Bonhams Auction Preview Exhibition
Island Ballroom, Island Shangri-La Hotel
Quality modern Chinese paintings with sound provenance are few and far between on the art market these days. But veteran art dealers and auction houses always have a way of tracking them down.
"It all comes down to having a good database. With that, you know exactly who has what," says Carson Chan, Bonhams' managing director in Asia.
"Collectors sell their works for various reasons. Some might have lost interest in a particular artist or art piece, others want to invest in something else like wine and properties. But they all want their pieces to be handled well and, eventually, find another good home."
This week, 129 paintings and pieces of calligraphy - most of which are by modern masters such as Qi Baishi, Xu Beihong, Zhang Daqian (also known as Chang Dai-chien), Wu Guanzhong and Lin Fengmian - will come under the hammer at Bonhams' fine Chinese paintings and contemporary Asian art sales. The total sales are estimated to be between HK$40 million and HK$60 million.
The highlights include Zhang's Dissipating Mist over Blue and Green Mountain (1973), which was on show at the Chan Liu Art Museum in Taipei last year and one of the artist's best later pieces using the splashing technique; Sanyu's White Chrysanthemums in Yellow Vase (1930-1940), an early piece from the Matisse-influenced painter, and a beautiful landscape by Lin titled Autumn Symphony.
According to the auction house, Lin was able to bring airiness to the landscape through "a fluent merger of watercolour techniques and the appropriate use of gouache". The techniques, it says, prevent heaviness and monotony to the scene caused by the accumulation of colours and repeated brushstrokes. They are also in line with the traditional aesthetics of Chinese ink painting.
There is another piece by Lin, Blooming Chrysanthemums (1970), which is a beautiful ink and colour on paper bursting with colours. "I like this piece because it's very uplifting," says Chan.
Chen Yifei's Reclining Woman with Fan is from a British private collection and a representative of his Old Dreams of Shanghai series. To explore the culture of old Shanghai, Chen tried returning to the 1930s in his paintings. The artist once explained: "The robe [worn by my models] are traditional, but their faces are modern. I wish to convey an impression of orientalism, not just a picture of beauties, but a cultural representation."
Bonhams' autumn auctions series also includes four single-owner collections: the Paul Braga Collection of snuff bottles, Harold E. Stack Collection of jades and jadeite, a private North American collection of scholar's objects and a private collection of jewels.
It will also host its first Leica vintage camera sale in the region.
The Braga collection consists of 170 snuff bottles in different shapes and sizes and provides a window into old Hong Kong, a bygone era when snuff bottles were displayed in baskets in antique shops and could be bought for several dollars each.
Chan says the auction business is, in general, benefiting from low interest rate and the cooling property market: "People are looking to invest their money as cash devalues … they've now turned to collectibles and art."
He says Bonhams' clients remain mostly collectors who are passionate in what they purchase. "Those who lose out are the ones who buy art only for investment."
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