Lot 35 - Landscape, by Fu Baoshi

Lot 35. Attributed to Fu Baoshi (1904-1965), Landscape, ink and colour on paper, hanging scroll, signed and inscribed, with two seals of the artist, 56.5 x 177.0 cm. Estimate $5000-$8000Sold for AU$ 3,172,000 (€2,095,665). Photo: Bonhams.

SYDNEY.- Frenzied international bidding at Bonhams’ Sydney saleroom last night saw a rare Chinese painting break the $3 million mark, the highest price ever paid for an Asian artwork in Australia. 

A round of applause broke out in the Woollahra gallery as the hammer finally fell on Fu Baoshi’s Landscape, which sold for $3.17 million including buyer’s premium (IBP), off a pre-sale estimate of just $5000-$8000. 

The result makes the artwork one of the most expensive paintings ever sold in Australia. 

The ink-on-paper hanging scroll was part of a 40-strong collection of Chinese paintings amassed by a Sydney- and Singapore-based family in the 1960s and not seen in public for 50 years. 

Another work, Galloping Horse, attributed to Xu Beihong, lived up to its name by racing well past its $16,000-20,000 estimate to sell for $732,000 IBP. It was just one of several works that left their pre-sale estimates in the dust. 

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Lot 32. Attributed to Xu Beihong (1895 - 1953), Galloping Horse, 1933, ink and colour on paper, hanging scroll, signed and inscribed, with one seal of the artist. Dated the 33rd year of the Republic of China, 62.0 x 98.0 cm. Estimate $16,000-20,000Sold for AU$ 732,000 (€483,615). Photo: Bonhams.

Bonhams’ Asian Art specialist Yvett Klein said it was unusual to have so many quality Chinese paintings come to auction in Australia, especially those by modern masters of the 20th century. 

The top lots from last night’s auction are some of the finest examples of the dramatic shift in Chinese art in the 20th century, as artists responded to a young republic in turmoil and struggle,” Ms Klein said. 

Bonhams’ sale yesterday also once again proved that there is no such thing as a local art market, as technology and our extensive global network allows us to operate in a truly international space.” 

Other strong performers included Fu Baoshi’s Waterfall and Tao Yuanming, both of which sold for $183,000 IBP, Dong Shouping’s Landscape, circa 1980, which fetched $73,200 IBP, and Zhao Shao'ang’s Birds and Flowers, which sold for $67,100.

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Lot 34. Attributed to Fu Baoshi (1904-1965), Waterfall, ink and colour on paper, hanging scroll, unsigned, with three seals of the artist, colophon inscribed by Pan Man, 39.5 x 108.0 cm. Sold for AU$ 183,000 (€120,903)Photo: Bonhams.

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Lot 96. Dong Shouping (1904 - 1997), Landscape, circa 1980, ink and colour on paper, hanging scroll, signed, with one seal of the artist, dated according to seal script between mid 1970s to mid 1980s, 44.5 x 83.0 cm. Sold for AU$ 73,200 (€48,361). Photo: Bonhams.

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Lot 70. Zhao Shao'ang (1905-1998), Birds and Flowers, ink and colour on paper, album of 12 leaves (including two loose leaves), each signed or/and inscribed, each leaf with at least one seal of the artist, 29.5 x 37.5 cm each (12). Sold for AU$ 67,100 (€44,331)Photo: Bonhams.

Bonhams’ Asian Art sale netted $4.9 million, with 70% sold by lot and 720% by value.