Bonhams' inaugural Contemporary art sale in Hong Kong is "Golden Gavel"

Voyages of Discovery
In Conversation: Fifteen Works by Chu Teh-Chun and Zao Wou-Ki from a Private Portuguese Collection
27 May 2012
Hong Kong, Admiralty

100% of contemporary art lots sold, all smashing pre-sale estimates

Sunday 27 May 2012, Hong Kong – In a standing room only sale, frenzied bidding activity occurred within the auction room, by telephone and online. Bonhams Contemporary Art Department's first dedicated sale in Hong Kong reached the superb total today of 90.6 million HKD/ 11.6 million USD, more than doubling the pre-sale estimate of 26.5 - 37.4 million HKD/ 3.4 - 4.8 million USD.

The sale was "Voyages of Discovery," a unique single owner collection featuring 15 major works by Chu Teh-Chun and Zao Wou-Ki alongside 12 exceptionally rare Imperial Chinese objects. Highlights of the sale included an oil painting by Chu Teh-Chun, Le Odeur du Ciel No.1, 1982, which was sold for 9.62 million HKD/1.2 million USD, and a cloisonné enamel incense burner from the Qianlong period, Qing Dynasty, one of just two known in the world, which was sold to a phone bidder for 12.9 million HKD/ 1.66 million USD.

The paintings and works on paper by Zao Wou-Ki and Chu Teh-Chun sold as part of the collection came to a total of 63.4 million HKD/ 8.17 million USD. They portray a cross-section of the artists' development through the decades, and illustrate the evolution of their unique styles from the 1960s through to 2006. Born in China and based in Paris for the past five decades, both artists present an important bridge between the traditional calligraphy and painting aesthetics of China and the most innovative art movements of Twentieth Century Europe. Important works from both artists smashed their high estimates, including Zao Wou-Ki's La Mer, 2004, which sold for 8.18 million HKD/over 1 million USD, Chu The-Chun's Verte Nature, 2005-6, which sold for 7.2 million HKD/ 927,416 USD and Chu The-Chun's Formes Illuminees, 2006, which sold for 5.3 million HKD/ 682,680 USD.

Alongside the Contemporary works one of the star lots of the Imperial Chinese objects was an exceptional copper-red 'lotus' bowl, Hongwu period, Ming Dynasty, which sold for 5.4 million HKD/ 695,562 USD, trebling its high pre-sale estimate of 1.8 million HKD/ 231,854 USD.

Closing the sale was Chu Teh-Chun's Les Feux du Jour Finissant, 2006 which sold for 7.82 million HKD/ 1 million USD, further sealing this inaugural sale for Bonhams Contemporary in Asia as a great success.

Commenting on the Collection and the excellent results achieved, Anthony McNerney, International Head of the International Bonhams Contemporary Art Department, said: "We are thrilled by the exceptional performance of the inaugural sale in Asia of our International Contemporary Art Department. We toured these works around the globe before this sale and we had outstanding interest from an international group of collectors, which came to fruition in a fantastic sale. It was a delight to work with such an exquisite and discerning European collection. We look forward to making the new Contemporary Art Department a success around the world."

Notes to editors
Zao Wou-Ki
Zao Wou-Ki began his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou, at the time the only truly modern art school in China, at the age of fourteen. A cultural pioneer, his artful amalgamation of Eastern aesthetics and Western innovation proved both of-the-moment and remarkably timeless. Propelled to Paris by his preoccupation with developments of European modernity, as well as the limitations of living in post-war China, the artist was swift to integrate himself into a circle of similarly talented artists, including Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miró and Maria Elena Vieira da Silva. By the mid-1950s, Wou-Ki was a regular exhibitor at the city's Galerie Pierre Loeb. It is impossible to deny the influence of Chinese calligraphy on the artist's earlier work, a method he made a brief return to in the 1970s, but this is a style he later neglected in lieu of the surreal and abstract. With works ranging from the 1960s to the 2000s, this single owner collection therefore is a unique demonstration of developments within the artist's oeuvre.

Chu Teh-Chun
Chu Teh-Chun, a following alumnus of the Academy of Fine Arts, became similarly renowned for his distinct fusion of historical Chinese imagery and Occidental abstraction, born out of his early study of classical Chinese art combined with later travels throughout Europe, including Paris and the Netherlands. Experimenting with the most European of medium, oil on canvas, the dramatic backdrops of the Chinese landscapes provided an ideal subject. But it was in Paris that he discovered a new direction, rooted firstly in the Post-Impressionist tradition and then later the Abstract, inspired by the work of de Staël to move away from the figurative. It was his later Abstract canvases which ultimately attracted much attention from gallerists and collectors. Chu Teh-Chun's paintings, as demonstrated in the artworks that feature in this collection, present as a result an extraordinary dialogue: between the traditional and the modern, the familiar and the unnervingly dramatic.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

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