Monday, March 10, 2008

Sotheby's To Offer The Estella Collection of Chinese Contemporary Art

Sotheby's To Offer The Estella Collection of Chinese Contemporary Art


Zhang Xiaogang, Bloodline: The Big Family No. 3 (1995). Est. $2.5/2.5 million (HK$ 19.5/27 million). © Sotheby's Images.

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s is proud to present the Estella Collection, the largest and most important collection of Chinese Contemporary Art ever to appear at auction. This remarkable group of Chinese Contemporary Art documents social trends that arose out of the recent pivotal moments in Chinese history through the eyes of some of the most instantly recognizable names in a field which has attracted worldwide interest. The Collection, comprising over 200 works, includes seminal pieces by prominent artists such as Ai Weiwei, Zhang Xiaogang, Cai Guo-Qiang and Xu Bing, alongside those by emerging artists. The Estella Collection is significant for its unique embrace of the artistic medium ranging from the more traditional works on paper and paintings, to video installation, sculpture and photography. It has featured prominently in two acclaimed exhibitions at leading international museums and was published in the catalogue, China Onward: The Estella Collection – Chinese Contemporary Art, 1966-2006.

The sale of the Estella Collection will be held in two parts: approximately 110 works will be offered this April in Hong Kong during Sotheby’s spring sales; there will be a further offering at Sotheby’s in New York this autumn. The sale in Hong Kong is expected to achieve HK$65 -95 million (US$8-12 million).

Evelyn Lin, Head of the Contemporary Chinese Art Department, Sotheby’s China and Southeast Asia, said, “The Estella Collection’s content, size and value establish it as amongst the best collections of Chinese contemporary Art. This is an unparalleled opportunity for collectors, both new and established, to acquire works from a collection whose encyclopaedic presentation of artists has helped to reinterpret the history of Chinese contemporary art.”

The highlight of the Estella Collection is Zhang Xiaogang’s (b. 1958) Bloodline: The Big Family No.3. Considered the most significant example of the iconic Bloodline: The Big Family series, this oil on canvas was executed early on in Zhang’s career in 1995, one of a group of four paintings submitted for the centenary 46th Venice Biennale in 1995. Not only does the present work stand out as his first direct and profound response to the political and social tensions that lie at the very heart of the series – the central figure is depicted wearing a Mao badge – but the scale of this canvas, at 179 by 229 centimetres, marked Zhang’s first bold articulation of the Bloodline aesthetic. Belonging to the enigmatic Bloodline series, this work is recognized to be among the rarest and is estimated at HK$19.5-27 million.

Also on offer is a beautiful example of top Chinese avant-garde artist, Zeng Fanzhi’s (b. 1964) more recent artistic renditions. Chairman Mao with Us, executed in 2005, marks a pivotal moment of development in Zeng’s career in which he consciously moved away from the heavily expressionist style of his famous “Mask” series of the 1990s towards a greater innovative technique of assertive and chaotic array of linear lines, concentrating on landscape and figural compositions within. This large oil on canvas bears the vivid hallmarks of Zeng’s unique and very physical relationship with the medium: the tall wild grasses in the foreground, red and black, are energetic and rapid, and all but cover the faces of the figures. In addition, Chairman Mao with Us which is estimated at HK$2.7-4.3 million, represents just one of the many stylistic turns and phases of this gifted and talented artist and Sotheby’s is proud to offer a work of unique historical and artistic value.

The Estella Collection also includes installation art, Bat Project I, II, III: Memorandum realized by Huang Yong Ping (b. 1954), among China’s most influential avant-garde artists and one of the founders of the Xiamen Dada movement. Bat Project I, II, III: Memorandum highlights themes of surveillance, espionage and documentation through the visual device of an exposed roll of film upon which images and documents, drawn from the historic Bat Project, are shown. Named after the U.S. Navy’s spy-plane, “the bat”, shot down over the South China Sea in April 2001, the Bat Project initially began as a massive 1:1 re-creation of the fuselage and tail of the downed airplane. Bat Project II – featuring the plane’ cockpit and right wing - and Bat Project III – the left wing – along with the original Bat Project were excluded from exhibitions due to the sensitive nature of the subject and it was not until Bat Project IV in 2005 that the installation in its entirety could be presented. This latter project featured a skeletal cockpit filled with hundreds of taxidermic bats – symbols of fortune in Chinese tradition – and a documentary display charting the project’s course.

Huang Yong Ping’s present installation, a reminder of the enigmatic mechanics of political power is estimated at HK$1.2-2 million. The cover lot of this sale is Lin Tianmao’s (b. 1961) beautiful, almost ethereal sculpture, Initiator (est. HK$550,000-700,000). Executed in 2007, the Initiator bears witness to the artist’s central interest in the use of thread as well as her more recent practice of incorporating the female figure into scenes of a mythical nature. The sculpture depicts a nude woman standing before a large, somewhat unsightly and oversized frog; the frog holds a long expanse of hair that falls from the woman’s head and body as though it were a veil. In spite of the beauty of the woman juxtaposed against the ugliness of the frog, the two are unified by a delicate white, silk floral pattern which covers the skin of both, as well as the strange strands of ‘hair’ that join them. The fairy-tale imagery clearly associated with Lin’s work calls upon the viewer to define for himself the moral significance that is invested in the piece.

The Collection also features a number of innovative video installations. These include Wang Jianwei’s (b. 1958) video Spider (2004), estimated at HK$50,000- 120,000. It decries the corporate culture that informs modern society. Individuality and The Self are reduced to the anonymous, undifferentiated tool of corporate structures; in the video, actors dressed in identical masks and bodysuits are choreographed around an uninspiring modern office space, menacing in both their lack of emotion and of will.


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