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Sotheby's Hong Kong Modern Asian Art Autumn Sales to include 26 rare and important sculptures by Ju Ming
Ju Ming, Taichi Series: Single Whip 1994, bronze, edition 3/8, 122.5 x 189 x 90 cm, est. HK$5 – 7 million / US$641,000 – 897,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Modern Asian Art Department has been entrusted by Mr. Johnson Chang Tsong-Zung, director of Hanart TZ Gallery, to present Embodying The Dao of Martial Arts – Important Sculptures by Ju Ming from the Collection of Johnson Chang Tsong-Zung, featuring 26 works by the celebrated Taiwanese sculptor Ju Ming from Chang’s private collection. Since the early 1980s, Chang has been a key figure in promoting Ju Ming’s art in Hong Kong and abroad, organising many of the artist’s important exhibitions around the world. To be offered in the Modern and Contemporary Asian Art Evening Sale on 4 October as part of the Hong Kong Autumn Sale Series 2015, Embodying The Dao of Martial Arts is comprised of Chang’s personal collection of Ju Ming’s sculptures covering his decades long oeuvre, including works from the Taichi series and Living World series, as well as those depicting village life and farm animals – both popular motifs from his ‘Native Culture’ period. Partial proceeds from the sale will be donated to Asia Art Archive and Moonchu Foundation.

Mr. Johnson Chang Tsong-Zung said: “As early as the 1970s, Ju Ming caught my eye. His treatment of folk subjects elevated them, linking them to the literati xieyi style and creating a new form of art deeply rooted in Chinese tradition. In this sense, Ju Ming’s Taichi series not only serves as an icon for modern Chinese art, but was also the vehicle that profoundly transformed the traditional figures of folk gods into something universal, representing the two forces of yin and yang. Taking a two-decades-long journey together as artist and curator, from the earliest emergence of his art to his establishment as one the international art world’s leading figures, has been an experience gratifying beyond words.”

Vinci Chang, Sotheby’s Head of Modern Asian Art Department, said: “We are delighted to work together with Mr. Johnson Chang Tsong-Zung, to present to the market his collection of important Ju Ming sculptures this autumn. His collection encompasses master works across various periods, series and media, and is impeccable in its depth, breadth and quality. We look forward to showcasing Ju Ming’s oeuvre in a comprehensive manner, and to sharing the beauty of the master’s sculptures with fellow collectors and art lovers alike.”

Embodying The Dao of Martial Arts – A Comprehensive View of Chang’s Collection of Ju Ming Sculptures
Chinese tradition praises the ‘poet-warrior’ who has the ability to excel in both Wen and Wu. If Wen refers to the enlightenment of ethics-based humanities, then Wu reflects on the spirit of martial arts, which emphasises introspection, with the pursuit of transcending the self as the ultimate goal. Ju Ming’s sculptures embody the aesthetics of martial arts through a process of unceasing self-transcendence. He saw martial virtue as an aesthetic object, using sculpture to transform the dynamic state of Kung Fu into static imagery, transforming the beholder’s understanding and imagination of combat into a transcendent artistic experience.

Ju Ming was born into a peasant family in Miaoli, Taiwan in 1938. With only primary school qualification, he began studying traditional carving with Lee Chin-Chuan in the 1950s. His apprenticeship lasted for more than three years. In the late 1950s, Ju Ming briefly established a workshop producing traditional carvings for export. The 1970s witnessed a rise of the native culture movement, where the Taiwanese art scene began to resonate with rural literature. Ju Ming rose to prominence at that time, becoming the representative artist for rural art. In 1968, he fulfilled his long-cherished wish to apprentice himself to Yuyu Yang, marking the beginning of his exceptional artistic career.

Chang came to know about Ju Ming for the first time in 1976, when he read about the artist’s exhibition in the National Museum of History in Taipei in a magazine. Chang deeply appreciated Ju Ming’s works, and from 1982 to 2006 he tirelessly curated almost all Ju Ming exhibitions organized outside of Taiwan, many of which had played critical role in positioning Ju Ming on the international art scene. In particular, Chang spearheaded shows at Hong Kong’s Exchange Square and National Gallery Singapore in 1986, London’s Southbank Cultural Centre in 1991, Japan’s Hakone Open-Air Museum in 1995, Paris’ Place Vendôme in 1997, and East Berlin’s Unter den Linden in 2003. Ju Ming once said that it was Chang, who was also his agent at the time, whom he must thank for his success overseas.

Highlights include
Taichi Series: Single Whip
1994, bronze, edition 3/8, 122.5 x 189 x 90 cm
Est. HK$5 – 7 million / US$641,000 – 897,000

Ju Ming employed a bold and resolute approach when creating his large-scale Taichi series sculptures in the 1990s. This is evident in the strength of the works’ surfaces, which emphasise the structure of the human body. Subtle and minute movements are discernible within the massive sculptures. One work that possesses this sense of movement is Taichi Series: Single Whip, which portrays a Taichi practitioner in the midst of squatting, turning, and rising again with a bent leg. Ju Ming’s rapid and precise hand lends a firm structural touch to his sculptures that contributes to their fluid dynamism and coiled sense of speed.

Taichi Series: Thrust
1995, bronze, edition 5/10, 118.5 x 142 x 95 cm
Est. HK$4 – 6 million / US$513,000 – 769,000

In the early 1980s, as Ju Ming’s understanding of Taichi continued to deepen, he gradually ceased to restrict himself to the portrayal of fixed poses. Instead, he began to portray the instant of a dynamic twist or turn, for which he developed in the mid-1980s prototypes for the large-scale Taichi series of sculptures that came later. Created in 1995, Taichi Series: Thrust is inspired by two prototypes. This work possesses both weight and dynamism, a result of Ju Ming’s evolution as an artist, which marks the apex of the Taichi series.

Taichi Series: Turn Advance
1996, bronze, edition 3/8, 179 x 115 x 134 cm
Est. HK$4.5 – 6.5 million / US$577,000 – 833,000

‘Forgetting’ is a lifelong philosophy that Ju Ming inherited from his teacher Yuyu Yang – casting off techniques that he had mastered and forms that had lingered in his mind in order to continue evolving. Chang once said that ‘reduction’ is the basis of Ju Ming’s creative methods: the reduction of physical material to reveal images contained within. One large sculpture that exemplifies this theory is Taichi Series: Turn Advance from 1996. When viewed from any angle, this work reveals a quasiabstract expression that breaks from the past.

Taichi Series: Maiden Working the Loom
1988, bronze, edition 3/20, 98 x 72 x 46 cm
Est. HK$900,000 – 1.2 million / US$115,000 – 154,000

By pursuing his path of ‘forgetting’, Ju Ming eventually achieved the highest literati ideal: the aesthetic of zhuo, which came to represent the beauty of simplicity and the pursuit of unaffected integrity. It is evident in Taichi Series: Maiden Working the Loom, where the simple lines and the abstract motion express the artist’s appreciation towards the zhuo ideal.

Rooster and Hen (Two Works)
1990, wood
L: 57.5 x 65 x 27.5 cm; R: 37 x 47 x 22.6 cm
Est. HK$700,000 – 900,000 / US$90,000 – 115,000

The Rooster and Hen wooden sculptures originate from Ju Ming’s experience of rural life in his youth. This lot is the larger pair of the two lots on offer. Cut using an intentionally rougher technique, the valiant and spirited rooster appears to be in the midst of announcing the start of the day in his village. Rooster and Hen returns to the most popular theme of his native culture period, reflecting the artist’s persisting interest in his origins.

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