US$27.5 million Zhang Daqian’s masterpiece leads Sotheby’s Hong Kong Autumn Sale Week

One of Picasso of the East’s masterpieces performed the most brilliantly at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Fine Chinese Paintings Autumn Sale on 11 October.

Zhang Daqian’s Mist at Dawn (1968) was sold at HK$214.6 million (around US$27.5 million) dollars with buyer’s premium. More importantly still, his masterpiece was also the winning lot of Sotheby's Hong Kong Autumn Sale Week. It overtook Picasso's Femme Accroupie and Basquiat's Untitled (Red Warrior) both paintings were not sold at more than HK$200 million dollars.   

Zhang's Mist at Dawn painting was sold at around HK$2 million dollars in 1991. 30 years later, its value has multiplied by more than 100 times, becoming the second most expensive work by Zhang Daqian in history.

He is one of the best-known and most prolific Chinese artists of the 20th century, prized for his splashed-ink landscapes.

Zhang Daqian | Mist at Dawn, Splashed ink and colour on paper, framed

Created in 1968
100.5 x 140 cm 

  • Sotheby’s Hong Kong, Fine Chinese Paintings, May 1991, Lot 88
  • M K Lau Collection 

Estimate upon request (The Value has learnt the estimate is around HK$78m/ US$10m)
Hammer Price: HK$185,000,000
Sold: HK$214,631,000 (around US$27.5 million)


The auctioneer started the bidding for Mist at Dawn at HK$55 million dollars. The bidding war was between Patti Wong, Chairman of Sotheby's Asia; and Carmen Ip, Head of Chinese Paintings Department. The two bidded fervently, and the asking price increased by HK$5 million dollars at each bid.

Ultimately, Ip won the bidding with the hammer price at HK$185 million dollars. The painting was sold at HK$214.6 million (around US$27.5 million) for the client with paddle number L0017.

Zhang's Peach Blossom Spring (1982) is the artist's most expensive painting ever sold at auction, fetching HK$270.6 million (around US$34.8 million) dollars in 2016. This record is maintained even after the sale of his Mist at Dawn painting. 

Zhang's Peach Blossom Spring (1982) | Sotheby's Hong Kong Fine Chinese Paintings Sale, 2016   

Zhang Daqian

New Heights

Zhang's Mist at Dawn painting was created in 1968, when his abstract technique of splashing ink was flourishing. It was auctioned for the first time in 1991 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, with an estimated price of HK$1.5 million to 2 million dollars, and sold at around HK$2 million (around US$260,000) dollars. It was acquired by the owner of the M K Lau Collection, a famous Chinese painting and calligraphy collector from Hong Kong.

30 years later, Mist at Dawn returned to Sotheby's Hong Kong once again. It was sold at HK$214.6 million (around US$27.5 million) dollars – more than 100 times more than its first auction sale price. 

The painting's estimate was upon request, and The Value learned that its valuation was approximately HK$78 million dollars. This estimate was the highest ever in the history of Sotheby’s Chinese Paintings Department.  


Zhang Daqian was a master at Chinese painting and calligraphy. He was skilled in a wide range of paintings – landscapes, characters, flowers and birds. 

His most sought-after paintings are the splashed ink and colourful landscapes.

On top of light ochre (clay earth pigment) washes, jet-black ink as well as azure (blue) and malachite (green) paints splashed across the surface, gradually creating an animated landscape. The mineral pigments, much like shiny gemstones in the dark, radiate through the clouds that rise against the mountains.

Reference Articles: 

Picasso's Femme Accroupie (1954) in Sotheby's Hong Kong - Modern Art Evening Sale on 9 October 2021

Basquiat's Untitled (Red Warrior, 1982) in Sotheby's Hong Kong - Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 9 October 2021

Auction Summary

Auction House: Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Sale: Fine Chinese Paintings
Date and Time: 11 October 2021 | 10am Hong Kong local time
Number of lots: 215