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Work by Revered Chinese Artist Could Bring $600,000

July 24, 2019

A painting by one of the most revered and influential artists in Chinese art history could bring up to $600,000 at an art auction in Auckland next week.

Wu Guanzhong’s art has never been offered for sale in either Australia or New Zealand and his ink and colour on paper, Trees and Snow Mountain, is included in a sale of Important and Rare art at the International Art Centre in Parnell, on Tuesday (Eds: July 30).

His work will feature alongside other highly significant works of New Zealand art, including Don Binney’s Pipiwharauroa with Kereru, also estimated to bring up to $600,000, and three works by Charles Frederick Goldie, Memories Harata Tuhaere Rewiri Tarapata of Orakei ($350,000 estimate) Hori Pokai known as The Strategist ($350,000) and Anatomy Study ($15,000).

International Art Centre director Richard Thomson said Wu’s importance in Chinese art history cannot be over-estimated.

“He is often called ‘one of the fathers of Chinese modernism’ and to have one of his works in our catalogue is hugely important. We have already have had interest from around the world.”

Wu, who died in 2010 aged 90, studied initially at the National Academy of Art in Hangzhou. He later studied in Paris where he was drawn to the work of Pissarro, Cézanne and Van Gogh.

However, when he returned to China in 1950, his works were condemned by the country’s Communist authorities who favoured a Social Realist style that featured heroic workers, farmers and soldiers.

In the Cultural Revolution, Wu destroyed many of his oil paintings, fearing what the Red Guards would make of them if they searched his house. He was later banned for seven years from teaching, writing or painting because he was considered a ‘bourgeois formalist’ and ordered from Beijing to the remote countryside to perform manual labour, separated from his wife and family.

In the mid 1970s he returned home, began painting again, and became one of China’s most revered artists. His work, including his teaching and writing, earned him a global recognition as one of the masters of modern Chinese painting.

Mt Thomson said Trees and Snow Mountain, which Wu completed in 1989 and signed and dated, has been in private ownership since it was bought in Hong Kong in 1992.

He said Wu’s art often sold for millions and shortly before he died, a 1974 oil painting of the Yangtze River sold for $8.4 million at a Beijing auction.

Two years before he died he gave more than 100 oil and ink paintings, worth more than $50 million, to the Singapore Art Museum. He also donated many works of art to the Hong Kong Museum of Art. In 1992 he was the first living Chinese artist to exhibit at the British Museum.

“Wu Guanzhong is probably the most important artist in Chinese modern art history and it is almost impossible to put a value on his work. However, there is already significant interest and the upper estimate we have of $600,000 could be only a starting point,” Mr Thomson said.

Other important works of New Zealand art include a self portrait of Louis John Steele, who taught Goldie and collaborated with him in 1898 in The arrival of the Maori in New Zealand, five works by Frances Hodgkins, two by Grahame Sydney, one of which is expected to bring up to $150,000, and works by Sir Toss Woollaston, Ralph Hotere, Nigel Brown, Gretchen Albrecht, Dick Frizzell, Karl Maughan, Colin McCahon, Michael Smither, Charles Blomfield, Peter McIntyre and Alfred Sharpe.

Mr Thomson said the catalogue was one of the most extensive and important of New Zealand art the International Art Centre had produced. He said the Wu Guanzhong painting and the quality of New Zealand offerings had the potential to produce a sale valued at more than $3 million.

“Investment in art in New Zealand has always been extremely buoyant and healthy and this sale will be no exception. As an example works by artists such as Goldie and Binney keep on setting record after record and the art of Wu Guanzhong has an international appeal.”


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