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Art Salesrooms Adapt to Changes of Aesthetic Taste


Art collectors, both in domestic and overseas markets, are changing their aesthetic taste. Their interests have gradually deviated from political symbols to artworks with cultural elements. Such a dramatic change in demand is apparent from the offerings seen in art showrooms, and perhaps more so at Sotheby's Hong Kong's contemporary Asian art sale to be launched on Oct 7.

The auction house will present 155 lots, with a total estimated price in excess of HK$130 million ($17 million). The sale juxtaposes significant pieces of Cynical Realism and Political Pop groups with more conceptual and experimental creations, showcasing a diverse landscape of contemporary Chinese art.

Among them, Liu Wei's intensively autobiographic Revolutionary Family Series - Invitation to Dinner in 1992 deserves special attention.

The painting gives an intriguing expression of the spirit of the Cynical Realism movement. Its momentous appearance at the 1993 Venice Biennale signaled the debut of contemporary Chinese art in the international art scene.

Also to go under the hammer is Yue Minjun's Backyard Garden, in which four signature laughing figures playing in a traditional Chinese-style pond, renders people's vulnerability in the midst of rapid economic growth.

The sale will bring an abstract art section to expand the buyers' catalogue, presenting notable works of Ding Yi, Jiang Dahai and Qiu Shihua. "Their works provide a contrast with the dominating figurative styles of contemporary Chinese art. The vistas in their paintings showcase three distinct possibilities of the abstract art in modern China," says Jonathan Wong, deputy director of Sotheby's Hong Kong's contemporary Asian art.

The section caught little attention on the market for years, he says, adding that while many young artists have adopted abstraction as their language of creation, it is the right time to further promote the category to collectors.

"Classic works of the top-notch artists, such as Liu Wei and Zhang Xiaogang, which display stable market performance, are highly sought after by both senior and new buyers," Wang explains.

Meanwhile, the category of young artists emerges as a new attraction, he adds, motivated by their gradual popularity in galleries and at exhibitions in recent years.

"The enthusiasm for Cynical Realism and political pop art has waned in the international market. Paintings of these two movements were seldom seen in overseas auctions in spring, but mostly occupied salesrooms in Hong Kong," says Guan Yu, director of the Beijing-based Art Market Monitor of Artron.

She says art dealers are also busy cultivating new stars, for instance, promising artists born between 1975 and 1985, to cater to buyers, says Guan.

"The thoughts and aesthetics in their works are more attachable to people. On the other hand, works of blue-chip artists worth collecting have entered the high-end price echleon, with a weak flowability in the market," adds Guan.

By Lin Qi