HONG KONG ART AUCTION
The Spring 2009 sale of contemporary Asian art saw Sotheby’s present a collection of 8 Hong Kong artists. This is the first time that any auction house has offered a series dedicated to Hong Kong art in a contemporary art sale. The artworks are concerned with significant historical Hong Kong events including the 1997 Handover of the British colony to China, the 2003 SARS epidemic and the annual July 1st protests as well as the experience of living in Hong Kong’s cramped urban cityscape.
All of the lots were sold at estimate or more. Kum Chi Keung, Kevin Fung and the Kowloon Emperor achieved sale prices which were double or several multiples of the estimate.
Kum Chi Keung (b 1965) was initially a practitioner of Chinese traditional ink painting but then extended his practice to installation art which featured his favoured motifs of a birdcage and flight. He uses these ideas as a metaphor for not only the scarcity of space in Hong Kong but also for the idea of the 1997 Handover of Hong Kong from British colonial rule back to China when many locals emigrated or obtained foreign passports. Estimate HK$55-65000 excl premium and HK$127, 500 incl premium.
Freeman Lau (b1958) is a renowned designer as well as artist and uses the chair as a symbol in his practice to represent ‘place’ and ‘power’. In 1998 after the Handover Freeman Lau took a heap of standard chairs used by the colonial government and at the Fringe Club’s Out of Chaos, the Search for Position 11 arranged them in a haphazard wall. This represented not only the power of the colonial government but the disorder and confusion of Hong Kong’s inhabitants.
Tsang, Tsou Chin aka The Kowloon Emperor is a Hong Kong legend, famous for his calligraphy graffiti which he painted on public furniture. Undeterred by numerous warnings he roamed the streets for 50 years laying down his family genealogy and his personal history as an emperor in exile in blatant defiance of the Queen and English colonial rule. Deemed a lunatic by some, he was nevertheless recognised when in 2003 he became the very first Hong Kong artist to exhibit at the Venice Biennale. With a pre-premium estimate of HK$20,000 to HK$30,000 the lot attracted a number of bidders and was eventually sold for HK$212,500 including premium. (HK$7,7=US$1)
The SARS epidemic of 2003 was a monumental influence on Man Fung Yi‘s practice. That year her younger sister’s life hung by a thread after contracting SARS and being forced to abort her 27 week old fetus. Earlier in 2001 when she herself was pregnant using lit joss sticks she singed holdes into silk cloths and created patterns as a form of prayer. She re-enacted the ritual as an expression of gratitude when her sister regained her health. The arrangement of embroidery-like holes has become an abiding motif in her work.
Kevin Fung, Lik Yan (b 1964) has been an apprentice of Hong Kong artist woodcarver Tong King Sum since 1993 and his work expresses the stress and suffering of living in Hong Kong’s cramped urban spaces. His Baggage Series was selected for the 15th Hong Kong Art Biennial and is in the permanent collection of Hong Kong art museum. Estimate HK$80-100,000 excl premium, sale HK$212,500 incl premium.
Chow Chun Fai (b 1980) excels at capturing unnoticed details of Hong Kong daily life in his work. In his Painting on Movie series he appropriates images from Hong Kong movies.
Anothermountainman Stanley Wong, Ping Pui was selected as one of the representatives of Hong Kong art at the 51st Venice Biennale of 2005. He is an accomplished creative director of advertisements as well as films. In 2000 he began incorporating red, white and blue nylon fabric in his works, a material which is ubiquitous in Hong Kong and used in a variety of ways from covering buildings under construction to creating bags. This durable fabric represents the spirit of the Hong Kong people: versatile and resilient.
John Fung, Kin-Chung is a photographer who produces photographs of iconic urban vistas which include Hong Kong’s skyscrapers and the Mid-levels escalator which is the longest outdoor escalator in the world. He manipulates the images to create disjointed kaleidocopic patterns representing the discomfort and sensory overload of living in Hong Kong.
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