Burmese Art 100% Sold with Three Artist Records Set at Bonhams Southeast Asian Art Sale

Hong Kong – In Bonhams' Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art Sale on 28 May, all five lots of Burmese modern paintings were sold, setting a total of 3 artist auction records for Win Pe, Paw Oo Thet and Aung Khin. The five works, alongside two paintings by Singaporean artist Seah Kim Joo, come fresh-to-the-market from the collection of Professor Josef Silverstein and Marilyn Cooper Silverstein. The collection is 100% sold.

Bernadette Rankine, Bonhams Director of Southeast Asia, commented: "At Bonhams, we dare to go against the tide of convention to offer collectors something unusual but undeniably great. The Burmese modern paintings from the Silverstein Collection make an excellent example. They are not by auction megastars, but with a global stage like Bonhams, these works found new admirers – reaching the wider audience that they deserve. This shows our dedication to, and leadership in, the Southeast Asian Art category, focusing not on the top the pyramid top, but across all price points, for all collectors, and their desires and passions."

Paw Oo Thet's Pagan, the leading lot of the Burmese section, sold for HK$318,000 (estimate: HK$80,000-120,000). In Pagan, the artist has skilfully captured the glowing radiance of Pagan temples and their surroundings through semi-abstract forms and innovative uses of lines and colours. The compelling hybrid aesthetics not only create a transcendental visual experience of the sublime, but also affirm Paw Oo Thet's status as Myanmar's seminal pioneer artist of the 20th century.

Win Pe is one of Myanmar's most celebrated living artists and a forefront figure in the country's modern art movements. His Strawberry Seller, which sold for HK$267,600 (estimate: HK$70,000-200,000), is a special scene resonant with the Silversteins, who often explored Burma's open markets full of food, spices, and handicrafts. The painting was hung in their dining room for over 60 years, and often puzzled visitors as the berries thrive in cool, not tropical, mountain climate.

The other painting by Win Pe, Water Festival, sold for HK$102,000 (estimate: HK$80,000-200,000), was created in 1961 when Win Pe was one of Josef's students at Mandalay University, and at the same time a cartoonist for People's Daily. The image was created as a roughly drawn poster for a local event, which Josef saw and admired. Josef went on to ask Win Pe to rework it into a fully thought-out painting and eventually acquired it.

Aung Khin's Backstage at a Pwe, which vividly captures the hurly-burly energy of the theatre and conveys the essence of Myanmar's rich culture observed by the artist, sold for HK$153,000 (estimate: HK$60,000-80,000).

A young academic couple in the mid-1950s, Professor Josef Silverstein and Marilyn Cooper Silverstein paid their first visit to Rangoon, Burma and began collecting art. They went on to become good friends and supporters of the three leading artists in Myanmar's modern art movements in the 1960s: Paw Oo Thet (1936-1993), Win Pe (b. 1935), and Aung Khin (1921-1996), who at the time were eager to learn about the West. The friendship allowed them to share their love for the art and music of both cultures, and the Silversteins gradually formed a unique collection of early works by these modern artists, which are now rarely seen on the market.

Other notable results of the sale include:

Hendra Gunawan (1918-1983), Kerokan sold for HK$2,271,000. Estimate: HK$1,000,000-2,000,000.

Le Pho (1907-2001) Composition sold for HK$1,515,000. Estimate: HK$680,000-820,000.

Nguyen Khang (1912-1989) Nha Rong Wharf sold for HK$ 1,137,000. Estimate: HK$ 550,000-850,000.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest and most renowned auctioneers, offering fine art and antiques, motor cars and jewellery. The main salerooms are in London, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, with auctions also held in Knightsbridge, Edinburgh, Paris, San Francisco and Sydney. With a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 22 countries, Bonhams offers advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full list of forthcoming auctions, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, please visit bonhams.com.


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