The Hot Zone
China's newly announced air defense identification zone over the East China Sea aims to shore up national security
Current Issue
· Table of Contents
· Editor's Desk
· Previous Issues
· Subscribe to Mag
Subscribe Now >>
Expert's View
Market Watch
North American Report
Government Documents
Expat's Eye
Photo Gallery
Reader's Service
Learning with
'Beijing Review'
E-mail us
RSS Feeds
PDF Edition
Reader's Letters
Make Beijing Review your homepage
Hot Links

cheap eyeglasses
Market Avenue

Print Edition> Lifestyle
UPDATED: June 13, 2010 NO. 24 JUNE 17, 2010
Art Market Bounces Back
Record-shattering auction focuses the spotlight on modern Chinese artworks


SETTING A RECORD: Aachensee Lake, a landscape painting of late Chinese painter Zhang Daqian, fetches 100.8 million yuan ($14.8 million) at an auction in Beijing on May 17, 2010 (YANG KEJIA) 

A painting by Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), one of China's best-known 20th-century painters, was knocked down for a record 100.8 million yuan ($14.8 million), at a spring auction of China Guardian Auctions Co. Ltd. on May 17, 2010.

It was not only the highest auction price for a single work of Zhang, but also the first time a modern Chinese painting or calligraphic work has been sold for 100.8 million yuan ($14.8 million).

Named Aachensee Lake, the painting is a 1968 work of Zhang. Painted on silk in splash color style, a technique the painter developed in his later years, the 76.2-cm-wide, 264.2-cm-long work depicts the landscape of the Aachensee Lake in Switzerland. It is also considered the best and the largest of Zhang's Aachensee Lake series.

The painting is also seen as representative of Zhang's splash-color landscape work, which shows his exemplary achievements in combining Western abstract art and Chinese traditional literati painting. The painting was exhibited in many galleries in the United States, and was chosen for show in an exhibition of Chinese modern art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2003.

A famed artist of modern China, Zhang is a versatile master of painting, calligraphy, seal carving and poetry. Throughout his life, he had lived in many countries and created 40,000 paintings. Based on a solid mastery of classical Chinese painting, Zhang developed splash color and splash ink techniques, starting a new style in Chinese painting and bringing about a significant renovation in the evolution of traditional Chinese landscape painting.

His other important works include Ten Thousand Miles of the Yangtze River and Snowy Mountains in Switzerland. The latter fetched 52.6 million yuan ($7.7 million) at the autumn auction of the Beijing Council International Auction Co. Ltd. in 2009.

The painting Aachensee Lake was on the market for the first time, arousing a huge interest among buyers in modern Chinese ink and wash paintings, said Guo Tong, General Manager of the Department of Modern and Contemporary Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy of China Guardian, one of China's earliest auction houses specializing in sales of Chinese artworks.

The bidding for the painting soared from an initial 9 million yuan ($1.3 million) to the closing 100.8 million yuan ($14.8 million) in less than half an hour's intense auction.

For many people in art circles, the Aachensee Lake's high price was a landmark in auctions of modern Chinese paintings and calligraphic works.

Kou Qin, Vice President of China Guardian, said the unprecedented price for Zhang's work did not surprise him. "Before this, prices for important works of many famous artists of modern China, such as Qi Baishi (1864-1957) and Xu Beihong (1895-1953), reached nearly 100 million yuan ($14.7 million)," he wrote in an article of Ce.cn, one of China's leading websites on the economy.

Before the sale of Zhang's Aachensee Lake, four ancient Chinese paintings were sold for more than 100 million yuan ($14.7 million) apiece at other autumn auctions in 2009, and the highest auction price for a modern Chinese artwork was 95.2 million yuan ($13.9 million) for Flowers and Insects Album Leaf by Qi.

Ancient Chinese paintings and calligraphic works took center stage of last year's autumn auctions, said Guo, and the breakthrough achieved by Aachensee Lake would certainly bring the modern Chinese art market up to a new level this year.

The total turnover of China Guardian's 2010 spring auction amounted to more than 2.1 billion yuan ($307.5 million), a record figure for a single season's transactions in China.

"Through the spring auctions of 2009 and 2010, we noticed that greater numbers of people were entering the market," said Kou. In the 2009 spring auction, 1,978 people registered to bid at auction, while for the autumn auction of 2009, the number of bidders rose to 2,129. And for the 2010 spring auction, the number of the registered bidders was 2,377.

After heating up in 2005, the art market in China fell in 2007 and 2008, but has been recovering since last autumn. "In two years, the market for ancient and modern Chinese paintings has gone from a sluggish state to recovery and then to soaring growth," Kou said.

Some people believe the boom is the normal return of value of ancient and modern Chinese paintings and calligraphic works, while some are concerned bubbles are brewing behind it.

Whether it is a return of value or investor speculation, the 2010 China Guardian spring auction sent a strong signal to art markets in China, said Shi Guanyu, an analyst with the Art Market Monitoring Center of Artron.net, a well-known website that focuses on Chinese art.

"A price surpassing 100 million yuan for an ancient or modern painting or calligraphic work has opened a new era, and once it has been opened, there are new expectations. Prices for Chinese works—ancient or modern paintings or calligraphic works—still have some room to grow," Shi said.

His prediction was soon proved true. A calligraphy scroll by Huang Tingjian (1045-1105), a well-known calligraphist and poet in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), fetched 436.8 million yuan ($64 million) at the spring auction of the Poly International Auction Co. Ltd. on June 3, 2010, a world record price for a single piece of Chinese artwork.

Top Story
-Protecting Ocean Rights
-Partners in Defense
-Fighting HIV+'s Stigma
-HIV: Privacy VS. Protection
-Setting the Tone
Most Popular
About BEIJINGREVIEW | About beijingreview.com | Rss Feeds | Contact us | Advertising | Subscribe & Service | Make Beijing Review your homepage
Copyright Beijing Review All right reserved