Zhang painting takes top price at Sotheby's auction

By Lin Qi ( ) Updated: 2014-04-08 10:53:39
Zhang painting takes top price at Sotheby's auction

Auction Scene - Sotheby's HK Modern and Contemporary Asian Art Evening Sale on April 2014.[For]

Sotheby's money-grossing evening sale of Modern and Contemporary Asian Art took in HK$670 million ($ 865.9 million) on April 5 in Hong Kong. The top lot went price was paid to for Zhang Xiaogang's sizable, symbolic Bloodline: Big Family No. 3, which fetched sold for HK$94.2 million, a new record for the artist at auction.

A milestone to establish in Zhang's prominent career, the Bloodline series was created based on his old family photos from the "cultural revolution" (1966-76) and become a theme that the artist revisited in his later works. The sold painting of 1995 painting is viewed as the most mature piece in the series, and hence triggered a bidding race among five potential buyers.

The painting, which measures 1.8 meters high and by 2.3 meters wide, is one of the five that Zhang painted in 1995. It portrays its a three-member family of which with the child in the center was depicted as a Little Red Guard (hong xiao bing) with the a Chairman Mao badge and armband, the only piece of its kind in the series.

The series marks Zhang's return from the Western expressionistic style to the roots of Chinese culture and history. The iconic dark gray backdrop creates a solemn atmosphere, indicating the scar ringed experiences and historical burdens the artist's his father's generation had undertaken lived through.

"If I continue being an artist, I have to be an artist of 'China'," Zhang once said.

The painting was exhibited at the 46th Venice Biennale in 1995.

Johnson Chang, the Hong Kong art curator and dealer who helped introduce Chinese contemporary artists to the world in the 1990s, wrote in a book that: "The figures depicted in Zhang Xiaogang's Bloodline: Big Family are idealized and solemnly dignified, resulting in a haunting image that will be passed down through future generations. Like early photo studio portraits where blemishes or any slight imperfections were removed to show only a clean and perfect complexion … these figures represented the masses of today."

The previous auction record for Zhang's work was set by Forever Lasting Love, a triptych of completed in 1988 which that sold for HK$ 79.06 million, at Sotheby's Hong Kong sale of the Ullens collection in April, 2011.

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