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Sotheby’s Inaugural Auction Of Chinese Contemporary Art

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BID0927b1In response to the growing interest in Contemporary Art worldwide, Sotheby’s will hold its first auction of Chinese Contemporary Art in Hong Kong on 31 October 2004. The auction features works by Cai Guoqiang, Xu Bing, Zhang Xiaogang, Zao Wuji, among others, and includes a number of performance artists.

China’s remarkable transformation to a diverse market economy during the past two decades coupled with vivid memories of the Cultural Revolution, results in an emergence of post Cultural Revolution artists who critique and re-evaluate modern society and art history through their creation of visual arts. Wang Guangyi mastered such a concept in his painting Zippo by combining a propaganda poster of Cultural Revolution with the brand name of a famous western advertising image. The fundamental juxtapositions – present and past, old and new, strange and familiar, frugality and luxury – compel viewers to reflect upon their own perspective in a vital and rapid makeover of a contemporary life and culture. Zippo is estimated at HK$240,000-350,000.

Yue Minjun’s Sunflowers features his characteristic laughing figures which also shares the exaggerated nature of advertising images (estimate: HK$220,000-250,000). The bright colours, intense enthusiasm in the expressions of the figures and the implied ‘almost mindless’ joy is a mockery of an ideology suggested in the era of communism, and repeated nowadays by commercialism.

Contrary to Yue Minjun’s laughing figures, Zhang Xiaogang’s characters in Big Family – Brother and Sister carry cold and emotionless stares (estimate: HK$120,000-180,000). His subjects challenge the deep-rooted Chinese belief of family values and ties of family blood. They posed for family ‘photo’ in an orderly manner, as expected of them, and yet reveal subtle differences that are very noticeable in a supposedly harmonious family ‘photo’.

Starting in the late 1980s a large number of artists migrated from the provinces in China to major cultural centers such as Beijing and Shanghai, and some even settled abroad in the West. This resulted in a generation whose works reflect less on the country’s painful past. These artists are more interested in exploring the self, the surroundings or the self interacting with the surroundings. Zhang Huan is well known for using his body to demonstrate a statement. In Family Tree, a set of nine chromogenic prints, he has painted dictum and motto on his face, overlapping the words until it finally turns into a blotch of black ink. This reflects the current scene of the art world, and beyond, where traditional Chinese elements are gradually absorbed into the western culture and obscure cultural boundaries (estimate: HK$200,000-250,000).

In Project for the year of Dragon No.3, Cai Guoqiang employed his techniques of using ancient Chinese invention, gunpowder, to create a ‘drawing’ of a dragon (estimate: HK$300,000-400,000). The process of using gunpowder, though planned with precision, still unavoidably contains an element of chance beyond one’s control, yet the finished product so remarkably resembles traditional Chinese ink paintings where meticulous attention is required in its making. One can also sense the irony that mankind is using gunpowder to destruct, when Cai is using it to create.

These are but a few of contemporary works featured in the sale. There are also photographs by Long Chinsan, a pioneer of modern
photography in China, and Qiu Zhijie, sculptures by Sui Jianguo and Ju Ming, oil paintings by Zheng Fangzhi and calligraphic works by Xu Bing.

Auction of Chinese Contemporary Art: October 31, 2004, Hong Kong Exhibition opens 29 October 2004, Island Shangri La Hong Kong

For more information visit WWW.SOTHEBYS.COM

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