Artist Zhang Daqian's 'iconic gems' go under the hammer at Sotheby's


Following the success of the Spring 2011 Sale Series in April, Sotheby's Hong Kong has announced yet another important sale, The Mei Yun Tang Collection of Paintings by Chang Dai-chien, on May 31 2011.

The sale features 25 prominent paintings from this monumental Collection, and is expected to fetch in excess of HK$130m/US$16.7m.

This Collection is internationally recognised as the most preeminent and comprehensive private collection of Zhang Daqian's paintings, assembled by the late Mr. Kao Ling-mei and his wife Jan Yun-bor since 1940s.

Not only does it comprise works of superb artistic value, the Mei Yun Tang Collection also chronicles the stylistic evolution of Zhang Daqian and stands as testament to the unwavering four-decade friendship between Zhang and the Kao's.

All the works in this sale are offered on the market for the very first time. They are masterpieces from the 1940s to the 1960s comprising different subject matters and styles, ranging from the traditional styles of fine brush paintings in Zhang's early years to the bold splashed ink and colour in his later oeuvre.

These paintings encapsulate Zhang's unparalleled artistic diversity, and this sale will represent a landmark in the auction history of modern Chinese painting.

Mr. and Mrs. Kao Ling-mei befriended Zhang Daqian in the mid 1930s. One of the few professional photographers in China in the 1930s, Kao found a kindred spirit in Zhang, and the two harboured a genuine admiration for each other's artistic mastery.

Children playing under a pomegranate tree Zhang Daqian
Children playing under a pomegranate tree - Zhang Daqian (HK15m-20m)

While the Kao's were ardent supporters of Zhang, the Mei Yun Tang Collection includes many works acquired at enormous prices from the artist's solo exhibitions. As dear friends to the artist for over forty years, the Kao's couple also received many of Zhang's prized works as presents, such as gifts for Chinese New Year and birthdays, as tokens of friendship and gratitude.

The Mei Yun Tang Collection also comprises a number of Zhang's landscapes and artistic renderings of his extensive excursions with friends, as well as didactic works and painting manuals for Kao's children. This extraordinary body of works reveals the close friendship and camaraderie between the celebrated artist and his dear friends for over forty years.

Works from the Mei Yun Tang Collection have been exhibited worldwide in the past decades, among them the inauguration of the Art Gallery of the Hong Kong City Hall in 1962; the Mei Yun Tang Collection of Chang Dai-chien Paintings Exhibition jointly organised by Mei Yun Tang and the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1993 and in Tokyo's Shoto Museum of Art in 1995.

Sotheby's is privileged to offer this Collection - first appearance on the auction market - since its last public exhibition in Singapore in 1997, providing a once-in-a-lifetime buying opportunity for discerning collectors of Zhang Daqian's masterpieces.

Said Sotheby's Head of Fine Chinese Paintings, Mr. C. K. Cheung: "The world has long celebrated Zhang Daqian's superb artistry; many of his works are already in the hands of major museums and private collectors around the world.

"Yet a number of iconic gems from Zhang's oeuvre still remain with his family and close friends, among them the Mei Yun Tang Collection is certainly the most comprehensive and distinguished assemblage.

"Sotheby's Hong Kong is extremely honoured to be entrusted by Mei Yun Tang with this series of Zhang Daqian masterpieces of exceptional quality and rarity, offering an opportunity for connoisseurs and collectors to appreciate the breadth and depth of Zhang's artistic vision.

"Each of the works on sale is a masterpiece in its own right; but what distinguishes the Mei Yun Tang Collection is the four decades of ardent friendship connecting the artist and the Kao family. The devotion of Zhang Daqian exudes from the brushstrokes, imbuing an even more profound significance to the works themselves, making them all the more valuable for connoisseurs."

Contemporary Chinese art can offer excellent alternative investments, with Qi Baishi leading the way.


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