Chinese Modern Art Pioneer Wu Guanzhong’s $ 2.5 Million Flower Painting Led Sale China Guardian Hong Kong | Auction news | THE VALUE


A masterpiece by a pioneer of modern Chinese art was the flagship lot at an auction last week.

that of Wu Guanzhong Clove flowers was sold for HK $ 20 million (approx. US $ 2.5 million). It took place at the China Guardian Hong Kong’s 20th century Asian and contemporary art Sale.

The sale total was approximately HK $ 143 million (approximately US $ 18.3 million). Along with Wu’s painting, the second and third most expensive paintings sold for over HK $ 10 million.

Both paintings were made by masters of modern Chinese art – Lin Fengmian’s Lotus and that of Wu Dayu Flower Nursery Rhymes.

Lot 36 | Wu Guanzhong | Clove Flowers, Oil on canvas

Established in 1991
45.5 × 38.3 cm
Origin:

  • Soobin Art Gallery, Singapore
  • Ke-shan Art Gallery, Taipei
  • Acquired directly by this important private Asian collector from the above

Estimate: HK $ 8,000,000 – 16,000,000

Hammer price: HK $ 17,000,000

Sold: HK $ 20,040,000 (approx. US $ 2.5 million)

Wu Guanzhong oil painting, Clove flowers, was estimated to be between HK $ 8 million and HK $ 16 million. Auctioneer John Chong launched the auction at HK $ 7.2 million. On-site, phone and online buyers from Hong Kong and Beijing have made offers. After 11 bids, the bid price became HK $ 10 million.

After that, the auction war was contested between Vita Chen, general manager of the department of 20th century Asian and contemporary art; and gentlemen at auction. After 10 more offers, the hammer was dropped at HK $ 17 million, more than double its low estimate. The painting was sold for HK $ 20 million (approximately US $ 2.5 million) to a man with paddle number 239.

This painting was the artist’s dedication to his wife. In 1991, Wu Guanzhong was a well-known artist at home and abroad. He received the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture. He was also preparing a major solo exhibition to be held at the British Museum in 1992. However, in the spring of that year, his wife was suffering from a serious illness, which made Wu Guanzhong too worried to paint.

During this period, he saw his wife’s old manuscript of painting of clove flowers and was encouraged to resume painting. In his writing Selected works, he wrote, “I don’t usually draw flowers. Seeing my wife’s old handwritten cloves, I imitate them.”

Wu and his wife

Wu Guanzhong created only 10 still life oil paintings of vase flowers in his entire life. It is the only work on the theme of clove flowers, which is included in Wu Guanzhong’s catalog raisonné entitled self-selected works (1992). The book only included 65 oil paintings that the Chinese artist believed to be the best fit, and this painting is one of them.

The bouquet and background vividly reflect a form of simplification – the tiny dots of yellow, red, green, and the like blend tightly with the large blocks of white and pink color, showing a sense of shifting repetition. Thus, in the conversion of points, lines and surfaces, the rhythm of life itself was displayed with color and brush.

In 1992, the work was exhibited at the Shinkong Mitsukoshi in Taipei Who dances with silver hair exposure. After the current collector purchased the work from the exhibition, it was kept for 30 years and never appeared publicly until its auction debut now.


Lot 32 | Lin Fengmian | Lotus, Ink and color on paper

Created in the early 1980s
69 × 137.5 cm
Origin:

  • Acquired directly by current major Asian collector Wong Lian Fon of Hong Kong Chung Kiu Chinese Products Emporium in the early 1980s

Estimate: HK $ 2,500,000 – 4,500,000

Hammer price: 10,000,000 HK $

Sold: HK $ 11,850,000 (approx. US $ 1.5 million)

The second most expensive lot was Lin’s Lotus. These works were estimated between 2.5 and 4.5 million HK dollars. The auctioneer started the auction at HK $ 2.2 million. Buyers from Beijing, Hong Kong and online offers were received and competition was fierce. The auctions have gradually increased to HK $ 200,000, 500,000 and 800,000. After 30 bids, the hammer finally fell to HK $ 10 million, 4 times its low estimate. It was sold for HK $ 11.85 million (approx. US $ 1.5 million).

Lotus is a rectangular shape, with a width of 137.5 cm. This is rare in Lin Fengmian’s works, as most of his works are square. There are only 53 of these larger works, six of which are paintings of lotuses. This Lotus the painting is the largest of the six works.

China Guardian auctioneer John Chong

This painting is mainly painted using different intonations of green and white. The beauty of lotus flowers is represented – from their birth to their full bloom.

Lin chose to paint lotuses because he was the principal of Hangzhou Art College and saw lotuses blooming every summer. Lotus was painted in the 1980s, when Lin Fengmian left Hangzhou for Hong Kong. Painting lotuses can be considered as the artist’s nostalgia for his youth.

This work originally belonged to the former collection of the famous Hong Kong collector Wang Lianfon. He collected more than 80 works by Lin Fengmian during his lifetime and the two became friends. This year, Lotus first appeared at auction.


Lot 37 | Wu Dayu | Flower nursery rhymes, Oil on canvas

Created in the 1960s
60 × 48 cm
Origin:

  • April 13, 1997, Sotheby’s Taipei Spring Auction, Lot 57
  • Acquired directly by the present major Asian private collector from the above

Estimate: HK $ 9,000,000 – 15,000,000

Hammer price: HK $ 9,000,000

Sold: 10,680,000 HK $ (approximately US $ 1.3 million)

Wu Dayu Abstract Oil Painting, Flower Nursery Rhymes, was sold for HK $ 10.68 million (approximately US $ 1.3 million). It was the third most expensive painting on sale.

Wu Dayu was among the pioneer Chinese artists who traveled to France to study art. After returning to China, he founded Hangzhou Art College with Lin Fengmian and others. Together, they became the forerunners of modern Chinese art. Wu wrote many theories of art throughout his life and put forward the potential image theory. He wanted to combine the concept of Western abstract art with Chinese calligraphy, philosophy and theory of painting. This theory has influenced many artists – notably the three musketeers of chinese art – Wu Guanzhong, Zao Wou-ki and Chu Teh-chun.

Although they had a profound impact on a large number of artists, many of Wu’s works were unfortunately destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and the Wars of Resistance against Japan. Only 159 oil paintings have survived; and among which, 17 painted in the 1960s exist. The Flower nursery rhyme sold in this auction is one of them.

Wu dayu

Throughout his life, Wu painted many works based on floral designs and poured a multitude of colors into his works. In this room, Wu takes a vigorously flowing vase and hides it among abstract brushstrokes. He uses chrome yellow and royal blue as the main tones, using this simple color choice to blend the object and himself.

The last time this work appeared at auction was in 1997 – at Sotheby’s Taipei. The current collector has kept it since it was purchased at auction.


Lot 35 | Wu Guanzhong | A new house, Oil on panel

Established in 1972
36 × 28 cm
Origin:

  • Sep 25, 1989, Christie’s Autumn Auction in Hong Kong, Lot 117
  • Acquired directly by the present major Asian private collector from the above

Estimate: HK $ 5,600,000-9,600,000

Hammer price: HK $ 7,200,000

Sold: HK $ 8,574,000 (approx. US $ 1.1 million)

Another of Wu’s oil paintings is called A new house. It was sold for HK $ 8.57 million (around US $ 1.1 million), the fourth most expensive at auction.

The painting was created during the Cultural Revolution, when many Chinese artists were sent to the countryside. There, artists were forbidden to paint and only to work. In such an environment, although Wu Guanzhong could not paint, he still observed natural things.

Until 1972, Wu was allowed to paint every Sunday. For lack of material, he took a small blackboard and began to paint. A new house adopts a very particular perspective, drawing the owner’s house, the land and the greenery. The texture is rich, with thick colors highlighting the details of the melon leaves, as well as the meandering vines. The artist traced lines with a scratch pen to bring out a sense of dynamism. The orange door in the painting symbolizes the bright road to the future.

This work was first auctioned at Christie’s in Hong Kong in 1989. It was the first Wu oil painting sold in Asia. In the end, the current collector made an offer for HK $ 200,000.

After 32 years of collecting, this painting reappeared at auction. It was sold for HK $ 8.57million (approx. US $ 1.1million) about 43 times its original price.


Other flagship lots:

Lot 41 | Zao Wou-ki | 23.09.76, Oil on canvas

Established in 1976
50 × 84 cm
Origin:

  • Eugenia and Joan De Muga, Spain (1977-2011)
  • Private collection, Asia
  • June 7, 2015, Ravenel Taipei Spring Auction, Lot 237
  • Acquired directly by this important Asian collector from the above

Estimate: HK $ 6,500,000 – $ 8,500,000

Sold: HK $ 6,850,000 (approx. US $ 880,000)

Lot 43 | Yayoi Kusama | Flowers, Acrylic on canvas

Established in 1996
18 × 14 cm
Origin:

  • 2 Dec 2018, Ravenel Taipei Autumn Sale, Lot 220
  • Acquired directly by this important Asian collector from the above

Estimate: HK $ 1,700,000 – 2,500,000

Sold: HK $ 4,680,000 (approx. US $ 600,000)


Summary of the auction:

Auction House: China Guardian Hong Kong

Sale: 20th century Asian and contemporary art

Date: October 12, 2021

Number of lots: 172


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