N ow that Sotheby's October auction series in Hong Kong have wound down and the thrill of these record-breaking sales are a recent memory, many collectors may be asking themselves: “What next?”
It is now a great time to look at Southeast Asian art – especially for newer collectors or those who interested in expanding their scope. It is an area that has seen growing international demand in the last ten to fifteen years thanks to a new generation of emerging talent. Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian online auction offers an exciting selection of paintings, prints, sculptures, and other works which are all accessible to newcomers and represent some of the most exceptional voices to have come up in the last decade.
Model of Zoomanity
Ronald Ventura made headlines when his painting Grayground was sold for a record US$1.1 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, the most ever paid for a work of Southeast Asian contemporary art. Much of the artist’s work draws from visual images that inundate modern daily life. One of the highlights in the current sale is Astrodog (Zoomanity), an action figure with the head of a dog and the body of a cyborg – both often figuring their way into the artist’s work. The effect is incongruous, and despite Astrodog's stern expression, he might just make you smile. Is the Astrodog human or a beast? Animal or machine? Ronald Ventura takes a playful approach in creating “zoomanity” subjects which have attributes of all of the above, exploring the boundaries of what it means to be human.
Caravaggio in a New Light
Talent runs in the Ventura family, as Ronald’s younger brother Olan is also a rising star. Olan Ventura’s Still Life With Fruits on a Stone Ledge comes from the 15th century painting of the same name by master Italian painter Caravaggio. The flowers and fruits bring to mind life’s impermanence and earthly decay, but wait – why is the paint sliding off the painting like some kind of printing error? The work is in equal parts thought provoking and cheeky. The process of decomposition in its many forms is a running theme in much of Olan Ventura’s art.
The World Through A Mirror
Ronson Culibrina, born in 1991, also draws from classical painting traditions and layers on images that reflect contemporary life. Selfie Lady of Shalott references John William Waterhouse’s work The Lady of Shalott (1888), which depicts a maiden cursed only to be able to see the world through the reflection of a mirror. In Culibrina’s painting, the lady is similarly confined, but this time to the front-facing camera of her mobile phone. The clash of traditional and contemporary themes not only serves as a trenchant commentary on the self-obsession promoted by social media culture, but also tackles larger socio-political issues such as the impact of globalisation.
The Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian online auction, held between 20 November and 4 December, offers the opportunity to bid on masterpieces by a new generation of artists, whose works are idiosyncratic and personal. Young as they are, many of these artists are already well known on the international scene and have reintroduced new life to the contemporary art world. Also featured in the sale are collaborative works by Singapore artists whose eye-catching works have reinvented the concept of street art. Read more about that here.