Let’s take a look at the best sales by Chinese artists


Discover the best sales every Friday! Every other Friday, Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. This week, our rankings reveal the highest sales recorded last year by Chinese artists. A very high level ranking…

China is the world’s leading art market in terms of economic impact and its artists are now selling for top prices in auction rooms. Whether in Beijing or Hong Kong, prices are going through the roof for the great old masters, who are otherwise completely absent from the Western market. Only a few modern and contemporary artists sometimes reach the international scene, depending on whether they have lived outside their homeland or not. Overall, the 10 highest sales at auction in 2016 consist of Chinese artists whose market is exclusively concentrated in China, with the exception of Franco-Chinese artist Chu Teh-Chun. Moreover, with six new records out of ten broken by old masters, the Chinese art market is showing real maturity…

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 CUI Ruzhuo (1944) $39 577 200 The Grand Snowing Mountains (飛雪伴春) 2016-04-04 Poly Auction Hong Kong Hong Kong
2 ZHANG Daqian (1899-1983) $34 917 720 Peach Blossom Spring 2016-04-05 Sotheby’s Hong Kong
3 ZENG Gong (1019-1083) $31 691 700 The Jushi in Regular Script (局事帖) 2016-05-15 China Guardian Auctions Co., Ltd. Chine
4 WU Guanzhong (1919-2010) $30 444 000 The Zhou Village (周莊) 2016-04-04 Poly Auction Hong Kong Hong Kong
5 JIANG Tingxi (1669-1732) $26 429 530 Peony Albumn (百种牡丹谱) 2016-06-07 Beijing Council International Auctions Chine
6 SONG Ke (1327-1387) $14 085 200 Calligraphy after Jijiu Zhang and Inscriptions (临《急就章》并诸家题跋) 2016-05-15 China Guardian Auctions Co., Ltd. Chine
7 QIU Ying (c.1494-1551/52) $13 692 360 Calligraphy 2016-12-04 Poly International Auction Co.,Ltd Chine
8 YUN Shouping (1633-1690) $12 435 295 Landscape 2016-06-05 Poly International Auction Co.,Ltd Chine
9 CHU Teh-Chun (1920-2014) $11 835 597 Vertige neigeux (snowy vertigo) 2016-11-26 Christie’s Hong Kong
10 WU Zhen (1280-1354) $11 822 288 Ink Bamboo 2016-06-05 Poly International Auction Co.,Ltd Chine
copyright © 2016 artprice.com


The Impressive rise of Chinese Masters

In addition to breaking new world records, Chinese Masters have completely overturned their previous records. Scholarly painters, often draughtsmen, poets as well as calligraphers, these major masters are 100% supported by the Chinese market, selling in Beijing and Hong Kong where the main part of the Chinese market is concentrated. But some of these artists have never been seen in a Western sales room… The rarest artist in the ranking is the old master ZENG Gong (1019-1083), a scholar from the Song dynasty. This year, his classical and poetic work managed to fetch more than $30m with a calligraphic work of less than fifty centimetres, The Jushi in Regular Script. This piece had been purchased for $508,500 in 1996 in New York, then $16 million in 2009 in Beijing, finally reaching $32 million at China Guardian on 15 May 2016. The added value shows a 6,200% rise in 20 years , evidence of the impressive bidding of Chinese buyers for major historical artists. Heritage and history are more valued than ever in China, and the auction business is a good indicator of this… Not only did 2016 give rise to new records, the sharp increase in price levels is also quite remarkable: it was indeed an exceptional year for JIANG Tingxi (1669-1732), whose record went from $4m to $26.4m for a lot estimated to be 10 times less expensive, an exceptional album of 200 plates (The Peony Album ). The jump was also impressive for YUN Shouping (1633-1690), whose record rose from $2.5m in 2015 (Gold Autumn reached in 1989 at Beijing Council International) to $12.4m, with the sale of a set of 10 traditional drawings, and WU Zhen (1280-1354), one of the « Four Great Masters of the Yuan Dynasty » who became more famous for the freedom of his elliptical style, notably in his Bamboo drawing. Wu Zhen, painter and astrologer, also known as Meihua Daoren (the Taoist of Plum Blossoms), not only passed the million dollar mark for the first time in his history, but did it twice: first $11.8m in June 2016 (Ink Bamboo, Poly International), and then over $25m six months later…

The new records in modern and contemporary art confirm the trend which began recently, notably with the new record reached by ZHANG Daqian (1899-1983), the Chinese Picasso… The sale of Zhang Daqian’s works generated more than $300 million in 2016, although the market has quietened down compared to 2014 when his works raised more than $500m in one year… Despite this slowdown, Daqian has emerged as the highest selling artist in the world after the giant of Western art, Pablo Picasso. If Daquian embodies the power of the modern art market in China (his price index is up 251% since 2000), Cui Ruzhuo embodies that of contemporary art. Cui Ruzhuo, the only living artist in the ranking, made several high profile appearances at auction during the past year, notably with his highest record to date in Hong Kong with $39.5m for The Grand Snowing Mountains (4th April, 2016 at Poly Auction). Backed by the wealthiest collectors, he embodies a particular type of artist whose merit is judged by the price levels achieved…