Japan hopes to host National Palace Museum art

A Japanese delegation of parliamentarians recently told President Ma Ying-jeou that Japan would like to borrow art from the National Palace Museum for exhibit. Taiwan's foreign ministry said that such an exchange would be good for relations with Japan, but Japan must first enact an anti-seizure law to ensure the safe return of the pieces. The ministry cited that France and Germany were also required to amend their laws, which they did, before the National Palace Museum lent them artworks.

Taiwan's National Palace Museum was also praised recently by the International Council of Museums for rejecting the offer of receiving two controversial Qing dynasty bronzes from a French collector this year. They were once the property of the Imperial Summer Palace in Beijing, and China insists they be treated as stolen property.

The director of the National Palace Museum said she did not accept the bronzes because of UNESCO guidelines to not accept works of possible illegal origins. The National Palace Museum is currently hosting its first cooperative exhibit with the Palace Museum in Beijing. The exhibit Harmony and Integrity: The Yongzheng Emperor and His Times will be on display until January 10th.


Important and Iconic Works from the Masters of Asian Art at Christie's

Also leading this season’s Evening Sale is Zao Wou-ki’s "19-11-59". Estimate: HK$8,000,000-12,000,000 /US$1,025,600-1,538,500. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2009.

HONG KONG.- Collectors from around the world will have the rare chance to acquire exceptional works from the biggest names in Asian contemporary and Chinese 20th-century art in this season’s Asian Contemporary & Chinese 20th-Century Art Evening Sale held on November 29 at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre. Valued at over HK$125 million (US$16 million), the sale will present over 40 iconic works by renowned Chinese 20th Century artists such as Sanyu, Zao Wou-ki, Lin Fengmian, Chu Teh-Chun, and Yun Gee, as well as works by premier Asian contemporary artists such as China’s Liu Ye and Zeng Fanzhi and Japan’s Kenji Yanobe.

Chinese 20th Century Art: Fusion of East and West

The early 20th-century was a time of change and regeneration in China. Against these social conditions, traditional Chinese artistic values faced unprecedented challenges as Western technological advancements began to enter into the country. This fusion of Chinese traditional visual art with Western modern art movements produced the unique East-West aesthetic and technical sophistication found in the works of major Chinese 20th-century artists such as Sanyu, Zao Wou-ki, and Chu Teh-Chun, each of whom are represented with rare and important works in this season’s Evening Sale.

Following the record sale of Sanyu’s "Cat and Birds" at Christie’s Hong Kong in May of this year (HK$ 42,100,000/US$ 5,418,270/£ 3,410,100), comes another major work: "Potted Flowers in a Blue and White Jardinière" (estimate: HK$8,000,000–12,000,000 /US$1,025,600 – 1,538,500), one of the Sanyu’s finest examples of his exploration in uniting Eastern and Western aesthetic ideals. Painted in the 1950’s, "Potted Flowers in a Blue and White Jardinière" uses a striking combination of pink and Prussian blue, with infinite variations of color that create a luminescent glow evoking Mark Rothko and Yves Klein. This skilful technique is also reminiscent of that used to create the rich visual effects produced by variations of black found in Chinese ink-wash painting. The casual simplicity of the lines belies a precise organization in the composition that allows Western spatial abstraction and linear concepts to be expressed through an Eastern still life subject.

Also leading this season’s Evening Sale is Zao Wou-ki’s "19-11-59" (estimate: HK$8,000,000-12,000,000 /US$1,025,600-1,538,500). Embracing the finest elements of Yuan and Sung dynasty landscape painting, Zao’s work strives to finds new meanings in the traditional aesthetic, while also incorporating Western artistic techniques to express color, light, and shadow. The result is an entirely new style of abstract expression through which he captures the subtle changes of space, nature, light and darkness to create a world of vivid and spectacular majesty. In "19-11-59", blue tones shift and swirl in a rising cloud-like mass, creating a fantastic visual experience that seems to expand and evolve in a cool deep calmness. Zao’s technique of using radiant light to create a visual effect of movement within color is exceptional and unique even among Western artists, underscoring his successful incorporation of Western art forms into traditional Chinese art.

"Vertige Neigeux" (estimate on request) is a rare and exceptional work from artist Chu Teh-Chun. Although Chu Teh-Chun's abstract works draw inspiration from Western abstract expressionism, they also exude a poetic sensibility that is deeply rooted in the Chinese view that painting and poetry derive from a single source. Struck by the beauty of a snowstorm scene while traveling in Switzerland in 1985, Chu began painting a select number of snow scenes. A work that was nine years in the making, "Vertige Neigeux" is exceptionally large, a truly rare work not only in size but also as Chu no longer painted snow scenes after 1991. Broad, sweeping strokes suggest rolling mists and flowing waters, while washes of pale green suggest the undefined spaces used throughout traditional Chinese landscapes.

From Wang Huaiqing comes "Six Screens", a large paneled work painted in 2006 (estimate: HK4,000,000-5,000,000/US$512,800-641,000). It is work from a series where the artist reinterprets ancient Chinese culture using Chinese Ming furniture themes. In "Six Screens", Wang employs a highly modernist style of expression in order to deconstruct and reconstruct a screen. He simplifies the original physical divisions into soft, black, geometrical shapes, reminiscent of Chinese paper-cutting, while using the variations of vermilion - a color heavy with symbolic of ‘China red’. By adding texture through the use of oil paint and by exposing different layers of paint with a scraping technique, a thoroughly modern element is injected into the traditional form and color, resulting in a work that is both firmly rooted in China’s traditions while embracing expressive means and methods of Western art.

Asian Contemporary Art: A Window to the Future

Among the contemporary works to be presented at this season’s Evening Sale is a seminal work by acclaimed Chinese contemporary artist Zeng Fanzhi. His emotionally raw paintings anticipated the emotional and psychological strain that would haunt the new China as it struggled with modernization and rapid social changes in post-1980’s. Zeng’s concern over the alienation and loneliness inherent in modern life can be found at the very heart of his works. Created in 1994, "Untitled" (Hospital Series) (estimate: HK$8,000,000-12,000,000 /US$1,025,600-1,538,500) is a crucial work of Zeng Fanzhi’s career. This piece from the Hospital series can be considered a milestone in Zeng artistic career which paved the way for the creation of his later and much renowned Mask series of the mid to late 1990s. Untitled (Hospital Series), a monumental and ambitious canvas, features patients with crude and lugubrious bodies and exaggerated and impenetrable gazes being treated by numb indifferent doctors. Zeng’s use of colour and a distorted three-dimensional view heighten the sense of emotional and physical chaos.

From Kenji Yanobe, one of Japan’s most creative contemporary artists, comes the whimsical sculptural work "Soul of Bubble King" (estimate: HK$700,000–1,000,000/US$89,700-128,200). Inspired by the Japanese subculture of Anime and Manga, Yanobe’s works are intellectually inquisitive and convey a stoic persistence in facing adversity in everyday life. Created in 1992, "Soul of Bubble King" is a monumental sculpture that can inflate and deflate, reflecting the artist’s interest in fortification, selfdefence and scientific advancement, executed with playfulness and precise engineering.