Just last week we were toasting the remarkable success of Zhang Daqian in becoming the highest value artist at auction in 2011 with total sales of $507m.
The contemporary artist pushed Qi Baishi into second place, and both were ahead of Picasso and Warhol, who had shared the top spot for the past 14 years (though with Picasso winning on 13 occasions).
None of Zhang Daqian's works came close to being the priciest art work of the year, (his most expensive work in 2011 was Lotus and Mandarin Ducks which made HK$191m (just under US$24.6m) but they consistently trounced their estimates with many works bringing substantial sums.
Even as we reported on the year's totals, we were wondering how one of the artist's works had done in one of the first art auctions of the year, and 888 Auctions has now reported its results.
888 Auctions concluded its first auction of the year on January 12th, featuring sales of fine Chinese Paintings & Asian Works of Art with a strong total of $717,180. The sale, comprising 598 lots, saw participation from around the world.
With 96% of the painting lots sold, collectors bid enthusiastically for works by Zhang Daqian and Li Kuchan in the Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy category. In the Classical Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy category, the 49 lots achieved $537,090 alone and well above the pre-sale high estimate of $259,200.
Estimated at $100,000-200,000, the featured lot of the sale was Zhang Daqian's Wuxia Mountain Clear Autumn 1936 with exceptional provenance. In a saleroom filled to capacity and eagerly awaiting the action to ensue, bidders in the room, on the telephone, and the internet competed fiercely for Zhang Daqian's watercolour painting.
Starting at $5,000, the bidding for lot 38 kicked off at a feverish pace. After a protracted battle between an international telephone bidder and a local floor bidder, the local floor bidder emerged victorious after 64 bids with a winning bid of $504,000, bringing thunderous applause from the crowd seated in the gallery.
Whilst this is unlikely to be one of the most expensive single lots of 2012, the familiar surpassing of expectations sets a marker that this is likely to be another strong year for Zhang Daqian.