Press Release

Sotheby’s Hong Kong presents “The First Avant-Garde: Masterworks from the Johnson Chang Collection”

Hong Kong
LED BY ZHANG XIAOGANG’S MONUMENTAL TRIPTYCH THE DARK TRILOGY: FEAR, MEDITATION, SORROW

14 WORKS COMBINING DISTINGUISHED PROVENANCE WITH HISTORICAL GRAVITAS

FRESH TO MARKET FROM THE TRAILBLAZING COLLECTION THAT SPEARHEADED CHINESE CONTEMPORARY ART

This Autumn, Sotheby’s Hong Kong is honored and privileged to present “The First Avant-Garde: Masterworks from the Johnson Chang Collection”. The selection of 14 Chinese Contemporary artworks hail from the private collection of Johnson Chang, the eminent Hong Kong curator, critic and connoisseur, who is widely regarded for his groundbreaking efforts in placing the Chinese Contemporary art genre onto the international stage.

The prestigious selection is led by Zhang Xiaogang’s monumental triptych The Dark Trilogy: Fear, Meditation, Sorrow, which will be presented and offered in its entirety for the first time since the early 1990s. Other highlights include early works by iconic Chinese Contemporary masters Zeng Fanzhi, Liu Wei, Fang Lijun, and Yu Youhan, all of which have been kept in Chang’s private collection since their creation.

The advent of the 1990s Chinese avant-garde, and its simultaneous emergence onto the global art stage, marked a pivotal point in the evolution of artistic creation and thought in the nation. Johnson Chang’s pioneering efforts in championing the genre trailblazed a monumental legacy within this chapter of history. Combining distinguished provenance with historical gravitas, the present assemblage encapsulates a momentous period of major aesthetic and cultural changes in China from the early 1990s to 2000s.

This collection converges around the core theme of the human figure and how it withstood the surging tides of China’s rapid passage to modernity. Three works by Zhang Xiaogang reveal his artistic evolution that culminated in his impassive portraits that stare into the abyss of history; Zeng Fanzhi took to hiding his figures behind masks; while Liu Wei dismantled his bodies from within, as illustrated by the over-ripe Banana. These are just a few examples from the most significant period of recent Chinese history, when the nation crossed ideological divisions and engaged the global stage.
Johnson Chang
Johnson Chang

Bearing one of the most prestigious provenances of Chinese Contemporary Art, Johnson’s collection represents a highly critical period of seismic shifts in the history of the genre. We are honored to be entrusted with this significant collection and to present it across our upcoming Evening and Day Sales this autumn, as we strive to continue our market leadership in Chinese Contemporary Art with exemplary masterpieces.
Shea Lam, Contemporary Art Specialist of Sotheby’s Hong Kong

Highlights

Zhang Xiaogang
The Dark Trilogy: Fear, Meditation, Sorrow
1989-1990, oil and collage on canvas, in three panels
(i) 179 x 114 cm, 70½ x 44⅞ in. (ii) 179 x 114 cm, 70½ x 44⅞ in.
(iii) 177.8 x 114.3 cm, 70 x 45 in.
Overall: 179 x 342.3 cm, 70½ x 134¾ in.
Est: HK$25,000,000 – 45,000,000 / US$3,226,000 – 5,806,000

Executed from 1989 to 1990, this museum-quality masterwork is a singular historical treatise at once personal and monumental. As the largest of only two triptychs recorded amongst his early works, this is a pivotal and important masterpiece that sheds the abstract romanticism of his preceding series, evincing a condensed iconography that paved the way for his later Bloodline canon. This extremely rare piece will be presented and offered as a complete triptych for the first time since the early 1990s.

Zeng Fanzhi
The Mask Series No. 11
1994, oil on canvas
180 x 150 cm, 70⅞ x 62⅝ in.
Est. HK$12,000,000 – 22,000,000 / US$1,548,000 – 2,839,000

Fresh to the market, this work was created in 1994, the year Zeng Fanzhi debuted his Mask series to immense critical acclaim. Hailing from the earliest group of Mask paintings, the visceral hue of the figure’s face, hands, as well as the dog distinctly recall the red fleshy hues of Zeng’s preceding Meat and Hospital series. Zeng Fanzhi’s Mask series stands as a paradigm in Chinese Contemporary art, encapsulating the collective anxieties of a rapidly developing nation.

Zhang Xiaogang
Bloodline-Big Family: Family Portrait
1998, oil on canvas
189.5 x 152.5 cm, 74⅝ x 60 in.
Est. HK$10,000,000 – 20,000,000 / US$1,290,000 – 2,581,000

Fresh to market, this work was created during the most coveted period of Zhang Xiaogang’s iconic Bloodline series. Its distinctive composition is rare for its depiction of full-body family members. Zhang’s critically acclaimed Bloodline series interrogates notions of memory, subjectivity, and familial connection in the complex construction of contemporary China’s identity.

Liu Wei
Banana
1995, oil on canvas
300 x 150.5 cm, 118⅛ x 59¼ in.
Est. HK$6,000,000 – 10,000,000 / US$774,000 – 1,290,000

Fresh to market, this towering piece is a rare early painting by Liu Wei depicting the subject matter of fruits, displaying to exquisite perfection his trademark stylized technique “expressionistic deformation” as coined by critic Li Xianting. The playful yet monumental piece not only exemplifies Liu Wei’s unparalleled deft mastery of the painterly medium and but also encapsulates his unique artistic outlook and purist creative philosophy.


Hong Kong Exhibition

3-7 October 2020
Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre

Auctions

Contemporary Art Evening Sale
6 October 2020

Contemporary Art Day Sale
7 October 2020

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