Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sotheby's to Auction Private Collection of Reunification Art

Sotheby's to Auction Private Collection of Reunification Art


Li Xiaowei, B. 1959, Chinese Heart - a group of canto-pop and local stars (e.g Jackie Chan) celebrating the handover in front of Tian'anmen - they were all popular then...oil on canvas, framed, executed in 1997. Image © Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- On the eve of the 10th Anniversary of Hong Kong’s Reunification with China, Sotheby’s Hong Kong will offer for sale An Important Private Collection of Reunification Art on 29th June 2007 (Friday) at The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong. Comprising 30 pieces of rare and outstanding Chinese paintings and works of art, the collection was first exhibited in 1997 at the “China Grand Art Show – An Exhibition of Historical Paintings and Thematical Art Works” organized by the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China. The works cover a wide spectrum of artistic creation – from realism to contemporary – capturing the different moods of Hong Kong as well as that very important and historical moment in modern Chinese history. Estimated to bring approximately HK$20 million*, both Sotheby’s Hong Kong and the owner of the collection will donate part of the net auction proceeds to The Chinese Red Cross Foundation. The entire art collection will be exhibited from 27th to 29th June, 2007 at the Hong Kong Exhibition Centre (China Resources Building) in Wanchai.

Mr. Kevin Ching, Chief Executive Officer of Sotheby’s Asia, said, “Sotheby’s Hong Kong is very honoured to be entrusted by Beijing Blue Harbor Properties Co., Ltd to auction its highly important and seminal collection of reunification art on the 10th Anniversary of Hong Kong’s Reunification with China. Sotheby’s Hong Kong has supported numerous charity auctions in the past, but this occasion is particularly meaningful because both our consignor and ourselves shall be donating directly part of the proceeds generated from the auction to The Chinese Red Cross Foundation. Therefore not only that this auction has great historical significance, but it also gives us the opportunity to share what we have with the less fortunate. Moreover, the successful buyers at the auction in effect will also be donors to this very meaningful charity”

Mr. Tang Shengwen, the Standing Deputy Director of the Chinese Red Cross Foundation, said, “China is going through an enormous transformation which has brought diversification to different social classes, values and cultures. Charity serves as the lubricant which marries this diversity with much needed harmony. It brings hope to the hopeless, help to the helpless and love to those in need. We sincerely thank Sotheby’s Hong Kong and Beijing Blue Harbor Properties Co., Ltd for their generosity and commitment. I wish the auction every success.”

Reunification Art – The Story- In 1997, the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China organized an exhibition entitled “China Grand Art Show – An Exhibition of Historical Paintings and Thematic Art Works”. All the pieces on offer in this charity auction, with the exception of Celebration of the Century, formed part of that exhibition. During the 2 years of preparation, the Ministry of Culture and the Chinese Artists Association invited select local artists to produce a collection of striking works of art. Participating artists and experts included those from various art schools and the Chinese Artist Association. The exhibition was held on 30th June 1997 at the Chinese Revolution Museum and was attended by the Jiang Zemin, former President of the PRC. The event gained extensive media coverage including from such staples as the Xinhua News Agency, China Central TV, People’s Daily etc, detailing all aspects of the exhibition.

In 1998, a year after the reunification of Hong Kong and China, another exhibition called “Journey to Returnification Exhibition – An Exhibition of Historical Paintings and Thematical Art Works, Hong Kong” was held in the lower block of Hong Kong City Hall, featuring 33 pieces from the earlier Grand China Show, with the addition of a newly-commissioned work entitled Celebration of the Century. In September 2006, a total of 70 paintings and works of art were once again exhibited in Beijing at the National Museum in an exhibition called “Journey to Returnification Exhibition - An Exhibition of Historical Paintings and Thematic Art Works”. Most of the lots in the present auction were included in the above exhibitions.

On 1st July 1997 the handover ceremony officially marking the return of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China took place in Hong Kong. Four artists from Shandong, China, namely Lu Zhang, Chen Guoli, Zhang Zhiqiang and Lu Hao, captured the moment in their collaborative work, Celebration of the Century. The gigantic portrait vividly illustrates the representatives of both countries including, from the People’s Republic of China, Jiang Zemin (President of the PRC); Li Peng (Prime Minister of the PRC); Qian Qichen (Vice Premier of the PRC); Zhang Wannian (Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission and PLA Chief General); Tung Chee-hwa (the 1st Chief Executive of Hong Kong). Representatives from the United Kingdom include HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales; Tony Blair (Prime Minister of the UK); Robin Cook (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs); Charles Guthrie (Chief of the Defense Staff of the UK); Chris Patten (the last Governor of Hong Kong).

This exceptionally large-scale 3-by-7-metre painting was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture of the PRC in 1998. Together with other selected works first exhibited in the “China Grand Art Show”, it was displayed in the “Journey to Reunification Exhibition” held in Hong Kong City Hall. It comprises 3 panels and is a true rarity of its category. The friendly handshake of Jiang Zemin and Prince Charles is the focal point of the painting, signifying the smooth transition of the territory to Chinese sovereignty, and also denoting the harmonious relationship between the two countries. By applying red tone (a colour commonly associated with China) throughout the painting, a deeper impact is achieved.

In a meeting with British Prime Minister Mrs Margaret Thatcher in the Great Hall of the People at around 10am on 24th September 1982, Deng Xiaoping restated the Chinese claim on Hong Kong and indicated there would be no compromise on the fundamental issue of Chinese sovereignty.

Deng’s statement inspired Lin Yongkang from Fo Shan, Guangzhou, to paint a massive painting based on a photo taken of the meeting between the two premiers in 1982. The painting demonstrates a good use of contrast: the political figures are well lit, whilst the interpreters at the back are in the shadows. A generally dark red tone frames Deng and Thatcher, capturing the solemnity and political significance of the meeting. The artist also inserted the national flags of the two countries in the centre of the piece, emphasizing again the international importance of the meeting. This work received the Excellence Prize in the “China Grand Art Show” of 1997.

The Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed on 19th December, 1984 at 5:30pm at the West Hall of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, and was broadcasted via satellite all over the world. The declaration was the basic agreement by the United Kingdom to transfer its colony of Hong Kong to full Chinese sovereignty on 1st July 1997. The ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle was agreed, denoting that Hong Kong’s way of life would remain unchanged for a period of 50 years from the date of handover. Participating in the ceremony and signing were British Prime Minister Mrs. Margaret Thatcher (seated, signing the declaration), Deng Xiaoping (middle of the 1st row), Li Xiannian (President of the PRC, to the left of Deng) as well as Sir Geoffrey Howe (Foreign Secretary; to the right of Deng.)

The Ministry of Culture commissioned this work in 1997, and the artist, Ma Baozhong executed this masterpiece based on a photograph of the event taken in 1984. He has an accomplish


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