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Celebrated works to debut at Sotheby's Hong Kong Contemporary Asian Art Autumn Sale
Liu Ye, Boogie Woogie, little girl in New York. Photo: Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong’s Contemporary Asian Art Autumn Sale 2015 takes place from 4 to 5 October at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Twenty-six Chinese, Japanese and Korean contemporary masterpieces lead the Modern and Contemporary Asian Art Evening Sale on 4 October, including those by such celebrated artists as Ai Weiwei, Zeng Fanzhi, Zhang Xiaogang, Kusama Yayoi and Chung Sanghwa. A comprehensive array of Asian abstract art and works by young artists will be featured in the Contemporary Asian Art Day Sale on 5 October while Full Circle – Yoshihara Jiro Collection, encompassing over 20 fresh-to-market pieces from the Gutai founder, will also be staged in a dedicated sale on the same day. Together, the three sales will put forth more than 250 lots, estimated in excess of HK$230 million / US$30 million.

Evelyn Lin, Head of Contemporary Asian Art at Sotheby’s, said: “With collector’s interest in Asian abstraction booming in the market, we take an in-depth look at the inception of this artistic genre through an exceptional assemblage of abstract works by Japanese Gutai masters, as well as Korean and Chinese abstraction pioneers. This autumn, we place special focus on Ai Weiwei and Zeng Fanzhi, offering a selection of iconic masterpieces by these two established contemporary Chinese artists. Also not to be missed is the rare, large-scale No. Red B from Kusama Yayoi’s early oeuvre, completing our remarkable grouping of top-quality contemporary Asian artworks.”

Ai Weiwei
Two fresh-to-market, important installation works from Ai Weiwei, Map of China and Forever Bicycles, will headline the Evening Sale. Map of China was crafted from tielimu (ironwood) from a demolished Qing Dynasty temple and was reconstructed using the ancient mortise-and-tenon joinery technique to render a full map of China. Transformed from aged objects with their own histories, to an artwork in the form of a readymade item, the present work’s change of form is a metaphor for the gradual disappearance of traditional Chinese culture. Forever Bicycles is a sculpture created with 42 dismantled Forever brand bicycles, reconstructed to create a tall, interconnected circular installation. The Forever Company was once a household name in China, but with the advancement of technology following modernisation, the bicycles have gradually been replaced by automobiles. The irony evoked by the brand’s name goes without saying. Different versions of Forever Bicycles have made regular appearances in exhibitions globally; the auction appearance of this early prototype presents an excellent opportunity for collectors.

Zeng Fanzhi
Sotheby’s presents three works by Zeng Fanzhi in the Evening Sale. Paradise, a collective effort by Zeng Fanzhi and Jack Ma, founder and President of Alibaba, uses the earth as its subject matter. Ma hopes to draw attention to environmental issues through this piece painted on a rare circular canvas; all proceeds from the sale of this lot will benefit The Paradise International Foundation in support of their environmental conservation initiatives. Self-Portrait and Untitled 10-1-2 are two other works adding to the artist’s grouping. Self-Portrait is the earliest of the artist’s selfportraits ever to appear at auction. A work from the Mask series, it is one of the few paintings in the series without the presence of the mask but which still exhibits some of the artist’s most notable motifs, including the watermelon, red scarf and calligraphy. Debuting at auction this autumn, Untitled 10-1-2 is a prime piece from the artist’s Landscape series. Zeng Fanzhi portrays twisted branches with powerful brushstrokes on a four-metre long giant canvas – a testament to his refined abstract skills, as well as a perfect display of the amalgamation of oriental shanshui (landscape) and Western abstraction.

Kusama Yayoi
Kusama Yayoi first stunned the international art world in 1959 with the debut of her gargantuan Infinity Net canvas in white. A year later, the artist painted Infinity Net again but in red, returning to an early source of inspiration found in her 20s. Presented in the landmark exhibition Yayoi Kusama at the Gres Gallery (the artist’s first solo exhibition in Washington D.C. and her fourth in the U.S.), No. Red B is the most important, largest and earliest iteration of the red Infinity Nets series to come to auction in over 20 years, and a rare museum-quality piece from the nascent period of her oeuvre. No. Red B displays Kusama’s signature heavy layers of paint and dynamic brushstrokes, shedding light on her obsession with repetition and her outstanding interpretation of the colour red. Standing at over 1.7 metres, the present work is larger than a comparable work, 1961 No. H. Red, from the collection of the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo.

Nara Yoshitomo
Coming from the eminent collection of Dr Takahashi Ryutaro, an unmatched collector of contemporary Japanese art, In the Darkland by Nara Yoshitomo will be debuting at auction this fall. Born in 1946, Dr Takahashi is a Neuropsychiatrist whose journey in art collection began in the late 1990s, spurred on by a gallery exhibition of Kusama Yayoi’s works. Over the course nearly two decades of collecting, Takahashi has amassed more than 2,000 works. In the Darkland is the first piece of art from the Takahashi Collection ever to appear at auction.

Zhang Xiaogang
In 1993, Zhang Xiaogang released the Tiananmen Square series, which totalled only three pieces. In the series, the gate tower grows larger with each canvas, evoking the photographic characteristic of zooming in on a target. The present painting – Tiananmen No. 3 – is the most significant work from the series, now appearing at auction for the first time. Unlike the first and second works in the series, Tiananmen No. 3 deploys a close-up composition with the gate tower occupying half of the canvas, making it the most in-focus and integrated view of the subject among all three works from the series. Rendered in pink, the gate tower symbolises China’s power centre. Only rarely do themes of political figures or landscapes appear within Zhang Xiaogang’s paintings, making the Tiananmen Square series an unusual exception. In this work, the political and historical implication of Tiananmen Square is distinctly present, tied Zhang’s frequently-visited themes of national history and personal memory.

Zhang Enli’s
The unique language of Zhang Enli’s paintbrush occupies a prominent place in the world of contemporary Chinese art. Unlike mainstream artists from the 1960s, Zhang eschews Chinese political ideology and directs his focus on his canvas in search of the secrets to life and mortality behind everyday objects and spaces, shuttling between fantasy and reality. An assemblage of artworks by Zhang Enli will be offered this autumn, including Sky (2010) which belongs to one of the artist’s most significant series. In this work, the artist used concrete, dense branches and leaves to invoke the spirituality and richness of the sky. This striking three-metre painting was displayed at Zhang Enli’s solo exhibition in 2010 at Shanghai’s Minsheng Art Museum. The Day Sale will also offer a series of still life paintings Zhang created after 2000, including Container No. 2, Container, Fire and Tree.

Across Asia, unique styles of abstract art have been adopted. Each incorporates Western abstraction into its own traditions, resulting in drastically different styles of abstraction never before seen in the Western canon. This October, the Contemporary Asian Art Autumn Sales will focus on rare, early works of Japanese, Chinese and Korean abstract art, all of which have been critical to the development of abstraction in their respective regions. Taking a leading role in the development of avant-garde art in Japan is the Gutai group, which has distinguished itself from Western abstraction with its groundbreaking concepts and techniques, as showcased by T53 – an early work by Shiraga Kazuo, in the Evening Sale. In China, the redevelopment of abstract art began after the Cultural Revolution. AC12, a work by Zhang Wei who is a former member of the No Name Group (Wuming Group) art collective, is representative of his experimental paintings from the 1980s. A representative artist of the Tansaekhwa movement that redefined Korean abstraction, Park Seobo’s Écriture No. 9 – 74 is an iconic piece from his early period, in which he repeatedly draws spiral patterns onto a still-wet white surface of the canvas, conflating the paradigms of writing and drawing, and of calligraphy and oil-painting.

Young, emerging contemporary Chinese artists continue to perform well at auction, as evidenced by the record-breaking result achieved for Jia Aili’s large-scale work in Sotheby’s April 2015 Sale. Building on this momentum, Sotheby’s presents another selection of quality works by young artists this autumn, including Wang Guangle’s Terrazzo 2005.6/8. Light is a major theme throughout the artist’s early artistic exploration, and the current work transforms the depiction of light as a main subject into an object observed indirectly through the gradual change of tone of the terrazzo. It showcases not only Wang’s masterful skill working on large scale canvases, but also a change in his artistic style from classical painting to conceptual art. A further highlight is Jia Aili’s Brightening World, all proceeds from the sale of which will benefit The Special Olympics.

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