BEIJING - Sotheby’s has been pioneering the promotion of cultural exchange between East and West, and this season, we are bringing a highly selective repertoire of Chinese modern and contemporary works to Beijing. From 27 to 30 November, Chinese collectors will have the chance to buy 56 quality works catered to their taste, meticulously sourced from Sotheby’s international network.
These works showcase the achievements of modern and contemporary Chinese art, demonstrating the evolution in aesthetics and its roots in the tradition. This is especially discernible in the exciting category of Chinese Contemporary Ink, which has achieved remarkable results in recent years.
Zao Wou-ki’s 27.1.86. Estimate 12,000,000–18,000,000 RMB
Among the highlights is Zao Wou-ki’s 27.1.86 (Lot 38) – a large-format work painted at the maturation of his abstraction period in 1986. Embodying Zao’s bold vision and sensitivity typical of this period, the work dazzles with its epic scale, powerful calligraphic brushstrokes, rhythmic movements in voids, and as Michael Sullivan writes in his monumental book Art and Artists of Twentieth-Century China, its ‘almost cosmic purity and energy, one that both delights the sense and liberates the spirit.’1 A distinctive composition different from those painted in the 1960s, the intense energy found in 27.1.86 is harmonious rather than conflictual, representing a period of the master’s life when he progressed from Western technique to Eastern aesthetics, and an important transition at that, as the work was exhibited in 1988 at Galerie Artcurial in Paris, and later, in 2004 at Bridgestone Museum of Fine Art in Tokyo.
On the contemporary front, Zhou Chunya’s Peach Blossom (Lot 20) is a prime example of the artist’s masterful synthesis of Western neo-expressionism with the sensibility of Chinese literati art. A recurrent motif in Zhou’s works, peach blossom symbolises femininity, delicacy and desire. Upon this massive canvas, the blooming peach blossoms open themselves up to the viewer, against the backdrop of an azure sky, exuding their symbolic allure and boldly displaying their direct sexual connotation that is contextualised by the running creek and the open field. A work of romance and vitality, Peach Blossoms is as impressive as it is charming.
Zhou Chunya’s Peach Blossom, 2010. Estimate 5,700,000– 6,500,000 RMB
Speaking of literati tradition, perhaps one of its best stewards is Li Jin, whose vivid and colourful contemporary ink paintings always contain a very strong literati sentiment. A scholar of the contemporary visual world and master of his medium, Li Jin produces unique ink art, often autobiographical accounts that are simultaneously simple and profound, carnal and intellectual, carefree yet delicate. His seemingly effortless brushwork belies years of practice and the most rigorous training. Drawing of an Affluent Scene (Lot 17) offered at the sale is a nostalgic depiction of simple abundance with a modern twist – well-proportioned women, delectable food, fresh fruit and good wine. Seated in the middle is a man of quiet contentment, in what could easily be an old family portrait taken to capture a memory. Underlying this scene is the scholarly idea of true happiness and simplicity that Li Jin so masterfully conveys in this rich painting.
Li Jin’s Drawing of an Affluent Scene, 2007. Estimate 500,000–600,000 RMB
Alongside the Modern and Contemporary Chinese Art auction, Sotheby’s Diamonds will also exhibit a stunning collection of diamond jewellery, including a pair of Pear-shaped DIF Diamond Pendent Earrings. Also available for preview are some important and fine antique and period jewellery with royal and aristocratic provenance curated by S.J. Phillips Ltd., including a Suite of Diamond Jewellery presented by Louis-Philippe I to his daughter Princess Clementine d’Orleans. Koopman Rare Art will also present some fine antique silver with royal and noble provenance.
Modern and Contemporary Chinese Art
Auction: 30 November 2014
Preview of Selling Exhibitions and Auction Preview
27–30 November 2014
Panel Discussions and Lectures
29 November, 2014
Summit Wing Ballroom, 3/F
China World Summit Wing
No. 1 Jianguomenwai Avenue
Beijing, 100004 China
1Michael Sullivan, Art and Artists of Twentieth-Century China, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996), p. 206; pl. 59.
Lead image: Xu Lei’s Moon Veil (detail), 2011. Estimate 1,500,000–2,000,000 RMB