Singapore art up for auction at Christie's sale in Hong Kong

Singapore art up for auction at Christie's sale in Hong Kong
Balinese Dance (1953) by Cheong Soo Pieng.
PHOTO: Christie's

A landmark sale of modern and contemporary Singapore masterpieces will take place this month at Christie's in Hong Kong.

The auction on Nov 29 is devoted entirely to Singapore art and it is a first for an international auction house.

The Singapore-based 33 Auction has previously held auctions highlighting Singapore art.

The 42 works at the Christie's sale include impressive paintings by Singapore's pioneer artists Chen Wen Hsi and Cheong Soo Pieng, as well as pieces by younger artists such as David Chan and Ruben Pang.

The sale, says Christie's South- east Asian art specialist Teo Hui Min, is "to celebrate Singapore art and its artists on the occasion of Singapore's 50th year of independence".

In any given auction season, Christie's offers between 35 and 45 works of Singapore art through its Asian 20th-century art sale and Asian contemporary art sale. These platforms have allowed Singapore works to catch the attention of international collectors and Christie's does not plan to stop this sale arrangement.

The special Singapore art sale, however, stands out for the artistic quality and historical merit of the works.

Ms Teo says: "Because of the singular nature of this sale, we are offering true masterpieces that collectors would be hard-pressed to find in any other sale."

The top lot in the sale is Cheong's early oil painting Balinese Dance (1953), created after his field trip to Bali in 1952 with fellow Singapore artists such as Liu Kang and Chen Chong Swee.

The trip marked a turning point for art in Singapore and South-east Asia, catalysing the birth of the region's Nanyang style of art marrying Western painting techniques with Asian sensibilities and subject matter.

This is the first time Balinese Dance, previously in private hands, is up for auction. The painting is available for preview, along with other works in the sale, from Friday to Sunday at ArtSpace@Helutrans in Keppel Road.

The sale has also allowed Christie's to "introduce artists important to Singapore's art history, but who have not yet received deserved attention from international and local audiences", says Ms Teo.

An example she cites is the late artist Sun Yee, who founded the now-defunct Singapore Academy of Arts and was among the few female artists active in Singapore's modern art scene. Works by the artist are in the sale.

The combined low estimate of the sale is in excess of HK$23 million (S$4.16 million).

The special sale is welcomed by contemporary Singapore artists Chan, 36, and Pang, 25, whose works are in the auction.

Chan says: "It is comforting to know that Singapore art is finally being taken to a higher platform. It should pave the way for more collector confidence and regional interest."

The international attention on Singapore art, however, does not change things for Pang as an artist.

He says: "It doesn't change what we do as artists - to work hard, be observant and have only the works that we are proud of leave the studio."


WHERE: ArtSpace@Helutrans, 39 Keppel Road

WHEN: Friday to Sunday, 11am to 7pm


This article was first published on Nov 3, 2015.
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