Classy fare in cool mar­ket

The up­com­ing China Guardian Auc­tions’ sales are ex­pected to wit­ness re­newed in­ter­est in the coun­try’s cul­tural lega­cies, es­pe­cially in art. Lin Qi re­ports.

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - Con­tact the writer at linqi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The art mar­ket in China has been cool­ing over the past three years, gen­er­at­ing fewer records and a less com­pet­i­tive air in the salesroom.

Auc­tion houses have, how­ever, tried to en­thuse bid­ders by of­fer­ing fewer but bet­ter qual­ity pieces with mod­er­ate pre­sale es­ti­mates. As a re­sult, art­works that boast a sound source of ori­gin and which have not ap­peared on an open mar­ket for years are be­ing bought.

The lots to be sold at China Guardian Auc­tions’ ma­jor fall sales, to be held from Satur­day to Nov 16 in Bei­jing, in­clude clas­sic Chi­nese art and fine qual­ity paint­ings by mod­ern masters, in­clud­ing Zhang Daqian (1899-1983) and Fu Baoshi (1904-65). The two sec­tions are now draw­ing a lot of mar­ket at­ten­tion af­ter out­per­form­ing other cat­e­gories in the first half of the year.

A let­ter to his friend by Song Dy­nasty (960-1279) poet and cal­lig­ra­pher Zeng Yu (1073-1135) called Guo­fang Tie will go un­der the ham­mer at Guardian’s money-gross­ing, star-stud­ded Grand View evening sales.

Zeng wrote the let­ter to ex­press his re­gret at be­ing un­able to re­ceive the vis­it­ing friend be­cause of fa­tigue. The 60 char­ac­ters in the let­ter show Zeng’s solid tech­nique while han­dling caoshu, or the run­ning script, in his own care­free style.

The let­ter has been passed through sev­eral pri­vate col­lec­tions over nine cen­turies, in­clud­ing that of famed con­nois­seur Zhang Congyu (1914-63).

An­cient cal­li­graphic pieces also hogged much of the lime­light in salesrooms ear­lier this year. Then, Guardian auc­tioned Jushi Tie (Let­ter on hap­pen­ings) by politi­cian and scholar Zeng Gong, who was the el­der brother of Zeng Yu’s fa­ther, for 207 mil­lion yuan ($31.7 mil­lion) in May.

The buyer was Chi­nese me­dia mogul Wang Zhongjun who is an avid col­lec­tor of Chi­nese con­tem­po­rary art.

At the same sale, Ming Dy­nasty (1368-1644) cal­lig­ra­pher Song Ke’s writ­ing al­bum, also in the run­ning script, fetched 92 mil­lion yuan.

Pieces from au­thor­i­ta­tive art cat­a­logs will also ap­pear in the up­com­ing Guardian sales, in­clud­ing a color paint­ing of a Chi­nese peony, by an uniden­ti­fied Song Dy­nasty painter. It is also men­tioned in Shiqu Baoji, the im­pe­rial cat­a­log that recorded the best of the Qing em­per­ors’ col­lec­tion of paint­ings and cal­li­graphic works.

Sep­a­rately, 10 of the art­works to be auc­tioned are men­tioned in The Cat­a­log of An­cient Chi­nese Paint­ings and Cal­lig­ra­phy. They in­clude a paint­ing and cal­lig­ra­phy al­bum of land­scape scenery by Ming Dy­nasty artist Dong Qichang.

The cat­a­log was com­piled in the 1980s based on the ap­praisal of a noted art com­mit­tee. Its seven mem­bers were ap­pointed by the Min­istry of Cul­ture and com­prised author­i­ties on clas­si­cal Chi­nese cul­ture such as Xie Zhiliu, Qi Gong and Xu Bangda.

Guo Tong, head of Guardian’s Chi­nese paint­ing and cal­lig­ra­phy depart­ment, says buy­ers these days rely a lot on these two cat­a­logs, es­pe­cially the lat­ter one.

“The Cat­a­log of An­cient Chi­nese Paint­ings and Cal­lig­ra­phy is seen as an im­por­tant ef­fort to pro­tect cul­tural lega­cies af­ter 1949. And it is un­likely that there will be a sec­ond one to ri­val the cat­a­log that com­prises the ob­jec­tive opin­ions of top ex­perts,” she says.

A report on the spring auc­tions re­leased in late Oc­to­ber by Bei­jing-based Art Mar­ket Mon­i­tor of Artron shows tra­di­tional Chi­nese paint­ings by mod­ern artists ac­counted for nearly 34 per­cent of the cat­e­gory’s to­tal turnover, mak­ing it the sea­son’s top per­former. Works by Fu Baoshi and Zhang Daqian con­trib­uted to the bulk of the sales.

Fu’s ink piece God of Cloud andGreat Lord ofFate sold for 230 mil­lion yuan at a Bei­jing sale in June.

In the up­com­ing sales, Guardian will put un­der the ham­mer Fu’s pop­u­lar court lady-themed paint­ing, Beau­ties, in which the mas­ter painter por­trays two grace­ful women in a schol­arly room with painted land­scapes.

Com­ment­ing on the work, Guo says that while most of Fu’s paint­ings typ­i­cally look gray and foggy, this paint­ing dis­tin­guishes it­self with a vivid palette “look­ing beau­ti­ful from ev­ery per­spec­tive”.

Fu pro­duced the paint­ing in Chongqing in 1945, when many artists like him who sur­vived the Ja­panese in­va­sion still wanted to paint de­spite a short­age of ma­te­rial. It is dur­ing the pe­riod that Fu por­trayed these “beau­ties” in his works.

His daugh­ter Fu Yiyao says the women in the paint­ing not only sym­bol­ized no­bil­ity and wis­dom, but also re­vealed that “the spring of hope” had not dried out in the painter’s heart.

An­other paint­ing set to go un­der the ham­mer is Zhang Daqian’s Land­scape af­ter Ju­ran that is dom­i­nated by green and blue. The work epit­o­mizes his mas­tery of the shan­shui genre, tech­ni­cally and ar­tis­ti­cally. Through this work, he pays tribute to pre­de­ces­sors such

It is un­likely that there will be a sec­ond one to ri­val the cat­a­log.” Guo Tong, head of Guardian’s Chi­nese paint­ing and cal­lig­ra­phy depart­ment

as Ju­ran, a monk painter from 10th-cen­tury China, while giv­ing a mod­ern twist to the work.

Pre­sale es­ti­mates for the land­scape range from 68 mil­lion to 88 mil­lion yuan.

Zhang’s color land­scape Peach Blos­som Spring grossed 227 mil­lion yuan, an auc­tion record for the artist, in Hong Kong in April.

A pre­view of Guardian’s fall sales will start on Tues­day and run through Fri­day at Bei­jing In­ter­na­tional-Ho­tel.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Clockwise from top: FlowerandBird by Zhu Da, Zhang Daqian’s Land­scapeafterJu­ran, Fu Baoshi’s Beau­ties and Flower by an anony­mous artist of the Song Dy­nasty are among the lots to be sold at the up­com­ing China Guardian Auc­tions’ ma­jor fall sales.

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