Qi Baishi paintings fetch record US$141 million at auction

Set of ink wash landscapes from 1925 become most expensive Chinese artwork

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 December, 2017, 4:23pm
UPDATED : Monday, 18 December, 2017, 4:23pm

A set of 12 landscape paintings by Qi Baishi, one of China’s best known artists, sold for 931.5 million yuan (US$141 million) at auction in Beijing on Sunday – setting a new record for a Chinese artwork.

Qi’s Twelve Landscape Screens, painted in 1925, started at 450 million yuan, with more than 60 bids placed in 20 minutes, Xinhua reported on Monday.

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Zhao Xu, executive director of Poly Auction, told China News Service that the buyer was Chinese but did not give further details. He said almost all of those bidding at the auction ran art galleries in China.

Zhao added that he hoped the sale would bring more attention to the Chinese art market.

Qi gave the 12 landscapes to his friend and well-known Beijing doctor Chen Zilin as a gift, and they had been in the hands of a private collector since the 1980s.

The ink wash paintings are 1.8m long and depict scenery from across China. Each painting includes a poem written by Qi in calligraphy.

The landscapes have been on public display in China more than 20 times since the 1950s. Qi also painted a second collection of Twelve Landscape Screens, which is on show at the Three Gorges Museum in Chongqing, in southwest China.

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Qi was ranked fourth most profitable artist in the world in the last decade – after Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Zhang Daqian, according to 1843 magazine.

Born in 1864 in Xiangtan, Hunan, Qi was a self-taught artist known for his paintings of scenery, small animals, trees and flowers. He died at the age of 93 in 1957.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi became the world’s most expensive painting last month when it sold for US$450.3 million at a Christie’s auction in New York. That record was previously held by Picasso’s Women of Algiers, which sold for US$179.4 million in 2015.