Landmark Monet painting to get public showing in Hong Kong next week

Display of Meule ahead of New York auction reflects growing demand for Impressionist art in the region

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 October, 2016, 12:04am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 October, 2016, 1:13am

An 1891 painting by Claude Monet valued at about US$45 million will go on display in Hong Kong on Monday and Tuesday before it goes under the hammer in New York next month.

Christie’s, the auction house that is selling it on behalf of an anonymous American owner, said it had decided to unveil Meule here first ­before showing it in London and New York ­because more Impressionist and modern Western art was going to Asian buyers.

“In recent years we have been extremely aware of the growing passion for classic ­Impressionist paintings amongst our leading Asian collectors.

“This work is simply a masterpiece by Monet – the genius of plein air painting – and we unveil it in Asia for the very first time. It is an honour to bring this great Monet to Hong Kong,” Jussi Pylkkanen, Christie’s global president, said in a statement.

The painting will be on display in Christie’s gallery in Alexandra House in Central.

Asian demand for Impressionist and ­modern art has been strong since the Japanese first stormed into that segment of the market in the 1980s.

There are now a number of major collectors in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The Monet exhibition at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum from May to July featured three paintings on loan from a private Hong Kong collection.

But it is mainland demand that has grabbed the most attention in recent years.

Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu Couché (1918-1919), which Christie’s brought here for viewing last October, eventually went to billionaire Liu Yiqian and his wife, Wang Wei, for US$170.4 million including the buyer’s ­premium, becoming the second-most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.

It was not the first time that Liu, who owns the Long Museum in Shanghai, had broken ­records for works of art. In 2014, he paid a record price for a Tibetan tapestry.

The Monet painting comes from the “Grainstacks” or “Haystacks” series, which is generally considered a major turning point for Monet, who at the age of 50 decided to tackle one single inanimate subject repeatedly under different lighting and weather conditions.

In this case, the pinks and blues of the fields are exaggerated to an unnatural degree, with just a single haystack in the foreground.

It was last auctioned in 1999 at Sotheby’s spring New York sales, fetching US$11.9 million including fees. Just three years later, it was bought privately by the anonymous owner who is now selling it.