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The most influential Chinese art in 2018

The best selling artworks

In the Top 100 Chinese fine art auction sales, there are 62 works of Chinese calligraphy and painting, and 38 works of oil painting, modern and contemporary art. Some of the works are of great significance in terms of art historical and artistic value. Also, the selected oil paintings, modern and contemporary works listed below reflect the typical style of the artist’s creation, and were the turning points in their artistic career.

  1. Su Shi, Wood and Rock
    This masterpiece was painted by renowned Song Dynasty writer and poet Su Shi. Competition for this lot was fierce, and the hammer eventually fell at $62,430,000, making it Christie’s highest-ever selling lot in Asia. It also means that, after almost a century of being lost to Japan, Wood and Rock is now back in the hands of a Chinese owner.
  2. Wu Guanzhong, Twin Swallows
    Wu Guanzhong’s works depicting China’s Jiangnan region are a favourite with collectors, and this oil painting from 1994, which the artist himself dubbed his « most outstanding and most representative » work on the subject, sold for $17,110,000 at Beijing Poly International, making it the only oil painting lot to surpass $10 million in mainland China in 2018.
  3. Pan Tianshou, View from the Peak
    Pan Tianshou pioneered the use of the ink finger-painting technique, with which he created many of his oversized masterpieces. One such example from 1963, View from the Peak, set a new auction record for the artist by selling for $43,650,000 at China Guardian, thereby raising the bar for future auctions of modern Chinese calligraphy and painting lots.
  4. Zao Wou-Ki, Juin-Octobre 1985
    This work, Zao Wou-Ki’s largest oil painting, was sold by Sotheby’s Hong Kong for $67,566,100. The success of this enormous triptych, originally commissioned by architect I. M. Pei for the Raffles City Shopping Centre in Singapore, shows that Zao Wou-Ki is still a sure-fire bet on the art auction market.
  5. Zhou Chunya, China Scenery
    In the early 1980s Zhou Chunya left China to study abroad in Germany, where he was deeply influenced by expressionism and neo-expressionism. This work, created in the early 1990s, is a key piece in the artist’s Mountain Rock series and played an important role in how he later went on to develop this theme. China Scenery sold for $6.46 million at China Guardian.
  6. Ai Xuan, Aspirant
    This 1980 work is representative of the artist’s « scar art » period, and depicts the youth and dreams of a new generation of intellectuals. With bidding starting at $1,032,300 and ending at $3,218,600, giving a final selling price of $3,701,300 with commission, this artwork is currently Ai Xuan’s most valuable piece.
  7. Chen Yifei, Beauties on Promenade
    Chen Yifei was the first Chinese artist to become famous in the American and British art scenes after China’s economic reforms in the 1980s. This piece from 1997 perfectly encapsulates his artistic career, and was an era-defining breakthrough in realistic Chinese oil paintings. It was sold by Christie’s Hong Kong for $10,271,000.

The best performing artists

In the Chinese fine art auction, a total of 7 artists have excellent performance in number of lots auctioned, sold rate, and quality of works released. In the Chines painting and calligraphy section, under a nearly saturated market for superstar artist like Qi Baishi and Zhang Daqian, auction houses and collectors have further explored other masters in the same time period, and paid more attention to the academic value.

  1. Pan Tianshou
    Pan Tianshou achieved a turnover of over $77.4 million in 2018 – a breathtaking increase of 49.35% compared to 2017. Out of 408 auctioned lots, 145 were sold, giving a sold rate of 35.54%. His View from the Peak ink finger-painting ranked third in 2018’s top 100 Chinese fine art auction sales.
  2. Lu Yanshao
    A total of 1,043 Lu Yanshao lots came to auction in 2018. After eight consecutive years of decline, market supply is starting to tighten with no sign of enthusiasm abating; his yearly turnover is continuing to grow, capping off 2018 with a sales total of $68,320,000. One notable success was Lu’s 1977 Luofuxinyan (罗浮新颜, New Looks of Luofu Town), which sold for $10.8 million and played a supporting role in demonstrating the increasing quality of his work.
  3. Fu Baoshi
    With 223 lots sold (a slight increase of 6.7% on 2017) and a rising sold rate, the market appears ready to show a greater appreciation for this artist, with two high-sellers during the year: Die Lianhua (蝶恋花, Love between Butterfly and Flower) and Song of a Pipa Player, which fetched $20,252,700 and $15,713,300 respectively.
  4. Zao Wou-Ki
    2018 proved to be a blockbuster year for Zao Wou-Ki, with a surge in both sales volumes and prices: 279 auctioned lots (74.38% more than in 2017) and fiercely competitive bidding. Fourteen of Zao’s works featured in 2018’s top 100 Chinese fine art auction sales, with total sales hitting just over $200 million.
  5. Chu Teh-Chun
    Chu Teh-Chun was an early oil painter who tends to perform reliably on the market, particularly in Hong Kong and Taiwan. His rare Snow Scene works, completed at the peak of his career, are highly-prized by serious collectors and as such always sell well. 110 of Chu’s pieces were auctioned in 2018, and 73 sold for a combined total of $55,410,000. Three of his works also made it into 2018’s top 100 Chinese fine art auction sales, with a total turnover of $22,310,300.
  6. Wu Dayu
    Wu Dayu is a pioneering modern abstract painter, and is regarded as the grand master of early Chinese abstract paintings. Many modernist masters famed both at home and abroad, such as Wu Guanzhong, Zao Wou-Ki and Chu Teh-Chun, were deeply inspired and influenced by him. In 2018, 30 out of his 32 auctioned lots sold, translating into a sold rate of 93.75% and reflecting the enormous market potential this artist has.
  7. Hao Liang
    Hao Liang is China’s leading young artist, and is currently enjoying massive exposure in the international scene. Although his works seldom come to market, with only five lots auctioned in 2018 (of which four sold), this is an artist whose impact and star quality is undeniable. In May 2018 Hao opened his exhibition, entitled Portraits and Wonders, at the Gagosian Gallery in New York, where the unveiling of his new ink paintings cemented his position on the art world’s radar.
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