On April 6, Sothebys
Hong Kong 20th Century ChineseArt Spring Sale 2009 will bring together a meticulous selection of works by renowned 20th century Chinese artists. A total of 55 lots will be offered, estimated at approximately HK$40 million / US$5 million. Highlighting the sale are 8 seminal pieces from various private European and American collections, by such prominent artists as Lin Fengmian, Zhu Yuanzhi (Yun Gee), Chang Yu (San Yu) and Zhao Wuji (Zao Wou-Ki). The sale marks their first public appearance in nearly half a century.
Lily Lee, Head of 20th Century Chinese Art Department, Sothebys China and Southeast Asia, said: This well-curated auction provides an unparalleled opportunity for collectors to acquire 20th Century Chinese art masterpieces. In particular, we are very privileged to offer five superb works by Lin Fengmian from the 1950s to 1960s, alongside exceptional pieces by prominent second-generation overseas Chinese artists such as Ding Xiongquan (Walasse Ting), Zhang Yi (Cheung Yee), Zhuang Zhe (Chuang Che) and Lin Shouyu (Richard Lin). Featuring works which are fresh to the market, reasonably estimated and with excellent provenance, this sale will surely garner much interest from collectors near and far.
The Private Collection of Monsieur and Madame Helle
Taking centre-stage is a group of significant works by Lin Fengmian (1900-1991) from The Private Collection of Monsieur and Madame Helle. During his tenure as Consul General at the Norwegian Consulate in Shanghai in the early 1960s, Monrad Helle and his wife who are now over ninety years old became acquainted with and patrons of Lin. By discreetly visiting his home amidst a period of political unrest, the couple acquired 15 paintings directly from Lin. This exquisite collection has been with their family for nearly half a century and is now offered to the market for the first time.
One of the prime examples, Chinese Opera Figures: Heroines of the Yangs - Mu Guiying Taking Command (est. HK$1.5-2 million), is an extraordinary work from the celebrated Chinese Opera series by Lin. It is also the only work in the Chinese Opera series that features three figures and is therefore very rare. Elegant in its composition and stunning in its use of brilliant colours, the painting is a testament to Lins masterful integration of Chinese and Western elements and media. Influenced by the early 20th Century avant-garde movement, Lin blended Cubism with artful imagery of Chinese folk arts such as shadow puppetry and paper cutting.
Chinese opera inspired Lin to explore novel composition, arrangement and transformation. Lins works display the dynamics of Chinese opera by juxtaposing a series of flat images that represent the progression of various scenes of an opera piece, depicting various time frames on a single canvas.
Also on offer are three other works by Lin from the same collection, namely Stealing the Royal Horse, Heroines of the Yangs and Autumn River, each estimated at HK$1-1.5 million.
The Private Collection of Ambassador Lorens Petersen
The Collection of Ambassador Lorenz Petersen also features another remarkable creation by Lin Fengmian - Fishing Harvest (est. HK$3-3.5 million).
Mr. Lorenz Petersen was former Danish ambassador in China who became acquainted with Lin. He left Beijing for Denmark in the 1960s before the start of the Cultural Revolution, carrying with him Lins prized paintings including the present work. It has remained with his family for nearly half a century and is now making its debut appearance in the market.
Capturing a festive scene in a fishing village, Fishing Harvest depicts ten figures in the midst of a fruitful fishing harvest. It was painted around the late 1950s to early 1960s, a time when the artist was encouraged by the government of the newly established Peoples Republic of China to experience life as a farmer. This paved the way for a comprehensive series of works inspired by his accounts of the daily life in rural villages.
The Private American Collection
Equally noteworthy is The Last Supper (est. HK$2.5-3.5 million) by Zhu Yuanzhi (Yun Gee; 1906-1963), a museum-quality painting completed in the early 1930s. Recently rediscovered, The Last Supper is an important work from the artists celebrated Diamondism series.
The Last Supper was originally commissioned by St. Peters Lutheran Church in The Bronx, New York. For over half a century it disappeared, and was believed lost; however, it was eventually rediscovered as part of an American private collection.
A fascinating detail of this work is the Chinese landscape painting in the background, positioned behind Jesus and his disciples, which features bamboos rendered in a Chinese manner. The inclusion of this landscape in a modern composition is a straightforward statement by the artist himself he is a Modernist, a Christian and a Chinese immersed in the art of many traditions. It also demonstrates Zhus desire to explore the essence of different culture, as well as his daring attempt to portray a modern version of a traditional subject.
The Private Collection of Monsieur and Madame Oettinger
Painted on masonite, Potted Peonies (est. HK$3.3-3.8 million) by Chang Yu (Sanyu, 1901-1966) is an elegant and adorable work from The Collection of Monsieur and Madame Oettinger. It has been kept in private hands since its creation and is new to the market.
In Potted Peonies, Chang demonstrates a sense of spontaneity while preserving the essence of Chinese ink painting. It is the strong appeal of such elements that has brought Changs works great popularity in both the East and the West.
Monsieur Jacques Oettinger and Madame Denyse Oettinger, parents of the present owner, met the artist in Switzerland in 1945, thereafter maintaining a very close friendship. After one of their visits to Changs studio in Paris in the 1960s, the artist gave the couple the present work, then hanging on the wall of his studio, as a gift. It has remained with their family until today.
Wood Sculptures by Zhu Ming(Ju Ming)
2009 is the Chinese zodiac year of the Ox in Chinese culture. Sothebys Hong Kong this year specially features some exquisite works by master sculptor Zhu Ming (Ju Ming, b. 1938) which takes the theme of the ox: Good Harvest (est. HK$600,000700,000) and Going Home (est. HK$400,000500,000) which are both from the artists acclaimed Nativism series.
The 1970s was the prime time of Nativism in Taiwan, and also marked the emergence of Zhus art. During this early period of his artistic career, Zhu became well versed in the creative vocabularies of modern arts, seeking breakthroughs from his own artistic language.
In his progression from the Nativism series to the Taichi series, Zhu evolved from carving forms to forsaking forms. He began cutting materials by steel saws before using his hands to break the wood apart; alternatively he cut along the materials natural grain with an axe. As such, the material is not only a medium for carving, but has also become part of the subject matter. Also on offer in the sale is Zhu Mings Taichi Series completed in 1990 (est. HK$1.52 million).