The New York Times profiles Tan Swie Hian, a Singaporean scholar-artist whose work is breaking out in China. The work above sold at Poly Auction for $3.3m in November. A previous work by Tan made slightly less in 2012. It’s remarkable for an overseas Chinese like Tan, who was born in Indonesia and lives in Singapore, to garner strong prices in mainland China:
What makes Mr. Tan’s art special, experts say, is that while he is rooted in classic Chinese arts and literature, he has equally strong links with Western culture — including working in the French Embassy in Singapore for 24 years before turning to art full time. Not unlike Singapore itself, he is poised between two worlds, linked to modernity and tradition. His creations reflect the confluence of East and West, borne from his personal and spiritual philosophy.Artists, collectors, gallery owners and critics from the region say the fact that a Singaporean artist has broken into the Chinese auction market is significant.
“For a tiny country to have produced an artist of his caliber, recognized internationally, he’s put Singapore firmly on the international cultural map,” said Tan Chai Puan, a Malaysian culture columnist for Lianhe Zaobao, a newspaper in Singapore.
Guo Yuanchao, Poly Auction’s modern and contemporary art consultant, said from Beijing that Chinese collectors were noticing exceptional artists outside China whose works reflect Eastern traditions and cultures. While works by the most famous Chinese artists command much higher prices, the fact that the first auction of Mr. Tan’s ink work in China, also by Poly Auction, saw it selling for a higher price than his oil painting showed the “high recognition Chinese collectors accorded to the master,” Mr. Guo said.
A Multifaceted Singaporean Painter Breaks Barriers (NYTimes.com)