'Young artists deserve a stage': 5 rising stars from 'King of Mandopop' Jay Chou-curated sale at Christie's HK

Dubbed the "King of Mandopop", Taiwanese mega pop star Jay Chou is celebrated worldwide for his multi-talented prowess as a singer-songwriter, pianist, producer, actor, and film director. Not only sensational in the entertainment industry – with over 30 million records sold worldwide – he is also an avid and passionate art collector, taking a special interest in works by contemporary artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gerhard Richter, and KAWS. 

Back in 2021, Chou proved his sharp curatorial eye in a special evening sale with Sotheby's Hong Kong. Co-curated by him, that 46-lot auction was a massive success, achieving a white-glove result and a total tally of HK$845 million (US$109 million).

Now in 2023, the superstar is lending his artistic taste to another leading auction house, Christie's. On 28 November, 28 artworks selected by the artist will be offered in the house's Post-Millennium Evening Sale in Hong Kong, a thematic auction featuring avant-garde works of art completed after 2000, also the year when he released his first album.  

"Curating an exhibition is like planning a concert. The works and songs chosen must resonate with the audience," said Jay Chou. "The lots offered are the most representative works of the artists, and they definitely embody rich and diverse contemporary cultural values. I want to inspire the audience to experience them in depth and find the resolution." 

Jay Chou singing and playing piano at his concert, which is often sold out within minutes and attracted tens of thousands of audience

The music video of Greatest Works of Art pays tribute to numerous artists, including Magritte and Monet

In 2022, Jay Chou shook the music industry as his 15th album Greatest Works of Art topped the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) charts as the best-selling album in the world – beating K-pop boy band BTS and Taylor Swift – and he made history as the first-ever Mandopop singer to claim the top spot.

Devoted to bridging the gap between general audiences and fine art, for that hit title track, he pays tribute to some of the biggest names of the 20th century, including Surrealist masters René Magritte and Salvador Dalí, Impressionism pioneer Claude Monet, and Fauvist leader Henri Matisse. Very soon after its release, discussions deconstructing the lyrics and music video have swept across the internet, and the music video has attracted more than 26 million views on YouTube. 

As much as he admires the great masters in art history, Chou is immensely supportive of living artists, saying, "Not everyone is born a master, and renowned masters of art had withstood the test of time. I hope that the creations of these emerging artists will become masterpieces someday."

On the occasion, let's take a look at five highlights from the mega-star's hand-picked selection of works by young and emerging artists from around the globe.  

Lot 92 | Adrian Ghenie (b. 1977) | Lidless Eye, Oil on canvas
Painted in 2016 - 2019
185 x 170 cm

  • Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

Estimate: HK$38,000,000 - 58,000,000 (US$4.9 - 7.5 million)

With highly expressionist and distorted works rapidly comparable to post-war figurative titan Francis Bacon, Adrain Ghenie has risen from an art student in Romania to international stardom in merely dozens of years' time. 

Born in Romania in 1977, Ghenie graduated from the University of Art and Design in Cluj in 2001. After trying to make it as an artist in Vienna and Sicily, he returned to Cluj in 2005 and had his debut solo exhibition there in 2006.

Interest in the then-little-known artist ignited from there, as he went on to hold solo shows in Zurich, Berlin, and Los Angeles the next year, followed by a lengthy list of exhibitions in the years to come. Notably, he came to represent his native country at the Venice Biennale in 2015. 

Besides an impressive institutional CV and a long waiting list of private buyers spread out between four continents, the 46-year-old artist's works have met with explosive demand on the secondary market. Especially propelled by an eager pool of Asian buyers, he is now crowned with an auction record at US$10.4 million, set by his largest single canvas Pie Fight Interior 12 (2014) at Christie's Hong Kong in 2022. 

Adrian Ghenie | Nickelodeon (2008), 238 x 414 cm | Sold: £7,109,000 (US$9 million), Christie's London, 2016

Adrian Ghenie | Degenerate Art (2016), 200.7 x 180.3 cm | Sold to an Asian collector for US$9.3 million, Sotheby's New York, 2022

Adrian Ghenie | Pie Fight Interior 12 (2014), 284 x 350 cm | Sold: HK$81,060,000 (US$10.4 million), Christie's Hong Kong, 2022 (Auction record for the artist)

Growing up under the iron rule of Nicolae Ceaușescu, the Romanian artist has long been fascinated by the darker forces that shaped the 20th century, especially the powerful figures and pivotal moments during the Second World War. 

He once explained, "My generation knows what life was like before the Internet. And so you still happen to hear echoes of the old world when you wake up in the morning … Then, you realize that the world is changing its texture, is changing its skin. I am very sensitive to this aspect."

But above all, deep inside his heart lies an artistic hero: Vincent van Gogh, whose art was labelled "degenerate art" by the Nazi Party under its leader Adolf Hitler, being banned nationwide. And Ghenie's own fascination with van Gogh may be traced to his childhood, when he encountered a print of the artist’s celebrated Sunflowers on the cover of a Romanian art magazine. He was so entranced by the image that he kept it under his pillow.

Later, he stood before van Gogh’s 1889 self-portrait in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, overwhelmed by its hypnotic presence. The artist’s inward, self-critical gaze, saturated with inner turmoil, spoke deeply to Ghenie, who would go on to paint himself multiple times in the guise of his hero, such as the present lot. 

Lot 102 | Dana Schutz (b. 1976) | Singer Songwriter, Oil on canvas
Painted in 2013
195.5 x 228.6 cm

  • Petzel Gallery, New York
  • Private collection
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$16,000,000 - 26,000,000 (US$2.1 - 3.3 million)

Noted for her comic-grotesque, dynamically theatrical oeuvre, Dana Schutz is one of the preeminent painters working in figurative abstraction today. 

As seen in the present lot, Singer Songwriter (2013), where she depicts a theme so deeply resonated with Jay Chou, Schutz’s paint has a sensual, metamorphic magic, and there is no stillness to her pictures – paint and gestures are always moving, and the surfaces vibrate. 

In what is characteristic of her artistic practice, her brushwork fragments objects and bodies into bold, geometric planes, structuring all kinds of chaos with crystalline painterly logic, conjuring an escapist, humorous vision of reality rebuilt before our eyes. 

These fantastical figurations often comment on pop culture, mythic figures, and charged contemporary issues whilst drawing from a deep mine of art historical references and the realms of private daydreams.

"I don’t write out stories, in the way a writer would; the situations are very loose,” notes Schutz about her subject matter, "I never want the viewer to have to know the whole story to ‘get’ the painting. What you see is what you get. If it’s a painting of a person eating their hands, they’re eating their hands. Often I will invent hypothetical situations that can act as surrogate situations for conditions that I am thinking about and that I always feel are logical."

Dana Schutz | Elevator (2017), 345.4 x 431.8 cm | Sold: HK$50,050,000 (US$6.4 million), Christie's Hong Kong, 2020 (Auction record for the artist)

Dana Schutz | The Visible World (2018), 274.3 x 355.6 cm | The artist's solo exhibition of the same name as this painting is currently on view at the Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris until February 2024

Born in Livonia, Michigan, in 1976, Schutz came to prominence in the early 2000s, with her debut solo exhibition, Frank from Observation, held in 2002 at LFL Gallery (now Zach Feuer Gallery) opening to critical acclaim. The years that followed saw her works being exhibited extensively, both in America and abroad, such as at SITE Santa Fe, the Rose Art Museum in Waltham, Massachusetts, and Perrotin in Paris.

Today, many of her works reside in the permanent collections of museums, such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Los Angeles, and the Tel Aviv Museum, among numerous others. 

Outside of the exhibition grounds, her secondary market has remained strong as well – her auction record now stands at HK$50.5 million (US$6.4 million), set by Elevator (2017), when it sold against a low estimate of HK$15 million at Christie's Hong Kong in 2020. 

Lot 90 | Avery Singer (b. 1987) | Untitled, Acrylic on canvas
Painted in 2017
198.1 x 154.9 cm

  • Krupa-Tuskany Ziedler Gallery, Berlin
  • Private collection, Europe
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$11,000,000 - 18,000,000 (US$1.5 - 2.3 million)

One of the hottest contemporary artists today, New York-based artist Avery Singer is recognized for reshaping the future of painting as her works blur the boundaries between digital and material worlds by employing new technologies and representing virtual characters. 

In 2019, then-32-year-old Singer became the youngest artist to be signed by Hauser & Wirth, the mega Swiss gallery that is also responsible for the estates of Alexander Calder and Louise Bourgeois amongst other major contemporary artists.

Now aged 36, she has already been featured in the collections of global institutions such as Tate Modern in London, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Yuz Museum in Shanghai, and M+ Museum in Hong Kong.

Equally popular with curators and collectors, she achieved a remarkable auction record of US$5.2 million in 2022 at Sotheby's New York, for her acrylic on canvas work Happening (2014). At the time, that record was also the second-highest auction result of all time for an artist under the age of 35. 

Avery Singer | Happening (2014), 254 x 304.8 cm | Sold: US$5,253,000, Sotheby's New York, 2022 (Auction record for the artist)

Avery Singer | Anxiety Painting (2014), 254 x 304.8 cm | Collection of Museum of Modern Art

​​​​Raised by artist parents, Singer grew up surrounded by art and frequented museums from a young age. After completing her training at the Stadelschule, Frankfurt am Main, in 2008, she went on to study sculpture at the esteemed Cooper Union in New York and later developed an interest in architectural computer modelling, before landing on the medium of painting.

A contemporary painter with a sculptor's eye, Singer pioneers a new way of painting by conceiving her intricate spatial compositions in 3D modelling software SketchUp, then transferring the geometric, computer-generated hybrid images onto the canvas using airbrush – a tool widely applied in advertising, architecture, and graphic design, instead of Fine Arts.

While her canvases – sometimes labelled as "post-internet art" – nod to a wide timeline of art historical movements including Futurism, Cubism, and Constructivism, they are distinctly her own style of art, building on her storied visual language characterized by a complex layering rendered by the use of new technologies. 

Lot 96 | Jadé Fadojutimi (b. 1993) | Turmoil, Oil on canvas
Painted in 2019
190 x 200 cm

  • Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$7,000,000 - 9,000,000 (US$900,000 - 1.2 million)

Currently represented by Gagosian – one of the world's largest galleries – the 30-year-old Londoner Jadé Fadojutimi is certainly a rising name not to be missed. Over the past few years, her works have been highly sought-after both by major art institutions and at auctions. 

In 2021, Tate acquired her monumental canvas I Present Your Royal Highness (2018), making her the youngest artist in the renowned gallery's collection. Outside Britain, her works have been held by important public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) in New York, the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, the Albertina Museum in Vienna, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. 

On the secondary market, she rose to the forefront of the ultra-contemporary art stage in 2021, when she set two artist's records at Sotheby's and Phillips in London on consecutive days. Now in 2023, her momentum at auction did not seem to slow down a bit: just during this past New York marquee auctions, she again reset her record twice.

In Christie's evening sale, her violet-hued painting A Thistle Throb (2021) sold for a record US$1.68 million; the following week, her other 2021 canvas Quirk my mannerism sold at Phillips for US$1.94 million against a pre-sale low estimate of US$600,000. 

Jadé Fadojutimi | I Present Your Royal Highness (2018), 201.5 x 161.1 cm | Tate Modern, London

Jadé Fadojutimi | Quirk my mannerism (2021), | Sold: US$1,935,000, Phillips New York, 2023 (Auction record for the artist)

A writer as much as an artist, Jadé Fadojutimi calls herself a "composer of colour, space, and environments." Drawing together inspirations from everyday experiences, memories, and especially Japanese anime, fashion, and soundtracks, Fadojutimi paints freely and intuitively, viewing the process as a means of digging deeper into her own identity and emotions. 

Very often, she would work late at night – a time when her mind feels most alert – and blare dramatic music in her studio filled with visual stimuli such as plants, clothes, soft toys from her childhood, pieces of furniture, and her own writings. She pays close attention to the feelings and impulses that arise from these objects, as they help her revisit moments she let go of as a kid. 

For Fadojutimi, the process is one of rich sensory indulgence: "I completely bathe in the conversations between colour, texture, line, form, composition, rhythm, marks and disturbances", said she. 

The resulting artworks, which she refers to as "emotional landscapes", are like oceans of colour, with each vibrant stroke dancing and sprawling onto every inch of the canvas, dynamically breathing with the movement of its maker.

Lot 98 | Jia Aili (b.1979) | Wasteland - 0042, Oil on canvas
Painted in 2007
267 x 200 cm

  • Platform China, Beijing
  • Private collection, Asia
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$4,000,000 - 6,000,000 (US$520,000 - 770,000)

Another artist under Gagosian's roster, Jia Aili is part of a new generation of Chinese painters, best known for works that defy expectations and definitions. His work is hard to place – it is at once figurative yet abstract, drawing upon imagery that feels intimately familiar yet is difficult to identify. 

In doing so, he represents a generation of Chinese artists who are no longer as interested in creating work that examines politics or society in a direct and realistic way – he instead seeks to express a mood defined by existential despair, speaking to a generation that so often feels lost and displaced in the modern age.

He once explained, "I was born at the end of the 20th century, where most ethnic groups in human society began to step out of the world of all-inclusive religious frameworks. In the modern world, for an individual, the physical body became highly compatible with society, but the spirit gradually lost its sense of belonging. With the explosion of information that is now available to us, our perception has become both flat and rich."

Jia Aili | The Waste Land (2007), 267 x 200 cm | Sold: HK$18,125,000 (US$2.3 million), Christie's Hong Kong, 2019

Jia Aili | Combustion (2016), 216 x 497.2 cm | Sold: US$4,769,000, Christie's New York, 2023

Born in 1979, the year the one-child policy was introduced, Jia witnessed perhaps one of the most profound and rapid periods of change ever experienced in China – and he was all alone, suffocating under the weight of familial expectation. 

The present work, Wasteland - 0042 (2007), is entirely in keeping with the theme of isolation in its evocation of a secluded, lonely mood. This canvas, along with his previous auction record holder, The Waste Land (2007), which sold for US$2.3 million in 2019 in Hong Kong, belong to the body of works that marked his early rise on the Chinese contemporary art scene. 

In 2008, four years after he graduated from Lu Xun Academy of Fine Art in northeastern China, he held his first-ever solo exhibition at Platform China in Beijing. Titled The Wasteland, the exhibition probed into the universal and eternal existential struggle, where Jia harnesses the imagery of nature, including wastelands, oceans, and beaches, as a metaphor for the shared human condition.

Over the past decade, Jia has continued to work at a monumental scale, expanding on the dark, theatrical look of his earlier canvases through subtler and more complex coloration and structure. This evolution of his practice can be glimpsed in Combustion (2016), which set a new auction record for the artist at US$4.8 million at Christie's this past month. 

Auction Details: 

Auction House: Christie's Hong Kong
Sale: Post-Millennium Evening Sale, a Collab with Jay Chou
Date and Time: 28 November 2023 | 6:00 pm (Hong Kong Local Time)
Number of Lots: 28