An ink on rice paper work by artist Tan Swie Hian was sold for 20.7 million yuan (S$4.4 million) at the Poly Auction in Beijing.
The sale of Portrait Of Bada Shanren last night broke the artist's previous record for the most expensive work sold at an auction by a living Singaporean or South-east Asian artist. In 2012, his oil painting When The Moon Is Orbed (2012) was sold at the same auction for $3.7 million.
Yesterday's sale was confirmed by Mr Guo Yuanchao, Poly Auction's modern and contemporary art consultant.
Speaking via a translator, he said: "The first auction of Tan's ink work in China saw it selling for a price higher than his oil painting. This shows the high recognition Chinese collectors accord to the Singapore artist's work."
While it is not known who the work was sold to, the bidding is said to have been intense.
When contacted, Cultural Medallion recipient Tan said: "I feel blessed and honoured."
The 71-year-old artist added: "This has come as a complete surprise. It is certainly a rare honour to be recognised in China, which is emerging as the global art centre. My art has been embraced by collectors there who continue to support me."
Before going under the hammer, the art work had a sales estimate of 15 million to 18 million yuan.
The work is Tan's tribute to Bada Shanren (1626-1705), a painter and calligrapher and one of the great art masters of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Calligraphy completes the portrait, reflecting the subject's multi-faceted career as a poet and one of the four monk painters in the art circles of the early Qing dynasty.
The sale is significant because it took place in China, which now dominates Asian art sales. Poly Auction is part of the state-owned Poly Group of companies which has interests in the military, mining, real estate and cultural sectors.
China accounted for 33 per cent of global fine arts sales last year, and the country's growing wealth has fuelled prices and demand for art.
This article was first published on December 1, 2014.
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