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Zao Wou-Ki
Juin-Octobre 1985
Christie's Hong Kong
May 29, 2005

White Chrysanthemum in a Blue and White Jardiniere

Cai Guo-Qiang
A Certain Lunar Eclipse (Project for Humankind No. 2)

Yue Minjun
The Sun

Makoto Aida
Girls Don't Cry

Diego Rivera
La Ofrenda
Sotheby's New York
May 24, 2005

Raul Anguiano
La Espina
Christie's New York
May 25, 2005

Art Market Watch

Is Chinese art a hot growth area in a superheated art market? The answer would be yes, judging by the results of two days of Asian art sales at Christie's Hong Kong, May 29-30, 2005. The two-day total of HK$698.4 million, or $90 million U.S., was a new record for any series of Asian sales (prices given here are in U.S. dollars).

The first section of Christie's Hong Kong contemporary sale on May 29 totaled $18.8 million, with 157 of 168 lots finding buyers, or more than 93 percent. The top lot, the mural-sized triptych Juin-Octobre 1985 by Zao Wou-Ki (b. 1921), a blue, gold and green abstract painting that suggests a swath of the globe seen from space, sold for $2,345,200, a new world auction record for a Chinese painting.

The sale also set new auction records for Lin Fengmian (1900-91), whose naive painting of cottages nestled in an autumn landscape, Hamlet (1940-59) sold for $947,440, and Cai Guo-Qiang (b. 1957), whose seven-panel screen drawing in gunpowder and Chinese ink, A Certain Lunar Eclipse (Project for Humankind No. 2) (1991), sold for $568,880. The buyers of most of the top ten lots were listed as Asian.

Christie's 20th-century Chinese art expert Eric Chang noted that the sale set new records for seven other artists. "The amazing prices realized by first-generation artists bring them closer to Western post-war masters," he said "but we still believe that there are tremendous prices to be achieved."

The second section of Christie's May 29 contemporary sale featured 28 lots from the Yageo Foundation Collection, which were all sold for a total of more than $8.2 million. Established in 1999 by Yageo Corp., a Taiwan-based chip manufacturer, the Yageo foundation works to promote Chinese artists internationally.

Top Yageo lot was Liao Jichun's The Spanish Chateau, an Ab-Ex-style composition in blue, white, yellow and black, which sold for $1,398,800, a world auction record for the artist. Auction records were also set for the modernist brush painter Sanyu (1901-66), whose Matisse-like White Chrysanthemum in a Blue & White Jardiniere (1940-50) sold for $1,005,680, and Wu Guanzhong (b. 1919), whose lyrical landscape painting Village under Mountain Lau (1970-79) went for $627,120. Three Chinese contemporary artists have now seen their works sell for more than $1 million at auction -- Zao Wou-Ki, Liao Jichun and Sanyu.

Other notable lots included Yue Minjun's large painting of a flock of his signature grimacing faces, The Sun (2000), which went for an impressive $185,066, well above its presale high estimate of $58,000. Yan Pei Ming's iconic, red monochrome painting of Mao at the Tian an Men balcony (2000) soared above its presale high estimate of $25,000 to sell for $115,600.

Zhang Huan's well-known Family Tree (2001), a set of nine c-prints showing the artist's face gradually covered with black Chinese characters (done in an edition of eight), sold for $95,617, above its presale high estimate of about $79,500. And Makoto Aida's alarming but erotic photo of a nude model with her body painted with a weeping anime face, Girls Don't Cry (2003, edition of 10), sold for $9,253.

"It won't be long before the auction houses are regularly including works by more Chinese artists in their big contemporary auctions," said Chinese contemporary art enthusiast (and Museums magazine publisher) Larry Warsh.

Sotheby's New York held its two-day spring sale of Latin American art on May 24-25, 2005, and tallied a grand total of $12,756,400, with 78 percent of the lots finding buyers. The highlight of the sale was Diego Rivera's 1928 La Ofrenda, a nave but haunting rendering of two children in the jungle, which sold for $1,584,000.

Sotheby's new Latin American art chief Carmen Melin noted strength across all three major categories -- the Mexican masters, Southern School Constructivists and the Kinetic movement -- as well as strong prices for Colonial works.

In a distribution that reflects Melin's analysis, the auction set new records for five artists: Joaquín Torres-García ($940,000, for his 1935 Constructivo en Blanco y Negro); Alejandro Otero ($162,000, paid for a 1957 Kinetic art construction); Carlos Cruz Diez ($57,000, for Physicromie #245, another Kinetic construction, this one from 1966); Juan Pedro Lpez ($144,000 for La Virgen, Reina y Pastora de la Iglesia, 1780); and Fray Alonso López de Herrera ($102,000, for his 1640 Immaculate Conception, a ca. 21 x 15 in. oil painting on copper).

The Christie's New York Latin American auction on May 25-26, 2004, totaled $8,355,160. Of 182 lots offered, 111 sold, or about 61 percent. The top lot was Rufino Tamayo's Discusin acalorada (1953), which was bought for $867,200 (est. $500,000-$700,000); it came from the collection of Ruth and Harvey Kaplan. Fernando Botero's 1976 bronze sculpture, Sitting Woman, sold for $688,000 (est. $400,000-$500,000), a new auction record for a sculpture by the artist.

Virgilio Garza, head of the Latin American art department at Christie's, noted that the sale established new world auction records for several Latin American artists, including Ral Anguiano ($156,000, for La espina, a rough-hewn rendering of a saint-like figure digging a splinter out of his foot with a knife); Pedro Coronel ($307,200 for La primavera, 1948); Enio Iommi ($24,000, for a Caldersque abstract wire construction, 1947); Victor Rodríguez ($20,400, for 2004 Photo Realist painting of a weeping woman in profile); and Carlos Amorales ($18,000, for a 2004 oil of a crow wearing a human skull on its head).

For complete, illustrated auction results, see Artnet's signature Fine Art Auctions Report.

Christie's launches a "glamorous" new sale this month at its Rockefeller Center headquarters when "Décor: European Furniture and Decoration" goes on the block, June 15, 2005. Aimed at a younger, more adventurous crowd, "Décor" is a team effort from Christie's decorative arts and furniture departments, and includes eccentric pastiches that move from the 17th to the 20th century. "Each and every piece is guaranteed to add flare to any home," notes the auctioneer.

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