BEIJING – Sotheby's Beijing will hold an auction of Modern and Contemporary Chinese Art on 1 June. Evelyn Lin, Director of the Contemporary Asian Art Department, stated: "Responding to market demand, we have decided to go for a tightly curated sale this season with slightly fewer lots but a higher average price per work compared to last season's offering.” There will be 53 lots at the auction with an estimated value of RMB 84 million in total.

Zao Wou-ki, Sous Bois Dans La Nuit, 1955. Estimate RMB 16,000,000–24,000,000.

One highly anticipated lot is Zao Wou-ki's Sous Bois Dans La Nuit, which has been perfectly preserved for sixty years. This masterpiece from Zao's oracle bone period was previously owned by the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University, before passing into the collection of its present owner. Last year, Sotheby's Beijing auctioned Abstraction, another major work from Zao's oracle bone period, for RMB 89.68 million (US$14.7 million), setting the current record for the artist. This remarkable price demonstrates the robust confidence and fierce interest in Zao's outstanding paintings among the up-and-coming generation of Chinese collectors.

Zhao Bandi, Pink Kiss, 1996. Estimate RMB 2,000,000-3,000,000.

On the contemporary slate, Zhao Bandi's oil painting Pink Kiss will be a major highlight. For years, Zhao's name been closely associated with his "Panda Man" persona, to the extent that many have forgotten that he started out as a realist painter, but two years ago his 1990 oil painting Butterfly sold for a high price in Beijing. Pink Kiss is a variant of Butterfly: the two paintings feature the same characters and composition, but in contrast to the mournful desperation of Butterfly, Pink Kiss possesses a sense of warmth and romance.

Wang Yidong, A Married Woman in the Mountains, 1995–96. RMB 8,000,000–12,000,000.

Also offered in the Modern and Contemporary Chinese Art sale are masterpieces of contemporary realism. Wang Yidong's celebratory 1996 classic, A Married Woman in the Mountains, presents an apparently simple and modest Chinese rural wedding scene. Touchingly expressed with exquisite classical Western-style realist technique, the painting brims with rich bucolic flavour.

In addition to the auction, Sotheby's Beijing is proud to present the Hui Tong Collection of Chinese Realist Paintings, which will be on view from 30 May to 1 June at the China World Trade Center Tower III. The Hui Tong Collection, an Asia-based private collection, has assembled numerous key pieces from the flourishing period of Chinese realist painting, including representative works by Chen Yifei, Ai Xuan, Wang Yidong, Leng Jun, and Su Zhongli. This exhibition is a rare opportunity to view a collection of paintings with a high degree of scholarly and aesthetic appeal.

Also on view at Sotheby's Beijing is this season's private sales exhibition, Masters on Paper: From Picasso to Sanyu. This special exhibition of graphic art and works on paper brings together some of the most important artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Toulouse-Lautrec, Marc Chagall, Joan Miró and Henri Matisse. This roster of Western masters will complement and enrich the spring auction with an element of international flavour.

Beijing-based writer Du Ka reports on art and culture for a variety of magazines in China.