Cosmopolitan collection

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 November, 2011, 12:00am


Seoul Auction Hong Kong is offering highly sought works by leading artists from South Korea, Japan, the mainland and the west at its sale at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong from 4pm on Monday, which follows a preview between 10am-7pm on Sunday and 10am-2pm on Monday.

The 50-lot sale has an estimated value of about HK$195.28 million. The auction includes works from celebrated artists Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and Zeng Fanzhi, one of the leading contemporary Chinese artists.

The auction house held its inaugural sale in Hong Kong three years ago and introduced major western artists to the Asian market with Roy Lichtenstein, Warhol and Willem de Kooning going under the hammer.

Soyoung Lee, managing director of Seoul Auction Hong Kong, says the upcoming sale presents major works by established and cutting-edge artists and that for the first time it was introducing a small selection of Chinese antiques.

Lee says the auction house 'recognises the potential of Hong Kong as a growing art market and therefore is expanding its sales categories in order to establish itself as a multi-faceted auction house'.

The top lot is a work from American artist Koons' Celebration series called Smooth Egg with Bow, which is making its debut at auction and in the Asian market.

Koons is a master of kitsch and famous for creating larger-than-life sculptures. His works have shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Berlin, the Tate Gallery in London and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo.

Smooth Egg with Bow is a red and yellow chromium sculpture, measuring 83 by 76 by 62 inches and is a typical example of the artist taking a common object - in this case a chocolate Easter egg - and eulogising it using colour and texture. The egg is one of five versions. Each has its own colour.

The Celebration series consists of 16 paintings and more than 20 stainless steel sculptures that are the culmination of 10 years' work. Celebratory milestones and childhood objects including toys and presents inspired the work and sculptures from the series have set two auction records for work by a living artist.

The shiny, red Hanging Heart - one of Koons' most important works offered at auction - sold for US$23.6 million at Sotheby's in 2007, beating a record by British artist Hirst set months earlier, and his Balloon Flower again from the Celebration series sold for US$25.7 million at Christie's the following year.

Seoul Auction Hong Kong is keeping the estimated value of the Smooth Egg with Bow under wraps. Koons and Hirst go head-to-head at the auction, with Hirst's Controlled Substances Key Painting another highlight with an estimated asking price of HK$9 million to HK$12 million.

The canvas painting is part of an eponymously named series comprising uniform sized dots of different colours, letters of the alphabet and numbers.

Works by Kusama worth an estimated HK$4 million to HK$5 million will also go under the hammer. The 82-year-old artist is renowned for her playful-looking polka-dot works that are the result of childhood hallucinations and obsessive behaviour.

The artist's Infinity Nets series arose from hallucinations that appeared as a field of dots and the works are widely considered her best.

The auction will include Statue of Venus Obliterated by Infinity Nets, which has an asking price of HK$4 million to HK$5 million. Following the sale in May of another sculpture from the series for more than HK$4.9 million, this is expected to attract great interest.

Other works by the artist up for auction include a huge painted porcelain sculpture called Pumpkin and a Pumpkin Chess Set installation, both from the Infinity Nets series.

Zeng's Mask Series No. 15 is expected to be the highlight of the Chinese section of the sale. The artwork depicts a solitary masked figure against a nondescript background representing a barrier between individuals, anxiety and psychological torment.

Also in this section is the Untitled (2005) work depicting a melancholic boy by Zhang Xiaogang and Yue Minjun's Life (Set of 2) (1999). Yue's works are characterised by figures - actually the artist himself - in uncomfortable poses, frozen in laughter with brilliant white teeth.

The sale will also feature works by Korean artists Lee Ufan, Kim Tschang-yeul and Kim Dong-yoo.

Lee is a minimalist artist who gained his reputation by taking Western thought and logic and interpreting them through Eastern ideas and sensibilities.

The artist's From Line series of paintings uses a traditional East Asian method of painting on silk and some of his earliest works have become highly regarded in the art world. The eponymously named From Line painting from 1975 will be up for auction, with an asking price of HK$8.5 million to HK$12 million.

Other works in the Korean section include Floating Drop, by Kim Tschang-yeul. The artist was a prominent figure in Korea's abstract painting movement in the 1950s and following his move to Paris in the 1970s water droplets on canvas, including the Floating Drop painting, became a major theme of his work.

Kim Dong-yoo's Marilyn depicts the glamorous Hollywood icon in a number of stamp-sized, pixel-like units and the sales estimate is around HK$500,000.

And for the first time the auction house is presenting a rare collection of Chinese antiques, including a Yuan dynasty gilt-wood figure of Buddha, with an asking price of HK$3 million to HK$4 million.