HONG KONG - This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Contemporary Asian Art Department. Looking back, it is incredible how much has changed in the span of one decade. When we began, there was almost no concept of an art market. Chinese contemporary artists had just started to release their creative energy in the 1980s and 1990s and while the market had begun to bud, there was virtually no opportunity for artists to showcase their work. Like the Parisian art salons of the 18th and 19th centuries, exhibitions took place at private homes of diplomats or sometimes in an embassy. Ten years later, the market has gone from zero to where it is today. From artists and collectors to galleries, the industry has not only blossomed, but flourished.
Fang Lijun, Series 2 No. 4, 1992. Estimate HK$25–35 million (US$3.2–4.5 million), Modern and Contemporary Asian Art Evening sale 5 October.
The Ullens Collection is a perfect example of how far things have advanced. Throughout my career in Sotheby’s, this particular collection has held special significance. I feel extremely privileged to be part of it. Our first sale together, in 2010, was a unique opportunity to offer museum-quality works. It was incredibly comprehensive in terms of thoroughly representing not just the breadth of the Ullens’ collection, but also the whole of contemporary Chinese art. It wasn’t a question of quality versus quantity; each and every work was one-of-a-kind. The 2010 sale was followed by two record-breaking sales of the private collection in Hong Kong in Spring and Autumn 2011, as well as the sale of Liu Ye’s Sword and Zeng Fanzhi’s The Last Supper at Sotheby’s Hong Kong 40th Anniversary Evening Sale in October 2013.
Guy and Myriam Ullens de Schooten began collecting in the late 1980s. After moving to mainland China in 1987, Guy started visiting artists’ studios. He got to know and eventually became good friends with them, frequently acquiring works from artists directly. It was an auspicious start. Today, the Ullenses continue their commitment to the development of Chinese contemporary art, supporting and collecting the work of young Chinese artists as they have done for the past 25 years. It is Sotheby’s honour and privilege to offer these celebrated works and to present collectors with an unprecedented opportunity to acquire such exceptional masterpieces.
Wang Guangyi, Visa, 1998. Estimate HK$800,000–1 million (US$103,000–128,000), Contemporary Asian Art 6 October.
Also this Autumn, we are honoured to present museum-quality works by renowned artists such as Fang Lijun, Zeng Fanzhi and Zhang Xiaogang, some never-before-seen at auction. Each one considered highly representative of the artists’ oeuvres, together they form a peerless selection of seminal works defining the early development of contemporary Chinese art. Thirty-seven pieces in total will be independently offered at the Modern and Contemporary Asian Art – Evening sale and the Contemporary Asian Art Day sale on 5 and 6 October respectively, with a total estimate of HK$111.5 million (US$14.3 million).
I can’t imagine a better way to ring in ten incredible years of Contemporary Asian Art.