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Christie's Hong Kong announces Chinese Paintings Autumn Auctions on 24th and 25th November
Shitao, Album of Flower Painting (Detail) , A set of eight album leaves, mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper, Each leaf measures 26.7 x 38.1 cm., Estimate: HK$18,000,000–26,000,000 / US$2,330,000-3,360,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2014.

HONG KONG.- Christie’s Hong Kong Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy and Chinese Modern Paintings auctions will take place on 24th and 25th November 2014. Important private collections highlight both sales. This season, Christie’s will hold the Inaugural Chinese Contemporary Ink Auction. Featuring more than 770 works from the classical, modern and contemporary masters, the 2-day sales are estimated to realize in excess of HK$336million / US$43million.

Following successful non-selling and private sale exhibitions in Hong Kong and New York since 2012, Christie’s will present Chinese Contemporary Ink in an auction format for the very first time during the 2014 Christie’s Hong Kong Autumn Auction Week.

Chinese contemporary ink is a re-interpretation of a millennium old art form. Full of energy and creativity, these ink paintings connect a traditional medium with contemporary society. Comprising a total of 52 works estimated to realise over HK$29million / US$3.7million, the auction will present work by 35 artists, including Gu Wenda (B. 1955), Liu Dan (B. 1953), Liu Kuo-sung (B. 1932), Pan Gongkai (B. 1947), Xu Lei (B.1963), and more.

The highlight of this section is Scenery of Hong Kong by ink master Liu Kuo-sung. From the collection of Dr. K.S. Lo, the scroll depicts the scenery of Hong Kong as the day progresses from morning to sunset. Traditionally Chinese ink painters portray four seasons in four separate vertical scrolls, but here Liu illustrates the changes of time within a day by combining them on one long horizontal piece of paper. To depict city scenery, it is the first time ever for Liu to paint houses, tall buildings and boats, adding a further unique feature to the scroll.

Further highlights include Blue and White Horse by Xu Lei and Mouth Actions by Gu Wenda. In Blue and White Horse, Xu renders the horse realistically using gongbi (fine brush) technique. He developed his own artistic language as unmistakably Chinese, yet with a fascination for Western medieval art, surrealism and conceptualism.

Mouth Actions, an important work by Gu Wenda, marks the start of his use of Chinese characters in ink painting, and predates his renowned Pseudo Characters Series. One of his earliest conceptual ink works, the artist explores how the meaning of Chinese characters relates through art to the human body.

This season, Christie’s is once again entrusted by collectors from around the globe to offer a number of prominent private collections, including Lotus by Huang Hongyu (B. 1924), 34 selected paintings and calligraphy from the General Huang family collection, Chrysanthemums in a Vase by Lin Fengmian (1900-1991) from Joan Fontaine, the Award winning actress, and more. All of these works of documented provenance are in excellent condition, making them highly desirable for connoisseurs looking for authentic, important and well-preserved Chinese paintings.

A curated selection of important works from the early Ming dynasty to the late Qing dynasty will be offered in the auction. The sale features calligraphy and paintings from classical masters, including Bada Shanren (1626-1705), Dong Qichang (1555- 1636), Wang Duo (1592-1652), Shitao (1642-1707) and more.

The leading highlight is Album of Flower Painting by Shitao, previously in the collection of Nagao Kinya, the founder of Wakamoto Pharmaceutical and a passionate art collector. Shitao was a Buddhist monk, who was also influenced by Confucianism and Taoism. His works often convey the atmosphere of still life drawing and reflect his distinctive worldview. In Album of Flower Painting, Shitao portrays the flowers in a freehand style, using delicate and soft brushstrokes. This reflects the influence of master painters Xu Wei and Chen Chun and also the aesthetics of the area south of the Yangtze River, where the painter lived. Spring and autumn blossoms are vividly captured. Each of the eight album leaves shows a different compositional angle and style, making this set of album leaves a unique group of his works.

Another highlight is Stag and Pine by Bada Shanren. Like Shitao, Bada Shenren was also a descendant of the Ming imperial family. He became a monk after the collapse of the Ming, before resuming secular life and earning a living as an artist. In Stag and Pine, distinctive brushwork can be seen in the liberal application of expressive dots of ink, which the artist uses to depict branches, moss and grassland. The gentle curve of the stag’s body mirrors the slightly bent branch, resulting in a composition that is graceful and harmonious. Pine trees, cranes and deer are recurring subject matter in Bada Shanren’s late works. In addition to being symbols of longevity, they also express the aging artist’s wish to return to nature.

The modern painting sale consists of works by masters like Qi Baishi (1864-1957), Xu Beihong (1895-1953), Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), Pu Ru (1896-1963) and Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010) etc.

One of the highlights is Two Oxen by Xu Beihong, formerly in the collection of Mr. Huang Manshi (1890-1963), one of the most intimate friends of the artist. In this work, Xu Beihong uses freehand brushwork to capture the essence of the subject and he further adds light ink contours before the water on the oxen is dry to create its naturalistic shape. The leaves are washed in a light green tone that contrasts with the heaviness of the oxen. The ox’s sturdy limbs wade through the water; while the rocks act as anchors at the bottom of the painting. The firmness of the ox’s elongated back further strengthens Xu Beihong’s conservative, realist style, highlighting his training in European academic drawing techniques.

Another highlight is Butterflies by Pu Ru from a private Singaporean collection, whose owner acquired it directly from the wife of the artist. Pu Ru was a highly skilled artist in gongbi (fine brush) style paintings. His training was highly disciplined, which in turn gave him great strength in wielding the brush for detailed paintings such as this one. In this painting, sparse pink petals float amongst dozens of animated multi-coloured butterflies. From the anatomy of the butterflies to the light gradations of colour and shading on their wings, Pu Ru creates a space of elegance and beauty.

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