As summer ends and the new global market calendar takes shape, auction houses are gearing up for the fall sales. Sotheby’s has secured a selection of works by Chinese Contemporary artists from the holdings of Hong Kong-based collector and dealer Johnson Chang. Works by Zhang Xiaogang, Zeng Fanzhi, Liu Wei, Fang Lijun, and Yu Youhan will be sold in the private collection sale segment titled ‘The First Avant-Garde” during the house’s Asia-based contemporary art day and evening sales at the Hong Kong Convention Center on October 6 to 7.
Chang, who is known as the founder of the Hanart TZ Gallery in 1983 amassed his collection in the 1980s to 1990s as artists such as Zeng Fanzhi, Zhang Xiaogang and Liu Wei featured in his holdings entered the beginning of their careers. Chang’s influence in the contemporary art scene in Asia was led by pioneering curatorial projects including the watershed showcase The Stars: 10 Years (1989), New Art from China: Post-1989 (1993), as well as the 1994 Chinese Contemporary art exhibition at São Paulo’s Art Biennial (1994), and the 1995 Chinese Exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Chang also co-curated Paris-Pekin, an exhibition of select works from the private collection of Contemporary Chinese art patron, Guy Ullens. In 2011, Sotheby’s sold Ullens’ private collection for more than HKD 132 million ($16 million.) It was a crucial milestone in the Asian art market as the highest grossing single-owner sale of Contemporary Chinese Art at the time.
Through scholarly and commercial pursuits, Chang and other collector-dealers, like Beijing’s Li Xianting, have expanded the global stage for Chinese artists of the 1990s. Bringing together works from a preeminent period in Chinese art which includes schools like Cynical Realism and Political Pop with recognizable elements of satire and political dissidence. “This collection converges around the core theme of the human figure,” the collector said in a statement, “and how it withstood the surging tides of China’s rapid passage to modernity.”
This is not the first time a group of important works from the dealer’s holdings have come to the market. In 2016, Chang sold 30 works in Christie’s May Hong Kong contemporary sales during a market correction. A work by Wuhan-born Zeng Fanzhi, Meat No. 3 (Nativity), found a buyer for HKD 30.4 million ($3.9 million); one by Liu Dahong failed to sell.
The works coming to the auction block this October include Zhang Xiaogang’s large-scale 1989-1990 The Dark Trilogy: Fear, Meditation, Sorrow, marking its first public exhibition since the 1990s. The triptych carries an estimate of HK$25 to 40 million ($3.2 to 5.2 million).
In addition, Sotheby’s is selling another formative work by the artist which has never been seen on the market: Bloodline-Big Family: Family Portrait from 1998. Drawing from the artist’s early experience of post-Cultural Revolution China and using the era’s photography as inspiration, the Bloodline series—the artist’s most sought-after works—represents a critical shift in the country’s political landscape. The work is estimated at between HKD 10 and 20 million ($1.3 to $2.6 million).
Other leading works from the consignment include Zeng Fanzhi’s No. 11, from his acclaimed Mask series, completed in 1994. It has an estimated value of HKD 12 million to 22 million ($1.5 to $2.8 million). Works from the Mask Series have commanded high prices at auction. In August, his 1996 No. 6 sold for RMB 161 million ($23.3 million) in Beijing at Christie’s-backed Forever International Auction. Elsewhere in the auction’s offerings is Liu Wei 1995 Banana priced at HKD 6 to $10 million ($774,176 to $1.3 million), alongside works by Fang Lijun, and Yu Youhan, all of which have been in Chang’s collection since their creation.