Christie’s to Showcase Chinese Artists
China may be exporting more artists than any country in the world these days, but according to Christie’s auction house, China still leads the world in the sheer number of its oil painters.
Christie’s will offer its first major auction of modern and contemporary Chinese art from the last 50 years in Hong Kong on Sept. 30, bringing together the work of artists now living in China as well as expatriates.
The selection of works to be put on the block was made with the help of Lawrence Woo, a Beijing-born art consultant now living in New York.
Woo says the works in the sale will range from “Old Masters,” the first generation in China to take up oil painting, to the work of artists influenced by realist and photo-realist styles, who began showing their work publicly after the Cultural Revolution. That generation was the first to travel to the West, and their hero among modern painters, Woo says, is none other than Andrew Wyeth: “If he gave a show in China, it would get a great response.”
The sale will also include nudes, controversial by prudish official standards, which were exhibited in Beijing in the late 1980s in an effort to win acceptance for the nude as a subject.
All the styles in the sale, Woo says, are academic styles taught in the still-conservative Chinese art schools. The avant-garde art now being done by expatriate Chinese in New York and other cities has few collectors, he says.
Only one painting in the show will represent the official Soviet-inspired socialist realist style that dominated China under Mao. “There’s no market for that work now,” Woo says.
Estimates for sale prices run from $5,000 for recent works to more than $60,000 for landscapes from the 1940s, minimal amounts even by the standards of today’s depressed art market.
China has yet to develop its own art market, Woo says, and buyers of Chinese art generally come from Taiwan, Western Europe and Hong Kong.
The largest market for contemporary Chinese art in the United States is Los Angeles, where a large portrait of the late industrialist Armand Hammer by painter Chen Yinfei (now working in New York) hangs prominently in Westwood’s Armand Hammer Museum.