Most Expensive Chinese Work of Art — Qi Baishi’s Twelve Screens of Landscapes Fetches RMB 930m

2017 has been a bountiful year to auction houses as the records for most expensive ceramic and most expensive painting were set this year. Though it has almost come to the end of the year, another new auction record has just been set for the most expensive Chinese work of art. Qi Baishi’s Twelve Screens of Landscapes went under the hammer at Beijing Poly Auction. The bidding started at RMB 450m and received over 60 bid increments in over 20 minutes. The painting was knocked down at RMB 810m and sold for RMB 930m with buyer’s premium to a Chinese collector, becoming the most expensive Chinese works of art.

Twelve Screens of Landscapes

There are only two extant Twelve Screens of Landscapes created by Qi Baishi. The present lot that went up on sale at Poly Auction was created in 1925, when Qi was at age 62, as a birthday gift to a renowned doctor Chen Zilin in Beijing.

This set of Twelve Screens of Landscapes was first on display in April 1954 at his sole exhibition held by China Artists Association. It was later shown in a memorial exhibition featuring his works in 1958, a year after the artist passed away.

Twelve Screens of Landscapes

Each screen measures 180 x 47cm, depicting the beauty of twelve spectacular landscapes. Scholars believe this set of paintings was created by Qi after he had travelled around China and hence the series fully exemplifies the artist’s mastery of landscape paintings.

Twelve Screens of Landscapes

This set of masterpieces was then kept in the hand of Xiuyi Guo, Qi’s female pupil. It was originally set to be sold at Beijing Poly Auction in 2015 with an estimate of RMB 800m -1.5b but the plan was later called off. This time, the painting carried a pre-sale estimate of RMB 500m and was sold for RMB 931.5m.

After the auction, Zhao Xu, the helmsman of Beijing Poly Auction said the bidders were mostly collectors from the Mainland China. This painting is not only the most expensive Chinese work of art but also the first Chinese work of art that sold for a price above US100m.  

Twelve Screens of Landscapes that currently kept in the collection of Chongqing Museum.

Another set of the Twelve Screens of Landscapes was painted in around 1932 as the artist's gift to Wang Zuanxu, a Kuomintang general from Sichuan. It is now housed in Chongqing Museum. The present lot that offered at the sale is the only Twelve Screens of Landscape in private hands.


Most expensive Chinese work of art

Qi Baishi (1864-1957). Twelve Screens of Landscapes.
Hanging scroll. Ink on paper.

Auction house: Beijing Poly Auction
Sale: Surpassing the Ancient and Amazing the Contemporaries – Important and Classical Chinese Paintings and Calligraphies
Auction: 2017/12/17

Lot no.: 2806
Size: 180 x 47cm x 12
Estimate: RMB 500,000,000
Hammer price: RMB 810,000,000
Price realized: RMB 931,500,000