HONG KONG.- Two significant masterpieces will lead Sotheby’s Modern Art Evening Sale in Hong Kong on 5 October 2019: Zao Wou-Ki’s powerful 21.04.59, also making its auction debut, having been exhibited extensively since the 1970s – and Sanyu’s elegant Nu Rose sur Tissus Chinois – appearing at auction for the first time since it was created in the 1930s. A total of 33 lots will be offered in the evening sale, estimated to bring in the region of more than HKD 403 million (USD 51 million).

The Modern Art Day Sale on 6 October brings together a remarkable group of artworks from across Asia and Europe, including Lin Fengmian’s Nude from the 1970s, Foujita’s Portrait de Jeune Femme aux roses, and a selection of exceptional works by post-war pioneers.

Vinci Chang, Sotheby’s Head of Modern Asian Art, comments: “Following the successful ‘Modern Rangers’ series this spring, we are delighted to build on this momentum by presenting the ‘Modern Vision’ series this season in Hong Kong. It is a delicate curation of masterpieces, presenting collectors with a revolutionary experience brought by the rise of modernism. With florals and nudes as the two main themes, the sale brings together exquisite pieces by Sanyu, Wu Guanzhong and Tsuguharu Foujita, creating an unparalleled collecting opportunity for art connoisseurs worldwide.”


Zao Wou-Ki - 21

Zao Wou-Ki, 21.04.59, 1959, oil on canvas, 130 by 162 cm. Estimate HKD 75,000,000 – 100,000,000 (USD 9,570,000 – 12,750,000)Courtesy Sotheby's.

Zao Wou-Ki’s “Oracle Bone Period” masterpiece 21.04.59 embodies the words written by South Song dynasty painter Chen Rong on his painting “Cloud Dragon”. The powerful brushstrokes traverse the canvas, creating strings of crisscrossing abstract shapes which seem to resemble words, yet are not actual words. These shapes leap and clash with one another, creating a vast, unprecedented display of energy.

Produced in 1959, 21.04.59 was painted during a stage in Zao’s artistic career when he was expressing on canvas his views on life and the universe as he embarked on an internal voyage of discovery. This breathtaking composition clearly reflects Zao’s fascination with elemental life forces during this period.

Since the 1970s, the painting has been exhibited 16 times across Asia, Europe and South America. As the most representative example of the artist’s Oracle Bone series, and, undoubtedly a museum-quality work, 21.04.59 is appearing at auction for the first time.

Zao Wou-Ki - 01

Zao Wou-Ki, 01.10.62, 1962, oil on canvas, 60 by 92 cm. Estimate HKD 12,000,000 – 28,000,000 (USD 1,530,000 – 3,570,000)Courtesy Sotheby's.

Zao Wou-ki experienced emotional turmoil in the late 1950s and decided to go on an extended journey, during which he became deeply unsettled by the post-war American abstract expressionist movement. This inspired his artistic direction over the following decade. Painted at the start of this period, 01.10.62 is representative of Zao’s artistic rebirth, marking the beginning of a period that would come to be regarded as the pinnacle of his career. 

FEMALE NUDE MASTERPIECES Modern Art Evening Sale, 5 October 

Sanyu - Nu rose sur tissus chinois - white bg

Sanyu, Nu Rose sur Tissus Chinois, 1930s, oil on canvas, 45.2 by 81.2 cm. Estimate HKD 35,000,000 – 45,000,000 (USD 4,470,000 – 5,740,000)Courtesy Sotheby's.

Female nudes were an important theme throughout Sanyu’s career; from his arrival in Paris in the 1920s up until his final years in the 1960s, he retained a strong interest in the female body. Nu Rose Sur Tissus Chinois is one of Sanyu’s classic works from the 1930s, in which hepays homage to the tradition of classical Western masterpieces, yet in his own distinctive style, with his signature exaggeration and distortion of the body.

Sanyu’s nudes from the 1930s are extremely rare. According to the artist’s catalogue raisonné, only 19 works survived, of which just seven have appeared on the international auction market over the last 40 years. At auction for the first time ever, Nu Rose Sur Tissus Chinois presents a singular opportunity for collectors.

Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita - Jeune Femme au Petit Chien

Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, Jeune Femme au Petit Chien, 1929, oil on canvas, 73.3 x 100.5 cm. Estimate HKD 10,000,000 – 20,000,000 (USD 1,280,000 – 2,550,000)Courtesy Sotheby's.

Foujita’s ingenious combination of Japanese Kanō and Ukiyo-e art styles with Western painting styles from the Middles Ages and Renaissance periods established his standing as the first renowned Asian artist in Paris. Jeune Femme au Petit Chien is a characteristic example of his depiction of milky white skin, which was fashionable among women in the Parisian art world. Referencing the iconic “reclining nude” motif in Western art, this painting of a fairskinned lady is imbued with the graceful ambience of the East. With a faint wash of coral red in the background, at the time a rarely used hue, Jeune Femme au Petit Chien conveys a deeply romantic atmosphere.

Lin Fengmian - Figure

Lin Fengmian, Figure, 1980s, ink and colour on paper, 69.6 x 70.2 cm. Estimate HKD 2,000,000 – 4,000,000 (USD 255,000 – 510,000)Courtesy Sotheby's.

Lin Fengmian studied in Paris during the 1920s. After his return to China, Lin established the China Academy of Art, and has often been considered to be the pioneer of modern Chinese art. Figure is heavily influenced by Fauvism’s use of colour and lines, revitalising what Lin believed was an ailing Eastern artistic style.

FLORAL THEME Modern Art Evening Sale, 5 October

Sanyu - Pot de fleurs rouges

Sanyu, Pot de fleurs rouges, 1930-40s, oil on canvas, 92 by 60.3 cm. Estimate HKD 28,000,000 – 40,000,000 (USD 3,570,000 – 5,100,000)Courtesy Sotheby's.

Sanyu’s floral paintings are generally of potted plants, signifying the notion of the self and solidarity. Pot de fleurs rouges is the artist’s largest work of potted roses from his early career, radiating a sense of romance with its distinctive motif.

Wu Guanzhong - Longevity and Harvest

Wu Guanzhong, Longevity and Harvest, 1959, oil on canvas, 100 x 60.5 cm. Estimate HKD 7,000,000 – 10,000,000  (USD 895,000 – 1,280,000)Courtesy Sotheby's.

Wu Guanzhong’s paintings of flowers are hugely symbolic. Longevity and Harvest is by far the largest painting produced by the artist in the 1950s, and was one of his earliest oil paintings of flowers. The work embodies the artistic direction Wu was taking in the early stages of his career.


Guan Liang, Legend of The White Snake, Ink and colour on paper, 95.5 by 178 cm. Estimate  HKD 2,000,000 – 4,000,000 (USD 255,000 – 510,000)Courtesy Sotheby's.

Ju Ming - Guan Gong

Ju Ming, Guan Gong, 1990, Wood, 73 by 83 by 216.4 cm. Estimate HKD 6,000,000 – 8,000,000 (USD 765,000 – 1,020,000)Courtesy Sotheby's.

Lalan - Sans titre

Lalan, Sans titre, 1968-1970, oil on canvas, 114 by 146 cmEstimate HKD 1,200,000 – 2,600,000 (USD 153,000 – 332,000)Courtesy Sotheby's

Hsiao Chin - Samadhi-23

Hsiao Chin, Samadhi-23, 2000, acrylic on canvas, 160 by 130.4 cm. Estimate  HKD 700,000 – 1,500,000 (USD 89,500 – 192,000). Courtesy Sotheby's.