Auction highlights include rare works by modern masters Raden Saleh and Lee Man Fong
By Ian Tee
Christie's Hong Kong will hold its 2018 Autumn Auctions from 23 to 28 November. It is led by Su Shi's 'Wood and Rock', one of the world's rarest Chinese paintings. In the Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art category, a key highlight is 'Mail Station at the Bottom of Mount Megamendung' (1871) by Raden Saleh, the pioneer of Indonesian modern art.
'Mail Station' was previously exhibited at the National Gallery Singapore's 'Between Worlds: Raden Saleh & Juan Luna' from 16 November 2017 to 11 March 2018. The painting is also the first of three versions depicting landscape of this location, with two other similar works in the collection of Museum MACAN, Jakarta, Indonesia, and Ehrenburg Castle, Coburg, Germany. It has the estimate of USD1,800,000 to USD2,560,000.
Also included in the evening sale are two paintings by Singapore artists Cheong Soo Pieng and Chen Wen Hsi. The two works show the lasting influence of the artists' seminal field trip to Bali in the 1952 (along with contemporaries Liu Kang and Chen Chong Swee). For Cheong, it manifested in a 1980 work titled 'Bali Girl' which displays his mature style. Chen's 'Balinese Women with Offering' is a rare-to-market oil painting, coming from the collection of an American diplomat. It has an estimate of USD128,365 to USD192,398.
'Peace Doves' is the second largest early painting by Lee Man Fong offered at auction to date, following ‘Fifteen Goldfishes’ sold by Christie’s in 2012. ‘Peace Doves’ was painted during the artist’s pivotal period studying in Holland, and a gift to its original owners. The work combines the Lee’s mastery in Western techniques with the Eastern expression of spatial depth found in Chinese ink landscapes. Southeast Asian Art Specialist Dexter How notes that "it is a real masterpiece that paved the way for the artist's style and vision."
How also remarked that the provenance of works in this sale reflect the geopolitical histories of the region, with a number of pieces from collections in Europe and the Americas. For instance, two Affandi canvases come from a Brazilian collector who was part of the sugar trade. One of the paintings, 'Men with Fighting Roosters' from 1959, has an estimate of USD490,000 to USD620,000
Interest in Vietnamese art is on the rise, with a new record for modern artist Le Pho’s work recently achieved at Sotheby's Hong Kong Evening Sale. It is a market not only driven by Vietnamese collectors looking to bring works abroad back home but also ones from the region. Notably, Korean collectors are able to relate to the style of painting on silk, a practice shared by both cultures. How attributes the trend to Vietnam's economic development and attraction of foreign investments which in turn grew new appreciation for local aesthetics. The November sale at Christie's includes a selection by Le Pho as well as modern master Nguyễn Phan Chánh.