Asia-Pacific News

Asia's Most Expensive Art 2011

Ansuya Harjani |CNBC.com

Asia's Booming Art Market

"Bright Road" by Liu Ye, Source: Sotheby's

Sotheby’s and Christie’s Spring auctions in Hong Kong in April are seen as a barometer of Asia’s art market. This year's auctions saw record sales.

Contemporary and Modern paintings from China were the top sellers with one painting fetching the highest ever price for a contemporary Asian painting.

Over the past year China’s growing wealth has fueled prices and demand for art. In 2010, China accounted for 33 percent of global fine art sales. China continues to dominate the Asian art scene.

Click ahead to view Asia’s most expensive paintings sold via the two auction houses over the past year.

By Ansuya Harjani
Posted April 21 2011

Series “X?” No.3  (1986)

Photo: Sotheby's

Winning Bid: $2.96 million
Estimate: $193,000 – $321,000
Artist: Zhang Peili, China (1957-)

Series “X?” No.3 fetched more than nine times its top estimate, hitting a world record for artist Zhang Peili. Recognized as a pioneer of Chinese video art, Zhang has created a series of multi-media works, which have featured in many international exhibitions.

Bloodline Series: Chen Weimin (1993)

Photo: Sotheby's

Winning Bid: $2.96 million
Estimate: $643,000 – $900,000
Artist: Zhang Xiaogang, China (1958-)

This oil on canvas was sold to a private American collector for triple the expected sale price at Sotheby’s spring auction. Paintings in the Bloodline series are often monochromatic portraits of Chinese people, usually with large, dark eyes, posed in a rigid manner reminiscent of family portraits from the Cultural Revolution.

Pins Landais

Photo: Sotheby's

Winning Bid: $2.96 million
Estimate: $411,000 – $514,000
Artist: Zao Wou-ki, China (1921-)

This painting inspired by the pines of Landes, a region in southwestern France, fetched close to $3 million, nearly six times its highest pre-sale estimate. Based in France since 1948, Zao Wou-ki’s earliest exhibitions in Paris have received praise from Pablo Picasso. He is considered by some critics to be the most important Chinese artist living.

Bali Life

Photo: Sotheby's

Winning Bid: $3.24 million
Estimate: $747,000 – $875,000
Artist: Lee Man Fong, Indonesia (1913 – 1988)

Indonesian modern artist Lee Man Fong’s ‘Bali Life” is the most expensive piece of Southeast Asian art ever sold at auction. Roman Scott, chairman of the Calamander Group and manager of an art fund, told CNBC that Indonesian art is Asia’s “best” and “most neglected”.

Vase of Lilies with Red Ground (1940s)

Winning Bid: $3.25 million
Estimate: $1.54 – $2.32 million
Artist: Sanyu, China (1901-1966)

Sanyu's flower-and-vase still life was very popular during the 1940s and 50s. He often chose the chrysanthemum for his floral compositions, however from the 1940s he expanded his range to include lilies, roses and tulips.

Inspiration Hivernale (1987 – 1990)

Photo: Sotheby's

Winning Bid: $3.67 million
Estimate: $2.57 – $3.86 million
Artist: Chu The-chun, China (1920-)

Its first appearance in the art market in decades, “Inspiration Hivernale” was bought by a private Asian collector at Sotheby’s spring auction in Hong Kong. The painting was inspired by the Swiss Alps, which the artist visited.

Sceneries of Jiangnan

Photo: Sotheby's

Winning Bid: $3.69 million
Estimate: $643,000 – $900,000
Artist: Zhang Daqian, China (1899-1983)

This ink and color on scroll depicts the lowlands and meandering rivers of Jiangnan, a region south of China’s Yangtze river. The painting fetched a price over four times its highest estimate on the back of mounting demand for fine Chinese paintings. Sotheby’s Spring auction of Fine Chinese Paintings netted $83 million, the highest total achieved by the auction house for a fine Chinese art sale.

Flying Deity (1941)

Photo: Christie's

Winning Bid: $3.83 million
Estimate: $386,000 - $514,000
Artist: Zhang Daqian, China (1899-1983)

Zhang Daqian played a significant role in documenting the Dunhuang cave temples, which house the world's oldest surviving Buddhist paintings and documents. The “Flying Deity” is part of the 276 works that Zhang painted during his time in Dunhuang.

Mask Series (1996)

Photo: Christie's

Winning Bid: $3.98 million
Estimate: $1.54 – $2.31 million
Artist: Zeng Fanzhi, China (1964-)

This series, which first appeared in 1994, brought Zeng Fanzhi into the international spotlight. Zeng is one of the major artists shaping Chinese culture today. He constantly reinvents his artwork, pushing the boundaries of the Mainland's contemporary art space, which is growing in popularity.

Dwelling in the Qingbian Mountains (1949)

Photo: Christie's

Winning Bid: $4.12 million
Estimate: $386,000 – $514,000
Artist: Zhang Daqian, China (1899 – 1983)

This is a work painted in the style of Wang Meng, a landscape painter from the Yuan Dynasty. The piece is inscribed with a poem and signed with three seals of the artist.

Tiger (1950)

Photo: Sotheby's

Winning Bid: $4.12 million
Estimate: $3.6 million
Artist: Qi Baishi, China (1864 – 1957)

This rare ink and color painting of a crouching tiger saw fierce bidding among Mainland art collectors. Qi is known for his images of birds, insects, and flowers, but he has rarely painted animals.

Court Ladies (1945)

Photo: Sotheby's

Winning Bid: $4.27 million
Estimate: $643,000 - $900,000
Artist: Fu Baoshi, China (1904 – 1965)

Another classical ink painting by Fu, this time a Tang dynasty court woman and her maid, which fetched over four times its highest estimate. Fu is regarded as a blue-chip Chinese modernist together with Qi Baishi, Xu Beihong, and Zhang Daqian.

Chess Playing (1943)

Photo: Sotheby's

Winning Bid: $4.99 million
Estimate: $643,000 - $900,000
Artist: Fu Baoshi, China (1904 –1965)

Increasing demand for Chinese fine art has sent the price of Fu Baoshi’s ink painting “Chess Playing” rocketing. The piece was sold to a Beijing-based art dealer. Sotheby’s CEO Bill Ruprecht, believes sales growth at the auction house will continue to be driven by Mainland clients coming to Hong Kong.

Chapter of a New Century – Birth of the People’s Republic of China II (1992)

Photo: Sotheby's

Winning Bid: $6.72 million
Estimate: $2.70 – $2.96 million
Artist: Zhang Xiaogang, China (1958-)

Zhang Xiaogang's mixed media masterpiece is the counterpart of a similar painting, Chapter of a New Century—Birth of the People’s Republic of China I, which was offered in 2007 at a Sotheby’s auction in New York and sold for over $3 million to a European collector.

Potted Chrysanthemum in a Blue and White Jardinière (1950s)

Photo: Christie's

Winning Bid: $6.87 million
Estimate: $4.5 million
Artist: Sanyu, China (1901-1966)

This painting fetched a record price at a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong last fall, soaring from the $3.34 million it got in 2006. Sanyu’s work did not get much attention during his lifetime, but is now commanding high prices at auctions across the world.

Bloodline-Big Family (1995)

Photo: Sotheby's

Winning Bid: $7.2 million
Estimate: $4.5 – $5.1 million
Artist: Zhang Xiaogang, China (1958-)

A part of Zhang Xiaogang’s Bloodline series, (also seen in slide 19), it marks the pinnacle of Zhang’s early, mature style. In 1995, Zhang Xiaogang made a total of five paintings for this contemporary collection.

Temple at the Mountain Peak

Photo: Christie's

Winning Bid: $7.85 million
Estimate: $514,000 – $772,000
Artist: Zhang Daqian, China (1899-1983)

This modern, impressionistic painting, from an artist known as the most gifted master forger of the 20th century because of his ability to mimic great Chinese masters, sold for ten times its highest estimate.

String Quartet (1986)

Photo: Christie's

Winning Bid: $7.86 million
Estimate: $514,000 – $772,000
Artist: Chen Yifei, China (1946 – 2005)

One of the leading painters of the Cultural Revolution, Chen Yifei was a man of many colors. He dabbled in Western contemporary art later in his career and was also part of China’s film and fashion industry. He owned the Shanghai Tatler magazine and fashion brands Layefe and Leyefe.

The Song of the Pipa Player (1945)

Photo: Christie's

Winning Bid: $9.03 million
Estimate: $2.57 - $5.14 million
Artist: Fu Baoshi, China (1904-1965)

The ink and color scroll by one of China’s leading Modernist saw some intense bidding at a Christie’s auction that was won by an anonymous Chinese buyer. The painting is based on a poem of the same name written in 816 AD by Bai Juyi, a well-known Tang dynasty poet.

Forever Lasting Love (1998)

Winning Bid: $10.14 million
Estimate: $3.21 – $3.86 million
Artist: Zhang Xiaogang, China (1958-)

This was the highest price paid for a piece of Chinese contemporary art which was achieved during Sotheby’s April auction. The three-panel oil painting, part of Belgian businessman-cum-collector Guy Ullens’ collection, broke the previous Chinese contemporary art record of $9.7 million.