Zeng Fanzhi’s “The Last Supper” (2001) and Chen Yifei’s “Red Flag 1” (1971) have been entrusted to Sotheby’s Hong Kong by Baron and Baroness Guy and Myriam Ullens de Schooten. The Switzerland-based collectors and philanthropists, who established the non-profit Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing, have been passionate supporters of emerging Chinese artists for the past quarter of a decade. These two works to be auctioned at Sotheby’s Hong Kong are significant for representing the artistic visualization of Chinese history from two different periods.
Zeng’s “The Last Supper” is immediately recognizable as an important piece from his “Mask” series. The work is estimated to fetch HK$80 million, making it the leading work at the auction after Zao Wou-ki’s “15.1.82,” which has an estimate of HK$68 - 90 million.
Inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” Zeng’s painting replaces Jesus and his disciples with masked Young Pioneers, the members of the Communist youth group. The “Judas” character is replaced by a masked figure wearing a gold tie, a metaphor that Zeng uses to represent Western capitalism.
The second work, “Red Flag 1” by the late Chen deals with a subject matter that is rare in the oeuvre of the Chinese realist master. The work depicts the leader of a guerrilla troop grasping a rifle in one hand and a red flag in another. Soldiers flank his sides. The painting shows the harsh reality of war and held a particular significance for the artist. When Chen left China for the United States in 1980s, he took this work with him. At the upcoming auction, “Red Flag 1” is estimated to sell for HK$45 - 60 million (US$5.8 - 7.7 million).
Sotheby’s Hong Kong 40th anniversary evening sale on October 5, www.sothebys.com
Read more about upcoming auctions in Hong Kong, here.