A new world record was set for Chinese contemporary art at Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong when Zhang Xiaogang’s 1988 painting “Forever Lasting Love” sold for USD 10.1 million. This is the latest sign of China’s phenomenal ascent in the global art market. Mr. Zhang, who is 52 and based in Beijing, is now among a handfull of living artists to have a work sell for more than $ 10 million. Less than a decade ago many of his works were selling for $ 60,000 or less. The painting was bought by an unidentified buyer bidding by telephone. It is one of Mr. Zhang’s earliest work and was displayed in 1989 at a groundbreaking exhibition of avant-garde art held in Beijing (see above).
The triptych was among 105 works put up for sale by Guy Ullens, the Belgium collector who is considered a pioneer for amassing a large number of Chinese Contemporary art works for his private collection beginning in the 1980’s. Sotheby’s confirmed that is was a 100% sale and raised USD 54 million, far above the USD 12.7 million to 16.7 million the auction house estimated before the sale.
Zhang Peili set the tone of the night, selling his art work 4 to 9 times estimate. Records were then followed for Wang Guangyi, Geng Jianyi, Yu Youhan, Ding Yi and Guan Wei among others, soaring past their high estimates to set new marks. What was notable about these works in particular was that they were dated from the flowering of China’s Avant-garde in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Some of them went for more than 20 times their estimates, as bidders battled to secure a piece of Chinese contemporary art history.
Meanwhile the auction’s proceedings were notable for the re-entry of Western buyers into the scene that Chinese collectors have recently had all to themselves. Among the top bidders were at least three from United States, indicating that international support for Chinese contemporary art continues apace.
On the Chinese 20th Century art session, artist Huang Gang sold 2 lots that doubled the estimate. A painting with dimensions of 180×220 cm went for Usd 248,000.
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