Will The New Chinese Collector Continue To Dominate? Or Will Other Asian And Western Buyers Follow Their Lead?
On December 6th, Taiwanese auction powerhouse Ravenel will hold its Autumn Auction of Modern and Contemporary Asian Art in Taipei, the largest ever organized in the company’s 10 year history. With Mainland Chinese “New Collectors” becoming a major force in the global auction market over the past year — mainly in the past six months — and dominating at recent auctions of Asian art in Hong Kong and London, we can expect that Mainland collectors will have their hands firmly on their wallets at Ravenel. The quality of works up for grabs at the Ravenel auction on December 6 is extraordinary, particularly in the Chinese categories, with works by top Chinese contemporary artists like Xu Bing, Wang Guangyi, Qi Zhilong, and Zhou Chunya included alongside great masters like Zao Wou-Ki and Sanyu. But for potential buyers — or even just for those who enjoy keeping track of developments in the rapidly changing field of Asian auctions, it pays to know what to watch out for at Ravenel’s Autumn Auction.
Here are Jing Daily’s picks for the Top 10 Contemporary Chinese “Lots to Watch” on December 6. Text and Images courtesy of Ravenel:
1.) Zao Wou-Ki: “17.4.64” (1964)
Estimate: USD$1,406,700-1,896,000 (HKD$10,824,000-14,588,000)
Zao Wou-ki is an artist who is good at hiding poems in his paintings. So his paintings can move poets very easily. Many books and compilations study Zao Wou-ki’s art and among them, many of the reviews and appreciations come from poetic art reviewers. Zao Wou-ki’s works are full of lyricism and abstraction. He uses Western oil paints to form splashed-ink landscapes creating views which seem to have been painted by a poet. His art resonates both at home and abroad. He is a leading master of Chinese abstract art in modern times. The poet Wang Wei (8th Century) in the Tang Dynasty introduced poems into his paintings and created “paintings in poetry and poetry in paintings” for the first time. By the time of the Song Dynasty, based on the theory of literary paintings, Su Shi (1037-1101), Huang Ting-chien (1045-1105), Mi Fu (1051-1107) and his son, added calligraphy to their paintings developing ink and wash paintings. Su Shi’s “scholar paintings” made “literary paintings” take a big step ahead and become more established. The landscape paintings of the Northern Song Dynasty cherish lofty ideals of landscape. When painting landscape, the artists didn’t care about realistic skills but creating a void for traveling meditation. Examining the entire life creations of Zao Wou-ki, we can say he is a new modern literary painter. And he has been traveling around the world in a lifetime to witness the pulse movement of the times in decades. His art influence still gives a valuable feedback in today’s world.
2.) Sanyu (Chang Yu): “Vase of Flower with Blue Ground” (1956)
Estimates: US$917,499-1,223,200 (HK$7,059,000-9,412,000)
“Vase of Flowers with Blue Ground” was completed in 1956. It is one of the rare works by Sanyu that come complete with signature, address and date, which were all written on the back of the original painting as follows: “SANYU, 28 Rue de Sablière, Paris, 1956”. We can only make conjectures as to whether Sanyu had any intention of publishing this picture anywhere-this would explain why he went to the trouble of providing all the above-mentioned details, in particular the address of his studio, which was also the place where he lived. According to the Biographies of Painters compiled by Rita Wong (cf. Sanyu-A Catalogue Raisonné of Oil Paintings, pp. 62-72, which was published in 2001), Sanyu moved to the Rue de Sablière in the 14th arrondissement of Paris in 1943, where he would have his residence until the end of his life in 1966. In the exhibition catalogues of the Salon de Indépendants for the years 1943, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1954, 1955 and 1956, we find records of works by Sanyu on show, all with the notation “SANYU, 28 Rue de Sablière”, and a list with the titles of his works that were on display through the years.
3.) Chu Teh-chun: “Foce d’ame (quadrych)” (2004-2005)
Estimate: USD$856,300-1,284,400 (HKD$6,588,000-9,992,000)
Paintings of Chu Teh-chun are highly spiritual. The composition of his works is like a great universe. They enhance the imagination of the sense of beauty, sometimes the imagination reaches deep inside. The former French Minister of Culture, Jacques Lang once pointed out that, Chu’s works express a feeling of loneliness; a feeling like, you are the only creature in the whole world. This 4 panel work “Force d’âme” was created during 2004-2005. It can be seen as one of the most important works of Chu’s late age. We can feel his lively soul in the painting. Chu Teh-chun loves the color blue. There were plenty of blue paintings in the exhibition named “The Recent Works of Chu Teh-chun”, curated by Ms. Xiao Xiaolan in 2005. When people saw the paintings from far away, the exhibition venue looked like an ocean. Chu believes that, the most expressive color is blue. It can be used to express the power inside his mind.
4.) Wang Guangyi: “Coca Cola (triptych)” (2005)
Estimate: USD$275,200-367,000 (HKD$2,118,000-2,824,000)
Born in 1956, in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province in 1956, Wang spent his formative years growing up under the Cultural Revolution, an event which has had a profound influence on his art. Denied an education until the Cultural Revolution had ended in 1976, he entered the Zhejiang Academy of Art in 1977, and he graduated from there in 1984. After graduating Wang was immensely influenced by the ‘Pop Art’ of urbane American Culture. Taking the ‘flat style’ and monochromatic colors of this style as a starting point, Wang began to produce his first works, studies of ordinary people in everyday activities.
5.) Feng Zhengjie: “Chinese Portrait Series” (2008)
Estimate: USD$116,200-177,400 (HKD$894,000-1,365,000)
Different from Gaudy and Pop art, while Feng Zhengjie employs ready-made images, the antitype of these images is not important at all. It is important that Feng Zhengjie has developed a form of image according to contemporary visual experience. The works look like exaggerated photographs related to fashion, but are imagined and constructed artificially. During the period of creation, the artist abandons ethical judgment. If Gaudy Art is spiritually centered on irony, then Feng Zhengjie’s spiritual core is to develop a new aesthetic interest and means of processing images by borrowing from commercial culture and popular culture, to achieve a new form of contemporary commercial images through imitation.
6.) Yue Minjun: “Contemporary Terracotta Warriors Series No. 6” (2005)
Estimate: USD$122,300-152,900 (HKD$941,000-1,176,000)
Yue Minjun’s terracotta warrior sculptures demonstrate a blend of historical implications and the potency of the self-image. These figures are reminiscent of ideological aesthetics found in older Chinese art. Their exaggerated limbs and large heads give the sculptures a touch of modernity. These sculptures are made of bronze, and stand in an apex or circle formation. They represent a unified force, the power of the self-image, and the many contradictions that contemporary China faces as it continues to develop in the twenty-first century. Yue Minjun’s work portrays his own likeness; figures and faces leering, laughing and enjoying life. Although Yue Minjun’s characters are always smiling, they also convey a sense of irony.
7.) Wang Guangyi: “Great Criticism Series – Channel V” (2002)
Estimate: USD$122,300-183,500 (HKD$941,000-1,412,000)
“Great Criticism Series – Channel V” is dominated by a large group of young proletarian students, soldiers, workers and peasants, the heroes of the revolution. Dressed in traditional revolutionary garb, they are massed together enthusiastically waving their Little Red Books. They are ecstatically shouting out at a rally, and their smiling, cheerful faces seem totally benign. The speaker at the rally is off stage, and the large V of the brand ‘Channel V’ seems to be the center of focus of the teeming masses. The criticism seems to be implicit one corrupt and empty system is in danger of being replaced by another.
8.) Yang Shaobin: “Shadow” (2006)
Estimate: USD$33,600-55,000 (HKD$259,000-424,000)
Yang Shaobin is a leading painter in the movement called Cynical Realism. Born in 1963 in Tangshan, Hebei Province, he graduated from Hebei’s Polytechnic University in 1983. In 1991, he moved to the Beijing artist village of Yuanmingyuan, and four years later, he chose a studio in Tongxian, a suburb of Beijing where many Chinese artists now live. As a major, representative artist of his generation, Yang became known for his sprawling canvases depicting figures in violent states of wrestling and fighting. Apocalyptic in tone, Yang’s paintings portray a struggling self, seemingly at war with its body, as if the figure were attempting to violently transcend itself. One is tempted to see the works as indicative of political complaint, but their overarching violence suggests a broader, even an allegorical, reading.
9.) Xu Bing: “New English Calligraphy – Nursery Rhymes Five: Jack and Jill” (2003)
Estimate: USD$24,500-33,600 (HKD$188,000-259,000)
Jack and Jill
Went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down
And broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after
Nursery Rhymes Five
10.) Fang Lijun: “Untitled (A Set of Three)” (2000)
Estimate: USD$12,200-15,300 (HKD$94,000-118,000)
Signed lower right Fang Lijun in Chinese and dated 2000.6.15, numbered 60/60 (left)
Signed lower right Fang Lijun in Chinese and dated 2000.5.5, numbered 29/65 (center)
Signed lower right Fang Lijun in Chinese and dated 2000.6.25, numbered 44/65 (right)