Chinese masterworks fetch HK$202m

Paintings by Zao Wou-ki and Wang Yidong top lot at Sotheby's auction

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 April, 2013, 5:28am

Aficionados of 20th century Chinese art were out in force yesterday, spending HK$202 million on a variety of works sourced from around the globe at a Hong Kong auction.

The most expensive lot to go under the hammer at Sotheby's spring sale of 20th century Chinese art was Zao Wou-ki's 10.03.83, which drew a top bid of HK$37 million. Organisers would only say it sold to an Asian collector present at the auction in the Convention and Exhibition Centre and not to an online bidder.

The second-priciest lot was Chu Teh-chun's 25 December, which went for HK$23.6 million. Wang Yidong's Teasing the Newlyweds was the third-priciest, selling for HK$19.1 million.

Zao, 92, is China's highest-selling living artist. He is a member of the Paris-based Academy of Fine Arts, and is considered one of the most successful Chinese oil painters of the last century.

"What made Zao famous was that he could bridge the gap between the East and West way of painting - incorporating the classic Chinese way of painting together with the Western abstract style," said Sylvie Chen, Sotheby's head of 20th century Chinese art.

"Because of this, Zao impressed art lovers both in China and Europe. Everyone could find some element of his work that they could associate with."

From 1935 to 1941, Zao painted at a school of fine arts in Hangzhou . In 1948 he moved to Paris to live on the same block in Montparnasse where artist Othon Friesz held his classes. His first exhibitions won praise from the likes of Miro and Picasso.

The Chinese abstract master reached the pinnacle of his artistic career in the 1980s.

In 1983, the year 10.03.83 was created, Zao paid a visit to his friend and Chinese art master, Zhang Daqian, and took inspiration from Zhang's liberal and spectacular colour splash ink paintings, which led to the unique composition in this work. Since its completion, 10.03.83 has been shown at 18 significant international exhibitions.

Chen also highlighted Teasing the Newlyweds as one of the day's most popular lots. It was among the first of Wang's group-portrait paintings to be centred on a Chinese marriage theme, she said.