$10 million triptych sets Chinese art record

Monday 04 April 2011 00:00 BST

A new auction record for contemporary Chinese art was set in Hong Kong Sunday, when a triptych by Zhang Xiaogang sold for HK$79 million (more than $10 million) at a Sotheby's auction.

Forever Lasting Love, painted for an exhibition in 1988, was described in the catalogue as "the first creative pinnacle of Zhang Xiaogang's illustrious career".

Evelyn Lin, Sotheby's head of Contemporary Asian Art, said the triple painting was "a monumental museum-quality work from a defining period of the Chinese avant-garde".

It was the highlight of a sale of 105 works from the collection of Baron Guy Ullens, a Belgian foodstuffs magnate and longstanding Chinese art collector whose father and uncle were both diplomats at Belgium's embassy in the country.

In recent years he has been selling works from his private collection to fund his eponymous art museum in Beijing.

The Zhang price, which includes the buyer's premium, was a record for any piece of contemporary Chinese art as well as for the artist, and was more than double the top estimate of HK$30 million. It went to an anonymous buyer.

Works by several other artists also set records, with Zhang Peili's "Series 'X?' No.3" going for HK$23 million, more than nine times its top estimate, also to an anonymous buyer.

A private American collector paid just over HK$19 million for Wang Guangyi's "Mao Zedong: P2", more than nine times its top estimate.

Geng Jianyi's "Two People Under A Light" was knocked down to an Asian collector for more than HK$18 million, more than 12 times the top estimate.

In total, the sale fetched HK$427 million, against a pre-sale top estimate of HK$130 million.

"From the very beginning of the auction extended bidding battles broke out among buyers bidding in the room and over the phones from around the world," said Lin.

Chinese art prices have rocketed in recent years, fuelled by the country's economic boom and its growing numbers of super-rich.

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