A renowned modern Chinese landscape painting by Li Keran sold for nearly 300 million yuan (HK$365 million) in Beijing, setting a personal auction record for the late mainland artist.
The starting price for the piece, one of the artist's Landscape in Red series of seven paintings, was 180 million yuan, but the bidding on Sunday night was intense, Xinhua reported.
After an unidentified telephone bidder offered 250 million yuan, the large red painting went to another bidder for 255 million yuan, making a final price of 293 million yuan, including commission.
The 1964 painting is considered the gem of Li's series. In 1999 and 2000, two of the others sold for 4 million and 5 million yuan.
The series was inspired by the poems of Mao Zedong, and one of the works is being kept at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing.
The painting sold on Sunday, at nearly one square metre, is the largest to circulate among private collectors and represents the high point of Li's career, as he painted it with cinnabar, a bright red mineral, instead of traditional Chinese water ink. It was unclear who previously owned the painting.
Before the auction, the piece had generated debate, particularly over the anticipated price tag. Art collector Guo Qingxiang was quoted by Xinhua as saying: 'This is Li Keran cloning his own work. I would not buy it, even it was being sold for 2.8 million yuan.'
Pi Daojian, owner of a 1,200 square metre art studio in Beijing, told the South China Morning Post it was hard to comment on the price of art, but said the painting sold on Sunday was 'a very influential painting during the time'.
'It's highly sought after for its completeness and artistic value,' Pi said.
Another painting by Li, based on Mao's hometown of Shaoshan in Hunan province, recently sold for 124 million yuan.
'That painting was nowhere near as famous or artistically refined as the Landscape in Red piece, but it still sold for 124 million,' Pi said.
The value of Li Keran's paintings has risen in the past eight years. The artist died in 1989 at the age of 82. In 2000, the average price of one of his works was 75,773 yuan per square foot, but that figure had risen to 1.35 million yuan by last year.
However, another of Li's paintings, entitled Jinggangshan, failed to sell at the weekend because it could not attract sufficient bids.