Masterpieces by Chu Teh-Chun, Sanyu and Zao Wou-Ki to lead Sotheby's Hong Kong Modern Art auctions
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Masterpieces by Chu Teh-Chun, Sanyu and Zao Wou-Ki to lead Sotheby's Hong Kong Modern Art auctions
Chu Teh-Chun, Les éléments confédérés 1983-1984, oil on canvas (pentaptych), 162 x 650 cm Estimate upon request. Courtesy Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong Modern Art Evening Sale, scheduled on 8 July, will be led by two extremely rare and magnificent works: Sanyu’s Quatre nus, the only masterwork that was part of a set of three completed oil paintings of similar composition, and the largest of the three; and Chu Teh-Chun’s Les éléments confédérés, the artist’s only pentaptych in his lifetime and his largest oil painting still in private hands. Hailing from Zao Wou-Ki’s Hurricane Period, 20.03.60 and 19.11.59 will be offered as a group of seven oil paintings by Zao.

Following the success of the curated sale last year, this season’s Modern Art Evening Sale brings together a remarkable group of works by legendary artists in the history of modern art from across Asia and Europe, including Georges Mathieu’s La liberation d’Orléans par Jeanne d’Arc, Bernard Buffet’s Le cri and a themed section of works by the renowned Chinese female painter Guan Zilan.

Vinci Chang, Sotheby’s Head of Modern Asian Art, commented: “The theme this season, ‘Modern Icons’, is the grand finale of our trilogy honouring the legendary icons and classic styles from the history of modern art, building on last year’s ‘Modern Rangers’ and ‘Modern Vision’. In the centenary year of Chu Teh-Chun’s birth, we feel privileged to offer the only five-panel masterwork he created in his lifetime and pay our respects to this epoch-defining, world-class Chinese painter. Sanyu is another highlight of the season. Following the record-breaking sale of Nu at HK$198 million last autumn, the offering of his extremely rare female nude group painting, Quatre nus, is set to draw strong interest from collectors worldwide.”

Les éléments confédérés is the largest Chu Teh-Chun oil painting in private hands and the only pentaptych by the artist. Executed between 1983 and 1984, the work was painted upon Chu’s return to Asia and marked the beginning of a new chapter in his career: in 1987, the National Museum of History in Taipei held a large retrospective exhibition for Chu, marking his formal return to Chinese society after residing in France for 32 years. Les éléments confédérés graced the cover of the exhibition catalogue, a mark of its extraordinary importance. In 1990 and 1991, this work was the focal point of Chu’s “Grand Formats” exhibitions at the Pyramid Pernod in Créteil, and Musée d’Art Contemporain in Dunkerque, France. Chosen as the catalogue cover for Chu’s retrospective exhibition at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing in 2010, Les éléments confédérés was the most important work to feature in the show, a testament to the painting’s significance in the eyes of the artist. According to Madame Chu Ching-Chao, the wife of Chu, the choice of a pentaptych echoes the Chinese philosophy of the Five Elements; and the rich layers of green pay tribute to nature and Beethoven’s symphony N°9, an expression of the artist’s passion for his motherland.


Sanyu, Quatre nus, 1950s, oil on masonite, 100 x 122 cm. Estimate upon request

Life and art for Sanyu were reaching new expressive peaks in the post-war 1950s, and his creations depicting a group of nudes marked a breakthrough. This is the only masterwork that was part of a set of three completed oil paintings of similar composition in Sanyu’s lifetime, and the largest of the three. Featuring four nude women in repose against a green background, this composition signifies the post-war revival and society’s new-found freedom.

Sanyu painted on mirrors, drawing inspiration from Dream of the Red Chamber, one of the four great classic novels of Chinese literature. He created only 14 works of oil painting on mirror, of which four were lost; only three have ever appeared at auction. Femme nue etendue is a painting on mirror featuring a rare nude in this medium, while Panier de poires is one of the artist’s most richly symbolic still-lifes, depicting objects that carry auspicious meanings in the Chinese tradition. Both works have impeccable provenance, having been formerly owned by Sanyu’s dealer Henri-Pierre Roché in the 1930s, and now they are making their first appearance at auction in almost 90 years.

• Sanyu, Femme nue etendue, 1929, oil on mirror, 33 x 42 cm. Est. HK$6,000,000 – 10,000,000 / US$775,000 – 1,290,000

• Sanyu, Panier de poires, 1930s, oil on mirror, 34 x 43 cm. Est. HK$5,000,000 – 8,000,000 / US$645,000 – 1,030,000


Zao Wou-Ki, 20.03.60, 1960, oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm. Est. HK$65,000,000 – 85,000,000 / US$8,300,000 – 11,000,000

Created at the peak of Zao Wou-Ki’s Hurricane Period, this rare masterpiece reinterprets Chinese traditional landscape through expressionist techniques and is appearing at auction for the first time in 60 years. The work has been exhibited extensively, at Galerie de France in Paris, Galleria Vicica d’Arte Moderna in Turin, and at Zao’s first museum retrospective exhibition in Germany, a show that established his status as a pioneer in international post-war abstract art.

Zao Wou-Ki, 19.11.59, 1959, oil on canvas, 114 x 146 cm. Est. HK$60,000,000 – 80,000,000 / US$7,730,000 – 10,300,000
This work marked the beginning of Zao’s Hurricane Period, featuring bright blues and a white halo at the energy centre, reminiscent of blue and white porcelain as well as one of the best-known oil paintings by J.M.W. Turner. The work began its collecting journey with Kootz Gallery before entering the collection of Upjohn Company where it remained for the next 40 years, during when it was part of a long-standing display at the company’s U.S. headquarters, a reflection of the artist’s prominence in the American art scene.

Zao Wou-Ki, 29.02.88, 1988, oil on canvas, 162 x 130 cm Est. HK$30,000,000 – 50,000,000 / US$3,870,000 – 6,440,000
Bright and luminous, this magnificent painting marked a milestone in Zao Wou-Ki’s creative journey during the 1980s. Drawing inspiration from both Eastern and Western cultures, 29.02.88 pays tribute to Claude Monet and Henri Matisse, while echoing the artistic effects of Chinese splashed ink. This work will make its debut at auction, further to being featured in two monographs on Zao in the 1990s.


• Guan Zilan, Portrait of a Young Girl, 1930s, oil on canvas, 76.5 x 63 cm. Estimate: HK$ 3,000,000 – 5,000,000 / US$ 387,000 – 645,000

• Wu Guanzhong, Hometown of Lu Xun, 1985, oil on canvas, 46 x 53 cm. Est. HK$7,000,000 – 12,000,000 / US$905,000 – 1,550,000

• Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, La Petite Cuisinière 1957, oil on canvas, 35.2 x 24 cm Est. HK$3,000,000 – 5,000,000 / US$387,000 – 645,000

• Bernard Buffet, Le cri 1970, oil on canvas, 130 x 89 cm. Est. HK$3,000,000 – 6,000,000 / US$387,000 – 775,000


• Georges Mathieu, La liberation d’Orléans par Jeanne d’Arc 1982, oil on canvas, 50 x 129.5 cm. Est. HK$600,000 – 1,200,000 / US$77,000 – 154,000

• Hsiao Chin, Senza titolo 1962, acrylic on canvas, 114.5 x 146.5 cm. Est. HK$800,000 – 1,500,000 / US$103,500 – 194,000

• Richard Lin, Yellow, White and Grey 1968-1969, oil on canvas, 96.5 x 101.6 cm. Est. HK$2,600,000 – 4,500,000 / US$335,000 – 580,000

• Lalan, Sans titre 1987-1989, mixed media on paper, 280 x 148 cm. Est. HK$1,800,000 – 3,500,000 / US$232,000 – 451,000


• Chu Teh-Chun, La Lune 1998, ink on paper, 40 x 120 cm Est. HK$300,000 – 600,000 / US$38,700 – 77,500 (Without reserve)

• Pang Jiun, Monet’s Garden 2009, oil on canvas (diptych), 180 x 452 cm Est. HK$2,000,000 – 4,000,000 / US$258,000 – 515,000

• Sophie Chang, Source of Hope, 2019, oil on canvas, 116.5 x 91 cm. Est. HK$400,000 – 800,000 / US$51,500 – 103,000 (Without reserve)

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