Sotheby’s Autumn Auction 2009: Top 10 Lots To Watch

Strong interest from Asian buyers expected to spark October sale in HK

As we reported recently, the Sotheby’s autumn auction of Asian art which highlights important contemporary Chinese pieces — will take place in Hong Kong on October 6. With combined estimates at over $12 Million US (HK $98 Million), this sale is expected to be one of the year’s biggest and most-watched auctions. As we have noticed in recent sales — both in Hong Kong and elsewhere — one thing we can expect in this auction is a high proportion of domestic Chinese buyers in the room, and we can expect them to be motivated to buy. Today, in preparation for the upcoming auction season, Forbes published an article on the market for Chinese art, noting that it is becoming gradually more difficult for western collectors to buy a range of Chinese art because of the growing collector base within the country. Describing the increasing numbers of Chinese bidders at antiquities auctions, Sallie Brady writes, “there’s a new dynamic afoot that promises to drive up prices: Mainland Chinese are entering the market in ever greater numbers.”

So for collectors who are interested in making bids on lots in the upcoming Sotheby’s auction, what should they know before they go head-to-head with Chinese buyers? Aside from doing their research to stay up-to-date on recent developments and informed about the past work and possible future longevity of the historical artworks that are up for grabs, it pays to know which lots are the “all stars.” I have looked through the catalog, and here is my list of the “Top 10” lots up for auction on October 6:

1.) Cai Guo-Qiang: Money Net No. 2 (2002)
Lot: 645
Estimate: US$ 605,000-705,000 (HK$ 4,700,000-5,500,000)

MoneyNet.jpg Cai Guo-Qiang (born 1957, Quanzhou, Fujian Province) was educated in stage design at the Shanghai Drama Institute from 1981 to 1985. Gunpowder is his trademark medium, from drawings and paintings made by igniting carefully monitored explosions on paper and canvas to massive explosion events like Projects for Extraterrestrials. He is also known for sculptural installation works such as Borrowing Your Enemy’s Arrows (1998), a massive wooden boat riddled with arrows that recalls a legendary tactic of an ancient Chinese general. Cai has had many solo exhibitions, including Cai Guo-Qiang on the Roof: Transparent Monument at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2006) and Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe at the Guggenheim Museum in New York (2008). He was awarded the International Golden Lion prize at the 48th Venice Biennale (1999), and curated the first China Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale (2005). He was the Chief Special Effects Designer for the 2008 Beijing Olympics’ creative team. Cai lives in Brooklyn.

2.) Yue Minjun: “Hats Series — The Lovers” (2005)
Lot: 617
Estimate: US$ 359,000-448,000 (HK$ 2,800,000-3,500,000)

YueMinjun-Lovers Yue Minjun (born 1962 in Daqing, Heilongjiang Province) studied oil painting at Hebei Normal University. He is best known for colorful paintings and sculptures showing the artist himself—often in clone-like multiples—with a broad, toothy grin. He is one of the key figures in the Cynical Realism movement, which emerged in response to the Tiananmen Square incident of June 1989. In the period of government repression that followed, Yue’s playful, smiling figures offered an ironic commentary on the concept of personal freedom and happiness in modern Chinese society. He is widely considered one of the most important contemporary Chinese artists. His work has been exhibited in museums and galleries in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia, and his oil paintings have set records at auction. Yue’s first U.S. retrospective was presented at the Queens Museum of Art in New York in 2007. He lives and works in Beijing.

3.) Zeng Fanzhi: “Untitled” (2004)
Lot: 622
Estimate: US$ 359,000-448,000 (HK$ 2,800,000-3,500,000)

ZengFanzhi Zeng Fanzhi ( born 1964, Wuhan, Hubei Province) studied painting at the Hubei Academy of Fine Arts. Working in a vividly expressionistic style, he depicts China’s new business class, men whose wide-eyed faces meld into white masks that freeze their expressions in stiff smiles. Other subjects have included slaughterhouses and hospitals populated by overbearing doctors and anguished patients. Zeng Fanzhi has had solo shows in France, Singapore, Seoul, Shanghai and Shenzhen, and participated in the First Guangzhou Triennial (2002). He lives in Beijing.

4.) Huang Yongping: “La liste des offrandes (The List of Offerings)” (2006)
Lot: 646
Estimate: US$ 128,000-192,000 (HK$ 1,000,000-1,500,000)

huangyongping Huang Yongping (born 1954, Quanzhou, Fujian Province) graduated from the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou in 1982. He was one of the founding members of the Xiamen Dada, a conceptual art group strongly influenced by Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Beuys. Huang was an active and influential artist in China throughout the 1980s; in 1989, he moved to France following his participation in the Magiciens de la Terre exhibition at the Pompidou Center. Huang’s work juxtaposes Chinese and Western concepts and symbols, often with a Dada-like sense of absurdity. One of his most reknowned works is ‘A History of Chinese Painting’ and ‘A Concise History of Modern Painting’ Washed in a Washing Machine for Two Minutes (1987/1993), in which he ran these two texts through a washing machine, producing an illegible lump of art history. Huang has participated in many international art exhibitions, including the Shanghai Biennial (2000) and the 50th Venice Biennale (2003). His 2005-2007 exhibition, House of Oracles: A Huang Yong Ping Retrospective, was presented at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, at MASS MoCA, and the Vancouver Art Gallery. He lives in Paris.

5.) Liu Ye: “Portrait of L” (2004)
Lot: 611
Estimate: US$ 205,000-256,000 (HK$ 1,600,000-2,000,000)

LiuYe Liu Ye was born in 1964 and graduated from the Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts from the Mural Painting Dept. and then earned a Masters of Fine Arts from Hochschule der Kunst in Berlin Germany. He lives and works in Beijing.

Today, one of China’s best selling contemporary artists, Liu Ye is a striking example of a Chinese artist exploring his own internal world through external and anonymous figures and western icons. Most of his work is done in bright, vivid and warm colors while the more melancholic ones are toned down to dark and cold blues.

6.) Zeng Fanzhi: “Untitled (Portrait)” (2005)
Lot: 621
Estimate: US$ 64,000-77,000 (HK$ 500,000-600,000)

zengfanzhi2 Zeng Fanzhi ( born 1964, Wuhan, Hubei Province) studied painting at the Hubei Academy of Fine Arts. Working in a vividly expressionistic style, he depicts China’s new business class, men whose wide-eyed faces meld into white masks that freeze their expressions in stiff smiles. Other subjects have included slaughterhouses and hospitals populated by overbearing doctors and anguished patients. Zeng Fanzhi has had solo shows in France, Singapore, Seoul, Shanghai and Shenzhen, and participated in the First Guangzhou Triennial (2002). He lives in Beijing.

7.) Xu Bing: “New English Calligraphy: Song of Myself (set of four)”
Lot: 723
Estimate: US$ 79,500-90,000 (HK$ 620,000-700,000)

XuBing Xu Bing was born in Chongqing, China in 1955 and grew up in Beijing. In 1975 he was relocated to the countryside for two years during the Cultural Revolution. In 1977 he enrolled in the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing where he studied printmaking. He received an MFA from the Central Academy in 1987. In 1990 he moved to the United States and he still lives there today, making his home in Brooklyn, New York.

8.) Ai Weiwei: “A Gift from Beijing (set of three works)” (2002)
Lot: 706
Estimate: US$ 30,800-44,800 (HK$ 240,000-350,000)

AiWeiweiAi Weiwei (born 1957, Beijing) is a conceptual artist, curator, cultural advisor, and architect. In 1979, he was a founder of “The Stars” (Xing Xing), one of the first avant-garde art groups in modern China. During the 1980s and early 1990s he lived in New York, where he studied at the Art Students League and the Parsons School of Design. Returning to China in 1993, he co-founded the China Art Archive & Warehouse (CAAW), a nonprofit loft-gallery in Beijing where he serves as artistic director. Ai’s work has been shown in museums and galleries internationally, as well as in the 48th Venice Biennale (1999), Documenta XII (2007), and other international art events. As a curator, he is known for cutting-edge exhibitions, such as Fuck Off, which he co-curated in 1999 as a provocative counterpoint to the Shanghai Biennale. In the early 2000s, Ai collaborated with the acclaimed Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron on the winning design for the National Stadium project for the Beijing Olympics. In 2008 he received the Chinese Contemporary Art Award, established in 1998 by Swiss Ambassador and collector Uli Sigg, for Lifetime Contribution.

9.) Wang Qingsong: “Past, Present, and Future (Triptych)” (2001)
Lot: 714
Estimate: US$ 30,800-35,900 (HK$ 240,000-280,000)

QingsongTriptych Photographer Wang Qingsong (born 1966, Hubei Province) trained at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in Sichuan Province. He is best known for elaborately staged scenes, which he captures in digitally composed, lushly colored photographs. Combining traditional tales, fantasy, and a touch of reality TV, these works explore the contradictions between China’s ancient traditions and its contemporary consumer culture. Though the imagery occasionally echoes well-known scenes from Western art history, Wang’s photo murals most closely resemble horizontal Chinese scroll paintings. The 31-foot-long Night Revels of Lao Li—inspired by a 10th-century scroll painting about a disillusioned government official—was included in Between Past and Present: New Photography and Video from China, a museum touring exhibition that premiered in New York in 2004. More recently, Wang has had solo exhibitions in Germany, Brazil, Korea, the U.K., and other countries. He lives and works in Beijing.

10.) Feng Zhengjie: “Chinese Portrait Series” (2008)
Lot: 702
Estimate: US$ 70,500-90,000 (HK$ 550,000-700,000)

FengZhengJie “Feng Zhengjie is one of those artists who pays attention to daily life, to commercial culture and to consumer culture, who emerged in the mid- and post-1990s. Their emergence has been related to politics, economics, and to an internal exploration of art language achieved by meticulous care. Political Pop is a source of Feng Zhengjie’s art, and is represented in his work as a focus on commercial culture, via a predilection for symbols.” (Pi Li)

13 responses to “Sotheby’s Autumn Auction 2009: Top 10 Lots To Watch

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  4. Awesome posting. This is very different. Rich in content and very useful.

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  6. I don’t know If I said it already but …Hey good stuff…keep up the good work! 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,)

    A definite great read..


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  8. Greatly informative blog ~

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  12. HK is been predicted to become the center of trade in asia.

  13. Some very interesting artwork as I haven’t followed much of the asian contemporary works.

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