Art Auctions/CHRISTIES

Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art – A Celebration of Masterworks from Exceptional Iconic Artists

Written by Aksel Ritenis

Hong Kong – On May 28, 29 and 30, Christie’s will hold three sales of Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art and a special section of works in Christie’s 30th Anniversary Sale, offering 600+ lots from artists across Asia. This season will feature important works from both contemporary and modern masters, works from prominent private collections such as Johnson Chang, and a special curated selection of 70+ Vietnamese works will be on offer.

Eric Chang, Deputy Chairman, International Director of Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art commented “Following an increasing focus from collectors demanding works of the utmost quality, this season represents a very tightly curated sale with an emphasis on top pieces. The sale presents a rare opportunity to acquire extraordinary and iconic works from a range of legendary artists at the height of their artistic virtuosity that seldom come to market.”

Chinese Contemporary Masters

Highlighting Christie’s ongoing commitment in offering top quality Chinese Contemporary works, this season will feature a line-up of significant pieces spanning the key milestones of its development. This body of work provides both a historical and cultural point of reflection, capturing the shifting ideological and political landscape in China.


Oil on canvas

180 x 167 cm. (70 7/8 x 65 3/4 in.)

Painted in 1992


Oil on canvas

169 x 239 cm. (66 1/2 x 94 1/8 in.)

Painted in 1996

Within the wider sale of Chinese contemporary art this season, on offer is a very special selection of 30 lots from the private collection of Johnson Chang – widely considered one of the most prominent collectors in the Chinese contemporary art movement. Among the works on highlight are: Meat No.3: Nativity by Zheng FanZhi (estimate on request) and Arcadia by Wang Xingwei (estimated HKD 3,000,000-4,000,000).

In Arcadia by Wang Xingwei, the artist explores new artistic directions, reconstructing, reassembling and appropriating the works of Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Beuys and Jacque Louis David among others, in his quest to interpret western art history. Within this body of work, Arcadia stands as one of the most fascinating manifestations.

Other Chinese contemporary highlights include: Three Black Songs: Melancholy by Zhang Xiaogang (estimate HKD 7,000,000-9,000,000, illustrated below left), Purple Air by Liu Wei (estimate HKD 4,000,000-5,000,000, illustrated below right).


oil on canvas, triptych

each: 299.5 x 150 cm. (117 7/8 x 59 in.)

overall: 299.5 x 450 cm. (117 7/8 x 177 1/2 in.)


Painted in 2006

Oil and collage on canvas

177.8 x 114.3 cm. (70 x 45 in.)

Painted in 1990

Modern Masters

As one of the strongest showings of work by Asian modern masters in recent years, the sale presents artists such as Adrien-Jean le Mayeur de Merprès, Wu Dayu, Xu Bei-Hong, Pan Yuliang and a series of masterworks by Zao Wou-Ki and Wu Guanzhong. The meticulous selection represents the most iconic works, painted at the pinnacle of their careers, demonstrating the utmost skill and refinement. These works offer viewers and collectors an opportunity to experience the various languages and interpretation of these modern masters and to rediscover its unique historic value.


Oil on canvas

127 x 127.5 cm. (50 x 50 1/4 in.)

Painted in 1950

The sale is led by the very rare, large format masterpiece Vert Emeraude by Zao Wou-Ki (estimate on request, illustrated above), of the Paul Klee series and is the first large format of this series painted in circa 1950, two years after Zao’s arrival in Paris. In Vert Emeraude, a representative work of Zao Wou-ki dating from 1950, the artist profoundly illuminates physical space and the flow and evolution of time. Objects appear in the work as transparent symbols, moving through space-time in a floating void somewhere between the waters and the sky, while the passage of time is deduced in the artist’s scoring and marking of the canvas. Days and months progress, as we move from top to bottom and left to right; a crescent moon appears at the left of the painting, while the curtain of night hangs over the right, and a bird, chasing the morning sun flies toward the right. From the remote depths, a human figure emerges, as if Zao Wou-ki expresses that Man is the measure of all things.



Panoramic View of Himalayas

Signed Beihong in Chinese and dated 29 (29th year of the Republic Era, corresponding to 1940)

oil on canvas 37 x 93.2 cm. (14 . x 36 . in.)

Painted in 1940 (29th year of the Republic Era)

HK$ 18,000,000–26,000,000



Yellow Flowers in a Vase

ink and colour on paper

69 x 60 cm. (TBC)

Painted in 1966




Untitled – 27

Oil on canvas

44 x 33 cm.

HK$ 10,000,000–12,000,000


ADRIEN-JEAN LE MAYEUR DE MERPRÈS (BELGIAN, 1880-1958) Women Around the Lotus Pond oil on canvas in the original hand-carved Balinese frame 150 x 200 cm. (59 x 78 3/4 in.) HK$15,000,000-20,000,000

Structural Abstract vs. Gestural Abstract


Oil on canvas, triptych

Each: 200 x 160 cm. (78 3/4 x 63 in.), overall: 200 x 480 cm. (78 3/4 x 189 in.)

Painted in 1969

Showcasing the different facets of abstract art, a selection of works beautifully highlights the contrast between structural and gestural abstraction, allowing artists an expression of their own unique language, while being liberated from the constraints of traditional practices and conventions. The sales exemplify the non-representational language abstract art embodies and its ability to communicate across borders, blending East and West.

One exemplary example of gestural abstraction is found in the work of Chu Teh Chun’s No 312

(estimate HKD38,000,000-48,000,000), which captures the fast-changing and fluid light by Chu’s unique translucent paint that rendered an ethereal brushstroke which has never before been so feathery and impalpable. Coloured masses are light and tender, almost as if they were washes of ink on rice paper, dancing along the rhythm created by refractions of light. This is without a doubt one of the most influential achievements of Chu in 20th century abstract art.


Oil on Canvas

198 x 199 cm. (78 x 78 3/8 in.)

Painted in 1969


Oil on canvas

130 x 193 cm. (51 1⁄8 x 76 in.)

Executed in 1960

Additional masterworks of gestural abstraction are presented by Kazuo Shiraga’s Chikisei Sesuisho (estimate on request, illustrated above left), which was formerly in the collection of the famous Italian artist Lucio Fontana, and is one of the earliest pieces by the artist to be exhibited in Italian art circles. Its renowned provenance, important literature references and exhibition history documents the course of cross-cultural interaction between East Asia and Europe in the Post-War era and the acceptance of Japanese avant-garde artists into the European art scene in the 1960s. Shiraga’s paintings successfully transfers and documents both the force of his own actions, as well it’s opposing counter-force, and explores the idea of gesture from a completely groundbreaking scientific perspective. Shiraga fully engages with the canvas by stepping onto its surface, painting with his feet to subvert conventional painting methods and to express unbridled passion.

Highlighting important structured abstracts works are Wang Huaiqing’s Gold Stone, (estimate HKD40,000,000 – 60,000,000, illustrated top center) Yayoi Kusama’s Cloud Considering (estimate HKD18,000,000-26,000,000, illustrated right) and Wang Guangle’ s Terrazzo 2003.3 (estimate HKD 3,000,000- 5,000,000, illustrated left).

Se Souvenir Des Belles Choses: A Curated Collection of Vietnamese Art

Following the excellent sale results for Southeast Asian art last season, in particular for the field of Vietnamese art, Christie’s will put together a curated collection of Vietnamese art featuring more than 70 lots that will form part of the Asian 20th Century Day Sale on 29 May.

The specially curated sale explores how this body of work reflects the rise of a nation through its momentous changes and seeks to define the relationship between art and a nation. It is the first of a two-part endeavour that covers artworks representing the best of the classical arts to the quintessential modern productions before reaching into the contemporary. Highlights of the sale include rare to market pieces by renowned Vietnamese first and second generation artists such as Sewing by Nguyen Phan Chanh (illustrated left), Cheo Actors by Bui Xuan Phai (illustrated below right), and Maternite by Le Pho (illustrated below left). Ink and gouache on paper


65 x 50 cm. (25 5/8 x 19 5/8 in.)

Painted in 1931

HK$ 1,500,000- 2,000,000

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Aksel Ritenis

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