HK sale sets Asian art record

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 May, 2008, 12:00am

A painting reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution fetched HK$75.4 million at a Christie's auction last night, setting a new record for a work of Asian contemporary art.

Eight masked Chinese adults are featured in the Mask Series 1996 No6 by Zeng Fanzhi, all wearing a red scarf suggestive of the 'little Red Guards' in the 1960s and 70s or the 'young pioneer' pupils in today's China.

The painting measures 3.6 metres by 2 metres, and uses the diptych technique of putting two pieces together.

It is one of only two known paintings from the Mask Series to depict a large group. It is seen as a standout by the artist not only for it scale, but composition and of course, subject matter.

Last October, Yue Minjun's politically-charged Execution sold for a then record GBP2.93 million (HK$45 million) at a London auction.

The painting, which adopts the theme of a 19th century Edouard Manet classic to echo the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, sold for 185 times the price the owner bought it for in Hong Kong more than a decade ago.

But the record was soon broken by a set of 14 gunpowder-on-paper pictures by Cai Guo-Qiang, which fetched HK$74 million last November in Hong Kong.

More than 40 Asian artworks went under the hammer last night at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in the first-ever night auction by Christie's in Hong Kong.

Yue Minjun's Big Swans, which depicts eight swans on one side of the canvas and the artist's trademark grinning men on the other, sold for HK$19.4 million last night. The same artist's Gweong-Gweong fetched HK$54.1 million.

Christie's held the night auction in response to a booming Asian art market that has repeatedly set records in the past two years. Large night auctions are often seen as the art market's barometer in London and New York but have been rare in Hong Kong.

The company said its decision to introduce the evening sale underscored the position of Hong Kong as one of the most important hubs for the global art market alongside London and New York.

'We now see a truly global client base of passionate collectors - with new clients entering the market each season who are inspired by the refreshing interpretation of the world from contemporary Asian artists,' said Eric Chang, Christie's director of Asian contemporary art.

The sale fetched a total of HK$468.8 million.