57m yuan for Three Gorges art

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 April, 2008, 12:00am

A Chinese oil painting depicting men playing cards in their underwear fetched more than 57 million yuan (HK$63.5 million) at a Beijing auction, a record price for a contemporary mainland artwork, state media reported.

The Breeding Ground No 1, 2.6 metres high and 10 metres wide, is one of the Three Gorges Series of paintings by leading figurative painter Liu Xiaodong, and was painted in 2005 and 2006, the Beijing Times said yesterday.

Bidding at the China Guardian Spring Auction started at 38 million yuan and soon rose to 57.12 million yuan. The painting was finally bought by an unidentified private collector, media reports said.

Liu, 45, had risen to fame over the past seven years both domestically and globally for his artwork. He has drawn a haunting collection of large paintings that focus on ordinary people who have been ordered to resettle because of the world's largest dam project, on the Yangtze River.

To draw the painting, Liu invited 11 local farmers to act as models. Seven of them, surrounded by mountains and the river, sit around playing cards, and the rest stand or squat, watching.

'I painted the Three Gorges three times,' Liu said. 'Every time was a personal achievement for me.'

Two weeks ago, Liu's painting Battlefield Realism raised HK$61.9 million at Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong, which at the time was a record for a mainland contemporary artist.

Homeless Furniture, an oil painting by Wang Huaiqing, sold for 28 million yuan at the Guardian auction, media reports said.