Hong Kong - Sotheby’s Hong Kong Modern Asian Art Autumn Sales 2017 will take place from 30 September to 1 October, offering over 120 works by some of the most celebrated Modern and Post-War artists in Asia between early and mid-20th century. Headlined by two magnificent oil-on-canvas works, one by Zao Wou-Ki and the other by Sanyu, the sales also present two themed sections, namely ‘Movimento Punto: A Post-War Legacy,’ which documents the important ‘Punto Movement’ of the 1960s, and ‘Foujita: Image of Elegance’, which presents the largest group of works by Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita at auction in Asia.
Vinci Chang, Sotheby’s Head of Modern Asian Art, said: “Sotheby’s is always striving to bring collectors the finest art pieces, and this season is no different with the offering of the sizable and very rare oil works by Zao Wou-Ki and Sanyu, both to be seen at the Evening Sale. Alongside this, we have two notable firsts: the first ‘Punto Movement’ themed section in Asia, and the largest sale of Foujita’s works in Asia’s auction history. To add to this excitement, we look forward to the announcement on 11 September, when we will reveal this season’s star lot.”
Zao Wou-Ki and Sanyu: The Two Masters
The ‘Hurricane Period’ (1959 – 1972) marks the pinnacle of Zao Wou-Ki’s artistic career, and 09.01.63 is seen as the piece which defines him best in that time. Painted on a vast No. 120 canvas (130cm x 195cm), this is an imposing work which, though steering away from his previous oriental themes, demonstrates the pure, tangible force of Chinese calligraphy. It also reflects the influence from the artist’s time at the Kootz Gallery in New York: confined neither by space nor creativity, the No. 120 canvas was typical for American artists of the time and became a classic size of Zao Wou-Ki’s paintings during his stay in the United States. Works created on No. 120 canvas from the ‘Hurricane Period’ are, however, exceedingly scarce, and are therefore keenly sought after on the rare occasions that they come up at auction.
Zao Wou-Ki, 09.01.63, 1963, oil on canvas, 130 x 195 cm. Est: HK$50 million – 70 million (US$6,400,000 – 9,000,000). Photo: Sotheby's.
Created in 1931, Léopard by Sanyu was the earliest among the animal paintings personally dated by the artist. It is also the only leopard painting measuring over 100cm currently held in private hands. Occupying the entire canvas, Sanyu’s portrayal of the animal is nimble and gentle, contrary to the conventional notion of the leopard. This rings true when one considers that the artist’s depiction of life and the physical body was known to be rich and filled with energy, possibly influenced by his affluent lifestyle in his youth and his vibrant self-image.
Sanyu, Léopard, 1931, oil on canvas, 93 x 116 cm, estimate upon request. Photo: Sotheby's.
Once completed, Léopard was acquired by a close friend of Sanyu, French novelist and collector, Henri Pierre-Roché, who wrote about the work in his personal collection list. Widely exhibited in major exhibitions, its inclusion in Sanyu: l'écriture du corps at the Musée national des arts asiatiques Guimet in 2004 stands as a major retrospective testament to the importance of this work. In recent years, Sanyu’s works have been highly sought after at auction; those exceeding one metre in dimension have surpassed HK$70 million, even approaching HK$100 million. As the only work of its kind on the market, Léopard presents a rare and exciting collecting opportunity for connoisseurs.
Movimento Punto: A Post-War Legacy
At the close of Word War II, the development of Modern art reached its peak as Post-War art. Led by a global group of artists including Hsiao Chin, the Punto Movement quickly spread from Milan in the 1960s through Western Europe and on as far as Taipei, merging the best of work from both the East and the West. Sotheby’s is pleased to present ‘Movimento Punto: A PostWar Legacy’ in the upcoming Evening Sale, a themed section featuring works by such post-war artists as Hsiao Chin, Li Yuan-Chia, Kenjirō Azuma and Richard Lin, as well as Venezuelan artist Jesús Rafael Soto. This curated section pays tribute to the revolutionary Post-War Modern movement, celebrating the creative energy of Asian artists and the cultural exchanges with their Western counterparts.
Jesús Rafael Soto, Negro y Blanco, 1991, Acrylic on wood, nylon string and painted metal, 153 x 102 x 20cm Est. HK$800,000 – 1,200,000 (US$ 100,000 – 150,000). Photo: Sotheby's.
The ‘Dancing Lights’ series by Hsiao Chin has been kept in private hands for decades, making it a rare find in the market. The series was created on canvas No. 80 and 50. Dancing Lights 17, painted on canvas No. 100 (130 x 160 cm), was the only exception, making it the largest work in the series. Dancing Lights 17 features Hsiao Chin’s classic composition of dividing the painting in two. The lower portion is intended to evoke a sense of void, while the upper part represents the vast cosmos, with bewitching strokes of red symbolising the energy at the creation of the world. Earlier this April, Dancing Lights 16 was the first in the series to be offered at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Evening Sale, fetching a new record price of HK$2.5million. Surpassing that in size and importance, Dancing Lights 17 is set to attract keen competition from collectors this season.
Hsiao Chin, Dancing Lights 17, 1964, acrylic on canvas, 130 x 160 cm Est. HK$600,000 – 1,000,000 (US$77,000 – 130,000). Photo: Sotheby's.
Foujita: Image of Elegance
The curated section ‘Foujita: Image of Elegance’ represents the largest offering of Foujita’s works at auction in Asia, bringing to the market watercolours, sketches and lithographs covering all periods of the artist’s career. The majority of the works from this section originated from the personal collection of the artist’s wife.
Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, Le réveil des anges, 1951, pencil on tracing paper, 49 x 56.5cm. Est. HK$180,000 – 280,000 (US$ 23,000 – 36,000). Photo: Sotheby's.
Foujita’s works are a marriage between European modernism and traditional Japanese painting techniques. Exuding a sense of elegance, his works demonstrate not only the exceptional use of lines, but also the various forms of femininity. Of particular note are three oil-on-canvas works by Foujita in the Evening Sale. Among them is Madonne à la Grotte, which took inspiration from the classic masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci, whilst incorporating the lustre from Japan’s Kanō School, giving the painting an elevated grace.
Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, Madonne à la Grotte, 1957, oil on canvas, 46.2 x 38.2cm. Est. HK$5,500,000 –7,500,000 (US$ 710,000 – 960,000). Photo: Sotheby's.
Modern Asian Art Day Sale
Also available in the Modern Asian Art Day Sale is a collection of works by Wang Jiyuan, until now in private hands in the United States for more than half a century; Sanyu’s works on paper from the artist’s close friend Johan Franco; Chu Teh-Chun’s millennial masterpiece Les secrets du printemps; as well as impressive works by Hsiao Chin, Li Yuan-Chia and other founders of the Eastern Painting Group and the Punto Movement.
Wang Jiyuan, Chrysanthemum In Chinese Vase, 1951, Oil on board, 121 x 74.7cm. Est: HK$180,000 – 280,000 (US$ 23,000 – 36,000). Photo: Sotheby's.
Chu Teh-Chun, Les secrets du printemps, 2001, Oil on canvas, 194.5 x 129.5cm. Est: HK$4,500,000 – 6,500,000 (US$ 580,000 – 830,000). Photo: Sotheby's.