At $18m, massive masterpiece has price to match

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 May, 2005, 12:00am

Zhao Wuji's huge modern masterpiece Juin-Octobre 85 was sold for $18 million yesterday to an Asian collector, becoming the most expensive Chinese oil painting in history.

The earlier record was set by another Zhao painting, which sold for about $7 million in 2002.

The Christie's auction, held at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, began with a base price of $8 million for Zhao's painting. Experts predicted it would sell for between $16 million and $20 million.

The piece is the largest triptych - a work of art on three panels - ever produced by Zhao. It measures 2.8 metres high and 10 metres wide and is believed to be the largest Chinese oil painting.

Eric Chang Ting-yuan, an art expert with Christie's, said the painting was special because it combined western abstractionism with traditional Chinese ink painting on rice paper.

He said the painting looked different when viewed from various angles.

'The blue part on the right of the painting is ocean - if it is seen from above. But it looks like a piece of land if the painting is viewed horizontally.'

If examined carefully, he said, the painting showed some characteristics of Chinese calligraphy.

Yesterday's art auction raised a total of $320 million.

Christie's spring auctions of Chinese imperial art and painting, watches and jewellery will continue until Wednesday.