World-renowned contemporary art works worth up to US$6.4 million dollars sold at auctions (Part 2)

Following our previous article, The Value discussed world-renowned Western contemporary artists that will feature at Sotheby's Hong Kong Autumn Auctions on 9 October. Amongst the blockbuster lots, Basquiat's Untitled (Red Warrior, 1982) will lead the Contemporary Art Evening Sales with an estimated value at HK$150 million to 200 million (around US$19.2 to 25.7 million) dollars. Whether the American artist's oeuvre d'art breaks another record as the most expensive Western artwork sold in Asia remains to be seen. 

Yoshitomo Nara is the highest valued Japanese artist, and his Under the Hazy Sky (2012) painting will be sold in Sotheby's upcoming auction. It is valued at HK$50 to 70 million (around US$6.4 to 8.9 million) dollars. 

Alongside Nara, Eastern contemporary artists such as Zhang Xiao-gang and Kazuo Shiraga are also featured as highlights in the auction. These artworks are discussed below, and placed in order of price. 

Eastern Contemporary Art

Yoshitomo Nara | Under the Hazy Sky, acrylic on canvas

Created in 2012
194.8 x 162 cm

  • Pace Gallery, London
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimated Price: HK$50,000,000 – 70,000,000 (around US$6.4-8.9 million)


Yoshitomo Nara is a Japanese artist best known for his paintings of a young girl with piercing eyes. His artwork, Knife Behind Back (2000), was sold for HK$195.6 million (around US$25.1 million) dollars in October 2019. It made Nara the most expensive Japanese artist. 

A contemporary of Takashi Murakami (founder of the Superflat manga/anime Japanese art movement), Nara has been influenced by popular culture in both Eastern and Western society.

His versatile practice explores themes of isolation, rebellion, and spirituality through printmaking, painting, sculpture, ceramics and installations.

Nara's Knife Behind Back (2000) | Sotheby's Hong Kong, October 2019


Under the Hazy Sky (2012) is a sensitive, thought-provoking work by Yoshitomo Nara, presenting two of his most famous motifs: the figure of the large-headed little girl and the two-leaf sprout. 

After a devastating earthquake struck Tohoku, north-eastern Japan, in 2011, Nara painted Under the Hazy Sky, in 2012. The artwork was created in response to the earthquake and the artist's hope for Japan's recovery. 

The protagonist, the large-headed little girl, holds onto the two-leaf sprouts. The sprout grows from olive trees, a symbol of hope and peace after the devastation of the earthquake.

Zhang Xiao-gang | Chapter of a New Century – Birth of the People's Republic of China II | Oil, cotton tape and black and white photocopies collage on canvas

Created in 1958
149.4 x 119.4 cm

  • Private Collection
  • Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 4 October 2010, Lot 765A
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimated Price: HK$42,000,000 – 62,000,000 (around US$5.4-7.9 million)


Zhang Xiao-gang is a Chinese painter and preeminent member of the contemporary Chinese avant-garde.

His Surrealist-inspired, stylized portraits executed in smoothly rendered oil paint maintain a formal and stiffly posed aesthetic, focusing on the aftereffects of Chinese political upheavals and the meaning of family, history and memory in China today.

Upon discovering an album of his family’s old photographs in the late 1980s, Zhang was inspired to create his Bloodlines series (started in 1993), the body of work for which he is now widely celebrated.


The first impression of Chapter of a New Century – Birth of the People's Republic of China II (1992) symbolises fragility.

The placing of a baby, a vulnerable condition of life, on a hard wooden box, strikes a note of fear in the heart of every parent. This child is a metaphor, a symbol of human existence. From a religious perspective, the baby lies on a cushion of cloth and evokes the image of the Christ child. His gaze is directed by a red-coloured hand, towards an open book, which one might assume to be a Bible or book of faith.

Zhang's The Dark Trilogy: Fear, Meditation, Sorrow (1989-1990)

Similar works

Zhang’s earlier artworks were different to his archetypical Bloodline series.

Steeped in symbolism, this triptych called The Dark Trilogy: Fear, Meditation, Sorrow (1989-1990) speaks urgently to the sequential themes of terror, contemplation, and melancholic acceptance.

Each panel features a white stage, theatrical lighting, and red fabric reminiscent of stage curtains. Similar to Chapter of a New Century – Birth of the People's Republic of China II (1992), a baby is presented at the forefront of the painting. Its head, ghastly white and spectral, introduces opposing themes of life and death, the new and the lifeless.

The Dark Trilogy is larger than Chapter of a New Century. The former set of paintings measures 179 by 114 cm (left and centre paintings) and 177.8 by 114.3 cm (right painting), and 179 by 342.3 cm overall (all three artworks). The latter painting measures 149.4 by 119.4 cm.

Other highlight artworks  

Kazuo Shiraga | T53, oil on canvas

Created in 1961
130 x 97.2 cm

  • Galerie Stadler, Paris
  • Private Collection
  • Lombrail-Teucquam, Paris, 20 November 2009, Lot 94
  • Private European Collection
  • Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 4 October 2015, Lot 1056
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner 

Estimated Price: HK$10,000,000 – 18,000,000 (around US$1.2-2.3 million)

Liu Wei | We Love Nature, oil on canvas 

Created in 1999
149.5 x 149.5 cm

  • Private Collection (acquired directly from the artist)
  • Private European Collection 
  • Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 5 October 2014, Lot 1045
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimated Price: HK$10,000,000 – 20,000,000 (around US$1.2-2.5 million)

Amoako Boafo | White Hat White Shades, oil on canvas

Created in 2019
186 x 183 cm

  • Robert Projects, Los Angeles
  • Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimated Price: HK$2,500,000 – 3,500,000 (around US$320,000-450,000)

Auction Details

Auction House: Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Date: 9 October 2021
Sale: Contemporary Art Evening Sale
Location: Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery Space | 5/F One Pacific Place

Exhibition Preview

Date: 7-9 October 2021
Location: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre