Ng Mga Manok (Catching Chickens) 1962, oil on canvas, 102 x 132 cm Est. HK$5 – 8 million / US$641,000 – 1 million
Among the overwhelmingly male canon of 20th-century Southeast Asian modern art, the artistic achievements of Filipino artist Anita Magsaysay-Ho shine brightly. Known as the ‘Female Amorsolo’ – if only because both Filipino artists chose to paint variations of womanhood – Magsaysay-Ho’s representations are formed not by sensuality, but rather as a celebration of national pride seen through the feminine spirit. Paghuhuli Ng Mga Manok (Catching Chickens) is a classic piece from the artist’s oeuvre. Her portrayals of rural women inspire empathy in the viewer, creating a reciprocal relationship that has garnered her oeuvre much acclaim. Indeed, Magsaysay-Ho has been recognised as one of the ‘Thirteen Moderns’ who had a transformative impact on Filipino modern art – the only female among them.

Chen Wen Hsi (1906 – 1992), Fishing Village Circa 1970s, oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm Est. HK$2.8 – 3.8 million / US$359,000 – 487,000
Chen Wen Hsi is celebrated for his transformative oeuvre, one that unites Chinese ink painting with Cubist, Fauvist, and Expressionist aesthetics. One of Singapore’s most acclaimed artists and a pioneer of the Nanyang art movement, Chen Wen Hsi has, through his work, redefined public perception of the marriage of Asian artistic principles with Western modes of expression. Fishing Village is a classic work from Chen’s oeuvre. Seeking to present a brand new paradigm amidst the collapse of formal ideologies, this oil painting employs a cubist-inspired rendering of a typical Singaporean seaside gathering. Favoured motifs throughout Chen’s career – particularly in his oil paintings – boats and fishing communities are redefined on canvas through dynamic narratives.

I Nyoman Masriadi (b. 1973), Bebas Hambatan (Freeway) 2014, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 200 cm Est. HK$2 – 3 million / US$256,000 – 385,000
In Bebas Hambatan (Freeway), I Nyoman Masriadi – known for his multilayered humour and double entendres – presents a bold silhouette and a blaze of vivid colours, commanding the viewer’s attention and drawing one’s gaze to the lone male figure on a motorbike. A wizened middle-aged man with a blond, handle-bar moustache – reminiscent of celebrity wrestler Hulk Hogan – is depicted riding a thunderous motorcycle in colourful attire. Shunning the all-black norm usually associated with bikers, this rider is a non-conformist lone-ranger. The strength of this work lies in its ability to strike a chord in its viewers who are living in a culture continuously attracted to the spectacle of experiencing other people’s lives and of fitting into a herd. Using the nameless biker as a hero-figure, Masriadi challenges and inspires viewers to think beyond boundaries.

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September 5, 2014

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