Lot 1071
  • 1071

Zeng Fanzhi & Jack Ma

1,500,000 - 2,500,000 HKD
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  • Zeng Fanzhi & Jack Ma
  • Paradise
  • executed in 2014
  • oil on canvas
signed by both artists in Chinese


This work is generally in good condition. Having examined the work under ultraviolet light, there appears to be no evidence of restoration.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

All proceeds from the sale of this lot will benefit The Paradise International Foundation. 

Paradise Found
Zeng Fanzhi and Jack Ma’s Paradise

The Paradise International Foundation is a non-profit, environmental conservation organisation created by Chinese philanthropists and conservationists with strong commitments in conservation investment to preserve our shared natural heritage.

The foundation uses the best available science, a creative spirit, and financial instruments to craft innovative solutions to protect the areas with especial preservation value at a global. We respect the needs, values and traditions of people, local communities and our partners, and we forge relationships based on mutual benefit and trust in the local conservation management capacity building, sustainable development solutions creation, and environmentally conscious products promotion because we value the collective and collaborative efforts that are so essential to our success.

The foundation also helps people understand and appreciate our natural resources by outdoor activities and volunteers programs especially for the next generation to promote the lifestyle concept of "from nature and back to nature".

We hope to work with you on these endeavours to conserve our future.

Paradise is a collective creative effort; a work created especially by both Zeng Fanzhi and Jack Ma for the The Paradise International Foundation. As founder and President of the Chinese Internet Giant, the Alibaba website, Ma hopes to rouse the world’s attention for environmental protection through this piece. The Paradise Foundation is determined in its vision and unwavering in its ambition to provide solutions for environmental pollution, which has become a major focus for Chinese society in recent years. In such a way, the foundation is a unique imprint of its time and resonates with the society at large. The present work is Ma’s first foray into creating artworks first-hand, and has joined hands with the artist Zeng Fanzhi. According to Ma at the time of creating Paradise: “That this is the first time I’ve painted, and to have been able to do it with Fanzhi—I am deeply honoured;  this is my first time to paint, and I feel very good. Together, we created an earth: to protect the earth, to protect the oceans, to protect the air, to protect water.” Zeng Fanzhi and Jack Ma first used paint to coat their canvas, then dotted it, and finally used palette knives to scrape its surface, until the Earth manifested itself. The result was a piece solid in texture, with rich and sumptuous layers; the atmosphere and the oceans blend and flow into one another, renewed with life, as if in an endless dance filled with vibrancy. Not only does Paradise showcase the utopic side of our Earth, it is also a reminder for its audience to cherish our environment and to love nature.

When taken within Zeng Fanzhi’s artistic career, Paradise is an important piece from within the artist’s Landscape series. At the beginning of the 2000s Zeng Fanzhi set aside his well-known Western Expressionist title and looked towards Eastern sources of inspiration. Drawing heavily from Chinese landscape paintings, works from the period following the iconic Mask motifs were filled with energetic lines that showed scenes of sprawling vines in vast expanses of nature. These works exhibited the brushwork of luan bi (literally “chaotic brush”), an artistic mode of creation that places emphasis on trusting intuition and feeling rather than governed and rational thought.  While the enormous works bearing these vibrant outgrowths of nature are relatively well known of Zeng’s oeuvre, there was a smaller, much rarer extension of this development. Paradise (Lot 1071) can be read as an extension of this extremely limited series. Featuring an azure and emerald palette painted upon a circular canvas, the work is immediately reminiscent of a globe. When one considers that the work is associated explicitly with a foundation dedicated solely to the conservation of nature, this similarity becomes all the more relevant.

Painted in 2014 by both Zeng Fanzhi and Jack Ma, the work is a very potent symbol of the environment and the importance of cooperation in the safeguarding of our planet. Coupled with its title, Paradise, one is reminded of the purity of the earth, and the fact that we each possess part ownership and responsibility in the preservation of our own planet. Although the work is painted on a two-dimensional, circular canvas, the swirls of colour that spiral throughout the piece gives one the sensation of looking upon earth from space. Its striking hues of blues and greens are partially covered by a strip of white resembling snow, creeping down from the work on the upper left side. At once suggesting the North Pole, this encroaching expanse of white also warns one of the dangers of harming our planet, and can likewise be taken to allude to the slow disappearance of our icecaps, and the very real and imminent threats of global warming.

Paradise is also evocative of Song dynasty works, particularly those by Southern Song artist Liang Kai. Considered as the founding father of the xieyi (“sketch style”) painting style that stresses the importance of evoking subject with minimal detail, the artist painted several circular works depicting landscapes. Fitting also to an understanding of the present work is the Song Dynasty’s preoccupation with linking the human condition to landscape depiction, which is central to a philosophy that espouses human agency in the conservancy of planet Earth.

Drawing from various themes, Paradise is a powerful reminder of the supremacy of nature, and is a reminder for its audience to strive for perfection. In a world that has become increasingly fixated on progress and benefit at the detriment of our environment, it is all the more important to look within humanity to salvage Mother Nature and, if not to return her to her former beauty, to revitalise her, to nurture her, and to recall her for the paradise and sanctuary that she is.