Hong Kong announces that its Southeast Asian Paintings Spring Sale 2012 will take place on 2 April at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The sale brings together a substantial selection of modern paintings of impeccable provenance, as well as inspiring Contemporary creations by both established and emerging artists from the region. Also noteworthy is a line-up of innovative photography and new media works that demonstrates the multi-disciplinary talent and vision of young Southeast Asian artists of this generation. Offering around 170 exceptional works, the sale is expected to fetch in excess of HK$45 million / US$5.8 million*.
MOK Kim Chuan, Sothebys Head of Southeast Asian Paintings, said, 2011 has been a truly remarkable year for Sothebys Southeast Asian Art sale, which achieved a record annual total of HK$190 million / US$24.4 million, an almost 30% growth over 2010. This solid growth is characterised by a continued expansion of collector base as we see increasing buying interests from new markets including the Greater China region with Taiwan in particular.
In response to the surging global interest in superb quality Southeast Asian paintings, we are proud to present a number of extremely rare modern masterpieces with impeccable provenance this season. Of particular note are Romualdo Locatellis Portrait of Fu Ku Ko and Juan Lunas In the Theatre box both are rare and superb examples of European Academic style that influenced early 20th century modern Southeast Asian painting, as well as arguably Walter Spies first oil painting in Bali - Banyan with Two Young Balinese. In addition, this sale also features innovative three-dimensional works, photography and new media art that, along with the other bold Contemporary offerings, are sure to satisfy collectors more sophisticated and diversifying tastes.
Walter Spies (1895 1942) sojourn in Bali is often described as the most creative period of his life. The star lot of this sale is the artists Waringin Mit Zwei Jungen Baliern (Banyan with Two Young Balinese; est: HK$6.5 11.5 million / US$840,000 1.49 million) executed in 1927. This rare painting is considered as the artists first oil painting in Bali, and was presented to the legendary feudal lord of Ubud, Cokorda Gede Raka Sukawati, Spies patron and host, as a token of gratitude for his lordship's hospitability when the artist moved to Bali. The Cokorda was a great patron of art who later founded an artists society, Pita Maha, with Spies and Rudolf Bonnet, which played a crucial role in shaping the development of modern Balinese art.
Spies always celebrated the Balinese approach to life and art, and the present work, with its shafts of divine light illuminating the earth, water and man, may be viewed as a work of great hope and optimism and a celebration of life.
Another highlight from the Modern session is Ritratto di Fu Ku Ko (Portrait of Fu Ku Ko; est: HK$1.2 1.8 million / US$155,000 233,000) by renowned Italian painter, Romualdo F. Locatelli (1905-1943), best known for his society portraits created during his early years in Italy, and subsequently during his travels in Africa and Southeast Asia. This work traces its roots back to Locatellis 1938 visit to Java when the artist was invited by Mr. Fu Ching Chang, an affluent shipbuilder, to the launch of his merchant ship. Fu commissioned Locatelli to paint his wife, Mrs. Fu Ku Ko, and the resulting work is a stunning example of Locatelli's pioneering pairing of Western painting technique and Eastern pictoral symbolism.
Ritratto di Fu Ku Ko is believed to be the only portrait of a Chinese subject ever painted by Locatelli. Since the artist died young at 38 and that many of his works were destroyed after the Second World War, finely executed and intact paintings on large-format canvases as such (202 x 120.5cm) by the artist have become truly rare finds.
Juan Luna (1857 1899), the first Filipino artist to be recognised on a global scale, is represented in the sale by his En El Palco (In the Theatre Box; est: HK$3 5 million / US$387,000 645,000) executed in 1884, which depicts one of the artists favourite subject matters - the prestigious opera houses of his era, where new European bourgeoisie and aristocracy flaunted wealth, power and influence. Set against the flamboyant background of the late 19th century, Luna illustrates a drama within another where the audience of the opera is on-show themselves, posturing as they play out their real-life act in parallel to the operatic act played before them.
This work combined bold brushstrokes with a balanced and refined composition. The depiction of the high society is also rich with historical and allegorical references that give the paintings gravitas beyond their enigmatic beauty.
Mga Naglalako Ng Manok (Chicken of the Naglalako; est: HK$900,000 1.5 million / US$117,000 194,000) executed in 1957 by pioneering Modernist, Anita Magsaysay-Ho (b. 1914), represents the artists style of the mid to late 1950s. Works of this period are characterised by depictions of strong, sturdy peasant women crowded within a frame. In this painting, the subject matter remains the same, but the treatment has become more abstract, with a lively surface of angled shapes and lines, faces that have become even more generalised, and brushwork that shows more freedom. Chicken of the Naglalako is a painting from an important period in Anita Magsaysay Hos career, showcasing the artists work at her freest, most expressive and most intellectual phases.
The years following Hendra Gunawan's (1918 1983) release from his 13-year incarceration in May 1978 proved to be a remarkably creative period for the artist. Painted in the year of his liberation, Potret Diri dan Anak (Self Portrait with Child; est: HK$1.5 2.5 million / US$194,000 323,000) was exhibited at the Lima Bandung (The Bandung Five Collective) exhibition in October at Taman Ismail Marzuki, the leading art and culture venue in Jakarta at the time.
This rare self-portrait depicts a bittersweet contemplation, juxtaposing the artists ageing and contented visage against the enthusiastic and innocent child in his loving embrace. Revelling in his freedom, Gunawan also recognised the importance of passing the legacy of his experiences and instilling hope in future generations. This paintings narrative and composition exemplified Gunawans unquenchable spirit and optimism, and can be viewed as a celebration of freedom, family union and the restoration of the domesticity the artist craved and missed for over a decade.
Another highlight of this sale is Affandis (1907 1990) Man with Cockerels (est. HK$1.2 2 million / US$155,000 258,000). Completed in 1965, this work exemplifies the artists most creative and critically acclaimed period in the mid-1960s after he had travelled extensively, gained international recognition and exhibited at various overseas biennales and exhibitions. The swirling, seemingly moving impastos in bold, fluid brushstrokes echo the spirit and energy with which Affandi perceives life. The raw emotion it depicts ultimately celebrates his joie de vivre, making it one of the best examples of Affandis mastery as an Expressionist.
This season, Sothebys is also privileged to offer a group of works from the important and distinguished Alex Papadimitriou Collection^, featuring seven works by pioneer artists from Bandung - Ahmad Sadali, But Mochtar, Srihadi Sudarsono, Mochtar Apin, and A.D. Pirous - whose collective corpus is associated as The Bandung School which actively pioneered abstract art in Indonesia since 1950 - the period that the germination of abstract expressionism movement in the West took place.
The paintings in this collection represent some of the artists best and most seminal works from the Bandung Schools apogee in the late 1950s through the early 1970s. All works possess impeccable provenance, having been acquired directly from the artists. Brilliantly executed, these enchanting works are of a calibre that rarely appears on the market.
But Mochtars (1930 1993) Three Seated Ladies (est: HK$90,000 150,000 / US$11,700 19,400) and Ahmad Sadalis (1924 1987) Abstract Orange (est: HK$180,000 250,000 / US$23,300 32,300) are the major highlights from this Collection.
Created in 1955, Untitled (est. HK$280,000 380,000 / US$36,200 49,000) is a perfect exemplification of Cheong Soo Piengs (1917 1983) new aesthetic in the 1950s as he veered away from traditional Chinese ink paintings. The artist transformed human forms into deft, fluid lines, rendering a flat but sculptural effect. His masterful integration of multicultural elements Chinese, Western, Malayan, Singaporean, and Indonesian laid the foundation for the Nanyang style which is still relevant today as an insightful perception of Southeast Asian, and specifically, Singaporean, culture. Untitled is a rare and important example of this achievement.
Le Pho (1907 2001) has preserved the process of painting on silk as a way to harmonise his own temperament and his technique. The delicacy of the material on which the present work, Le Rideau Mauve (The Purple Curtain; est: HK$600,000 800,000 / US$77,500 104,000), is executed demands a refinement of design and colour to which present day art is not accustomed. This recourse to the art of another age demonstrates the audacity of Le Pho and the interest inherent in his efforts.
Nguyen Gia Tri (1908 1993) started creating of his famous and important lacquer works in the late 1950s, which led to the formation of an art movement that linked Eastern and Western lacquer traditions, cementing him as the preeminent 20th century Master of Vietnamese lacquer. Executed circa 1960s, Abstract Composition (est. HK$450,000 650,000 / US$58,500 84,000) is a fine and ground breaking example of the artists combination of the abstract with traditional lacquer materials, giving the flat surface boldness, richness and rhythm.
Ronald Venturas (b. 1973) Humanime (est: HK$450,000 680,000/ US$58,500 88,000) represents the artists most exciting work in recent years. True to his signature style of combining super-flat caricatures of iconic animation characters with hyper-realistic figures, Ventura has brought another level of finesse and explosive visual aesthetic in the present example executed in 2012.
In Humanime, Ventura features a vixen with a human body and a disproportionately large head of an anime. His propensity to merge the human figure with another form be it animal or robot points to a mounting dissatisfaction with the human bodies as bearer of narrative. The jolly crowd of well-known characters, clashing against the drab background, screams at desperation for meaning. Fantasy and reality intertwined on the same canvas, inviting myriad interpretations from the viewers and calling for the creation of their own vivid reality where imagination takes them.
Another highlight in the Contemporary section is a powerful work by Indonesian artist, Ay Tjoe Christine (b. 1973). Incredibly rare and unique in the artist repertoire, Langit-Langit Merah (Red Ceiling; est: HK$240,000 350,000 / US$31,000 45,200) created between 2009 and 2010 depicts a sea of rosepetal-like fragments sweeping the canvas in various shades of red - cadmium, fuchsia, vermilion, ruby, rust, cardinal, scarlet and various degrees of translucency from diaphanous to opaque. The overall effect expresses the artists penchant for dichotomy between structure or rationality and freedom or emotion.
Executed in 2009, Kontes Para Pemikir (Contest of the Thinkers; est: HK$280,000 380,000 / US$36,200 49,000) is undoubtedly the most important sculpture by Samsul Arifin (b. 1979) to come to auction. Majestic in scale, the installation is composed of five parts, each standing at over three metres high, which as a group present the viewer with a theatrical narrative. Perched at the top of each pencil representing Indonesias education system is Samsuls avatar, Goni, the kapok-stuffed doll that symbolises an innocent person - unprivileged, uncorrupted and simple. Contest of Thinkers offers social contemplation on the efficiency of Indonesias education system. The emotions and empathy evoked by these simple dolls which display subtle nuances is a testament to Samsuls dexterity with his mediums as well as his profound intuition and understanding of human nature.
Executed circa 2002, Di Awang-Awang (Up In The Air) (est: HK$275,000 350,000 / US$35,500 45,200) is one of the three-dimensional works by Rudi Mantofani (b. 1973). The work can be seen from both sides as a real space away from a wall - the background that thus far has given the painting its life and existence. By bringing the painting, which changes neither its form nor purpose nor function, forward a few centimetres away from the wall, Mantofani challenges viewers perception and definition of this art form.
PHOTOGRAPHY & NEW MEDIA ART
Highlights of the New Media Art section include a stop-motion animation by Tromarama - a collective from Indonesia formed in 2004 by Febie Babyrose (b. 1985), Ruddy Hatumena (b. 1984) and Herbert Hans (b. 1984). Their work, represented here by *Ting (est: HK$20,000 30,000 / US$2,600 3,900), poses intriguing yet playful commentaries and observations on contemporary urban culture. *Ting, executed in 2008, perfectly describes the urban masses as they move in herds, follow each other and do what the other does. They are so restless that they embark on adventures and travel around the world only to find that ultimately the place that they long for most is home.
The tension between the real and unreal is explored through Jason Tablantes (b. 1981) portrayal of the urban culture of excess. The Tea After Party (est: HK$25,000 35,000 / US$3,250 4,550), a photographical work created in 2010, represents the artists twisted urban interpretation of the age-old tale of Alice in Wonderland, mashing up the scene of a tea party with the modern connotations of after party where people get indulged after gratifying parties.
*Estimates do not include buyers premium