HK$500m painting breaks record

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 May, 2011, 12:00am


A painting with a couplet by Chinese artist Qi Baishi set a record for modern art and calligraphy on the mainland when it sold for 425.5 million yuan (HK$508.5 million) at auction on Sunday night.

The price meant its value had risen more than 2,000 per cent in six years.

The work, Eagle standing on pine tree with four-character couplet in seal script, measures about 2.6 metres by 2.2 metres.

It was the second highest price fetched by an artwork on the mainland, after the 436.8 million yuan paid for a Song dynasty (960-1276) calligraphic work by Huang Tingjian in 2009, Agence France-Presse said.

Qi's painting was finished in 1946 when Qi was 86, and was his largest work, according to China Guardian Auctions.

With a starting price of 88 million yuan, it attracted nearly 50 bids in half an hour. The winning bidder was a young woman, the Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post reported.

Shanghai businessman Liu Yiqian told the newspaper that the work had belonged to him and had cost less than 20 million yuan in 2005.

The auction company confirmed the work was brought back to the mainland after being bought from a private owner in San Francisco six years ago.

Guo Tong, general manager for contemporary and modern Chinese painting and calligraphy at China Guardian, said the sale was a milestone in the auction of modern and contemporary artworks.

China ranked first in global art sales last year, ahead of the United States and Britain and up from third place in 2007, according to a report by

Four Chinese artists were among the top 10 in worldwide sales: Qi, Zhang Daqian, Xu Beihong and Fu Baoshi.

Qi was born into a peasant family in Hunan in 1864. Trained as a carpenter, he taught himself to paint and focused on nature including plants, insects, birds and fish. He is mostly renowned for his depictions of shrimps in watercolour.

In 1953, he was elected president of the Association of Chinese Artists. He died in Beijing in 1957.

Qi's works ranked second in sales to Pablo Picasso last year, said. The current record price for any painting was another modern artwork, a 1948 Jackson Pollock, that sold for US$140 million in 2006.