Auction test for Hong Kong's free-wheeling ink artists

China Guardian sale is first major gauge of buyer appetite, especially among mainlanders

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 April, 2013, 4:22am

A special sale will showcase Hong Kong ink paintings and put local artists in touch with mainland collectors.

The sale, part of China Guardian's spring auction at the Island Shangri-La tomorrow, will feature 25 lots by 20 Hong Kong artists, including Liu Kuo-sung, Lui Shou-kwan and Kan Tai-keung.

It is the first effort by an auction house to devote a sale to Hong Kong ink paintings, said the company's general manager of Chinese painting and calligraphy, Guo Tong. "We'd like to build our relationship with the local ink painting field and do more for the industry," Guo said. "More importantly, we'd like to introduce Hong Kong artists to mainland collectors."

Local artists are less constrained than practitioners elsewhere by the traditions of ink painting.

"Their creations are more alternative … most of them are abstract," she said.

Although the sale is small, it would help build a pricing system for local ink paintings, she said.

Liu's Dialogue Between Plane and Line is expected to fetch between HK$300,000 and HK$500,000.

Lui's Zen-Lotus is estimated to fetch between HK$180,000 and HK$280,000.

Kan, whose paintings are included in the sale, said the city's ink painters were experimenting with the medium long before mainland artists were.

"The new ink painting movement in Hong Kong started in the '60s, while it did not begin on the mainland until after the economic reforms kicked off [in 1978]," Kan said. "We had already taken the first step when the mainland was facing the Cultural Revolution."

The auction would build a value for local works and nurture development of the arts, he said.

"Hongkongers are very money-minded. Parents will only stop banning their children from studying art only when they realise there is a value for artworks," he said.

Auction houses are optimistic that the drop in the value of art sales in China last year was just a healthy correction. Dublin-based consultancy Arts Economics said values fell 24 per cent at auctions and dealer sales in 2012.

Sotheby's, whose spring auction runs from today to Monday, is cautiously optimistic. China is the third largest auction market and the adjustment was only temporary, a spokesman said.

China Guardian is hoping to sell at least 80 per cent of the lots on offer.