Bonhams Record for Painting by Famous 20th Century Artist Zhang Daqian

Classic Modern Masterworks Dominate Inaugural Chinese Ink Paintings Auction at Bonhams New Asian Headquarters

Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy
Classical, Modern and Contemporary Ink
25 May 2014
Hong Kong, Admiralty

Bonhams celebrated its first auction of Classical and Modern Chinese Ink Paintings at its new permanent Auction Gallery located at Suite 2001, One Pacific Place, Admiralty with the highest price Bonhams has ever achieved for a painting by the famous 20th century artist Zhang Daqian. The sale saw consistently strong bidding for the top lots after an enthusiastic three days of preview, followed by a large audience in the purpose-built saleroom.

The most exciting lot in the auction was also the highest priced, and was consigned by an Asian collector who had a conservative idea of its auction value. Bonhams suggested a cautious estimate of HK$2 to 3 million, but in the event strong bidding from at least six collectors resulted in the final price of HK$9,040,000. The subject of the painting by Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), 'A Pair of Songbirds Perched Amidst Red Leaves', is an extremely unusual subject matter for the artist, who painted this at the peak of his powers in his 50th year.

The sale included paintings from a wide range of periods popular with collectors. The most important work from the Ming dynasty was a long panel of calligraphy dated 1555 by the outstanding artist Wen Zhengming (1470-1559). It recounts a famous Ming fictional story, 'The Tale of the Old Drunkard Pavilion' and the panel was accompanied by a number of extensive colophons by later connoisseurs and artists. The subject of keen bidding among collectors attracted to the finest classical Ming paintings and calligraphy, the lot sold within estimates at the high price of HK$7,840,000.

One of the most extraordinary lots in the sale was the largest fan painting ever offered at an auction at Bonhams. Painted by Huang Binhong (1865-1955) 'Landscape' was a mastery depiction of an elaborate landscape on the very large crescent shaped paper panel, and measured 128cm wide. Given the unusual format, the estimate was only HK$800,000 to 1,200,000, but two Asian private collectors drove the final price to an unprecedented HK$5,680,000 million.

This sale featured a number of exceptional prices by well-known 20th century artists, which was overall the strongest section of the sale. 'Nomads Travelling' by Huang Zhou (1925-1997) vastly exceeded its low estimate of HK$500,000 to sell at HK$4,600,000; while another painting by the same artist, 'Lady with Hens', flew beyond its low estimate of HK$350,000 to achieve HK$1,720,000 million.

A second exceptional work by Zhang Daqian 'Landscape in Switzerland' formerly in the collection of Wang Deguan, recalls the occasion that Zhang stayed with the collector in Switzerland. The impressive provenance saw a low estimate of HK$1 million easily exceeded by the final price of HK$3,880,000.

The final total for the sale exceeded HK$66 million, setting a high note for the first full fortnight of coordinated sales covering six categories in the new dramatic architect designed specialist auction centre.


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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