HK$162m Zhang Daqian Painting Leads Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Paintings

Zhang Daqian’s Manchurian Mountains from 1969, a monumental painting that witnessed the friendship of the artist and an important political figure in Republic China, was sold for a whopping HK$162m (US$20.7m), which is so far the highest price achievement at Hong Kong spring sales this year. The Fine Chinese Paintings sale totalled HK$488m (US$62.17m), more than a double its sum of pre-sale estimate.

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

Manchurian Mountains

A closeup at Manchurian Mountains

A closeup at Manchurian Mountains

A closeup at Manchurian Mountains

Measuring a grandeur size of two by one meter, this painting was gifted by the artist to the daughter and son-in-law of the ‘Young Marshal’ Zhang Xueliang, a famous military man in Republican China. Zhang Xueliang and Zhang Daqian became friends since the early 1930s and the friendship between their families lasted over half a century.

It was the first time the painting being offered at auction. The auction house chose it to be the cover lot on the sale catalogue and placed an estimate of HK$50m-70m on the painting.

Patti Wong, Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia

Kevin Ching, Chief Executive Officer, Sotheby’s Asia

The bidding started at HK$38m and was joined by room bidders and telephone bidders who showed great enthusiasm. The price quickly reached the high estimate HK$70m and went beyond. Kevin Ching, Chief Executive Officer, Sotheby’s Asia, pushed the price up to HK$92m on behalf of his telephone bidder.

After the price reached HK$100m, only two bidders remaining in the competition - Kevin Ching’s telephone bidder and a gentleman sitting in the front. The bidding was escalated into a bidding battle as both contestants were tenacious. The final winner was the gentleman sitting in the front who gained victory with a hammer price of HK$141m. The painting was sold for HK$162m, which is not only the highest price realised at the sale but also the highest throughout the whole Hong Kong spring sales so far.

The room bidder with the paddle ‘8188’ was the winner

Zhang Daqian (left) and Zhang Xueliang (right) in their late years

The painting depicts Yiwulü Mountains in Liaoning province and is titled “Manchurian Mountains”, as it is where the old “Manchuria” was.

Pauline Tao (middle) standing in front of Manchurian Mountains with her friends at home

The artist painted this monumental work in 1969 for Pauline Tao and Pung-fi Tao, the daughter and son-in-law of Zhang Xueliang. The evergreen mountains completed in splashed mineral colours symbolizes lasting prosperity of the family, while the snow-capped summit stands for an auspicious year ahead, representing the most heartfelt wish the artist had for his good friend. The Taos valued this painting greatly and it was hanged in their living room for many years.

Top five lots

Zhang Daqian (1899-1983). Manchurian Mountains

Lot no.: 1415
Created in: 1969
Size: 101 x 196cm
Estimate: HK$50,000,000-70,000,000
Hammer price: HK$141,000,000
Price realised: HK$162,665,000 (US$20,747,921)

Huang Binhong (1864-1955). Landscape After Song Artists

Lot no.: 1407
Created in: 1942
Size: 22 x 72.2cm (frontispiece); 16.8 x 173cm (painting); 21.8 x 116.5cm (annotations)
Estimate: HK$3,000,000-5,000,000
Hammer price: 17,000,000
Price realised: HK$20,575,000 (US$2,624,547)

Wu Guanzhong. White Birch Forest in Xinjiang

Lot no.: 1283
Created in: 1981
Size: 105.2 x 102cm
Estimate: HK$6,000,000-8,000,000
Hammer price:
Price realised: HK$19,855,000 (US2,532,704)

Zhang Daqian (1899-1983). Gibbon on Old Tree

Lot no.: 1247
Created in: 1950
Size: 131.5 x 60.6cm
Estimate: HK$8,000,000-12,000,000
Hammer price: HK$12,800,000
Price realised: HK$15,535,000 (US$1,981,645)

Zhang Daqian (1899-1983). Indian Dancer

Lot no.: 1383
Created in: 1950
Size: 100 x 53.8cm
Sotheby's Hong Kong, Fine Chinese Paintings Department, Nov 1989, Lot 30
Estimate: HK$7,000,000-9,000,000
Hammer price: HK$12,982,002
Price realised: HK$15,175,000 (US$1,935,723)

Auction summary

Auction house: Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Sale: Fine Chinese Paintings
Sale date: 2 April 2019
Lots offered: 247
Sold: 222
Unsold: 25
Sold by lots: 89.8%
Sale total: HK$488,256,250