China’s Modern artists

[25 Nov 2011]


Every other Friday Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. This week we present the 10 best auction results for Chinese Modern artists over the first six months of 2011.

In the provisional ranking of the global top 100 artists by auction revenue in the first semester of 2011, two Chinese artists hold the top two positions: Zhang Daqian and Qi Baishi are respectively first and second with $361m and $278m, ahead of the historic leader of the $259m generated by Pablo PICASSO, the global art market leader in 9 of the last 10 years.

Top 10 : best auction results for Chinese Modern artists over the first six months of 2011

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 QI Baishi $57202000 Eagle Standing on Pine Tree… 05/22/2011 (China Guardian Auctions Co., Ltd.)
2 ZHANG Daqian $21845000 Lotus and Mandarin Ducks 05/31/2011 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)
3 XU Beihong $20596270 Figure 06/10/2011 (Beijing Jiuge International Auctions Co., Ltd)
4 WU Guanzhong $15440000 Lion Woods (1988) 06/03/2011 (Poly International Auction Co.,Ltd)
5 SAN Yu $14726560 Five Nudes (1950′) 05/30/2011 (Ravenel Art Group HONG KONG)
6 HONG Yi $13115500 Figure (1939) 06/09/2011 (Beijing Jiuge International Auctions Co., Ltd)
7 QI Baishi $12368000 Flowers and birds 05/22/2011 (China Guardian Auctions Co., Ltd.)
8 ZHANG Daqian $9412300 Flowers (1944) 06/09/2011 (Beijing Jiuge International Auctions Co., Ltd)
9 WU Guanzhong $8492000 Shrubalthea (1975) 06/03/2011 (Poly International Auction Co.,Ltd)
10 ZHANG Daqian $8481000 Children Playing under a Pomegranate Tree 05/31/2011 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)

Lots of records in the first half of 2011

With a result at $57.2m, QI Baishi signed the best result of the first half of 2011 with Eagle Standing on Pine Tree ; Four-Character Couplet in Seal on 22 May 2011 at China Guardian in Beijing. That figure represents the artist’s best-ever auction result beating his previous record for flowers and insects (Poly International Auction Co. Ltd in Beijing on 22 November 2009) by no less than $44.7m. Riding a major wave of success, another work by Qi Baishi entitled Flowers and Birds fetched $12.3m giving the artist 7th place in this Top 10 Modern Chinese artists (also at China Guardian on 22 May 2011). Qi Baishi already has 44 million plus results in the first half of 2011 ! (74 in 2010).

ZHANG Daqian is second in this ranking after his Lotus and Mandarin Ducks was acquired for $21.8m signing a new record for the artist at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on 31 May 2011. At the same sale, another Daqian ink work entitled Children Playing under a Pomegranate Tree fetched three times its high estimate for the equivalent of $8.4m. Nine days later, an ink work by the artist entitled Flowers fetched $9.4m, ten times its high estimate, at Poly International Auction, Beijing on 9 June 2011.
This Chinese master is this year the world’s most expensive artist, knocking Pablo Picasso out of the top position for the first time ever.

Like Qi Baishi and Zhang Daqian, WU Guanzhong has also seen his price index rocket since 2010 driven by a volume domination of China’s auction sales on the one hand and by the impact on his prices of his death on 25 June 2010 on the other.
On 3 June 2011, at Poly International Auction in Bejing, Wu Guanzhong scored his two best-ever results with Lion Woods that fetched $15.4m and an oil painting entitled Shrubalthea that was acquired for $8.4m.
During the first half of 2011, Wu Guanzhong’s works generated 29 million-plus (in USD) results, i.e. twice the number generated in the whole of 2010. This gives him 5th position (behind Picasso and Andy WARHOL) in the global ranking for H1 2011 with an auction revenue total of $120m.

XU Beihong is in third place in this week’s Chinese Top-10 with an excellent result on 10 June 2011 (Figure, $20.5m at Beijing Jiuge International Auctions Co), but this was still below the $23m that his Landscape and figure generated on 10 December 2010 at Beijing Hanhai Art Auction. On the back of this success and of the 22 million-plus results during the first semester of 2011, Xu Beihong holds 6th place in the global Top 10 for H1 2011, on the heels of his compatriot Wu Guanzhong.

Over the last ten years, SAN Yu’s auction price index has risen by 427%. In 2010 his price index rose rapidly thanks to eight million-plus results including a new record at 6.05m for the still life Potted chrysanthemum in a blue and white jardinière on 27 November 2010! In 2011, the trend continued when he doubled his previous record with a result of $14.7m for an oil on masonite, Five Nudes (Ravenel Art Group, Hong Kong, on 30 May 2011).

Less exposed to the secondary market than his contemporaries, HONG Yi has made an explosive entrance this year into the Chinese Top 10 with a superb result of $13.1m for Figure, an album of ten small drawings (35 x 22 cm each) on 9 June 2011 at Beijing Jiuge International Auctions Co. Ltd. This new record beats his previous record of $11.8m (for Seated buddha, China Guardian Auctions Co. Ltd. in Beijing on 20 November 2010).

With a total Fine Art auction revenue of close to 6.3 billion US dollars, the global art market has posted a higher level of activity than that posted in 2007/2008, notably due to the incredible ascension of Modern Chinese artists on the secondary market. More recently, FU Baoshi beat his own record of this year with Landscapes fetching the equivalent of $31.5m at Beijing Hanhai Art Auction Co. Ltd (17 November 2011). The eyes of the art market are today clearly turning towards the East.