By Eugene Tang
June 1 (Bloomberg) -- Wu Guanzhong's ``Ancient City of Jiaohe'' sold
for a record 37 million yuan ($4.8 million) last night at Poly Auction
Co. in Beijing, on the day the Chinese stock market recovered from its
worst slump in three months.
The one-square-meter (10.8 square feet) depiction of a ruined city,
painted during Wu's 1981 teaching sojourn in western China's Xinjiang
province, was estimated by Poly to sell for 15 million yuan. The buyer
was identified only by his surname Cai.
Cai was among hundreds of collectors crowding Poly's inaugural night
sale, scheduled to avoid clashing with the spate of summer art
auctions that typically take place on weekends in the Chinese capital.
Of 65 paintings on offer, 48 reached or exceeded their high estimates.
The sale totaled 247 million yuan.
``People have gone crazy,'' said Sun Liangliang, after his 4 million
yuan bid for Shi Chong's ``Contemporary Scenery'' was surpassed by a
rival's 15 million yuan offer. ``They're paying 10 million yuan as if
it's 100,000 yuan. If you want prove that there's too much money in
Beijing, just watch this market.''
Cai, a private collector who declined to give his full name, bought
two of the eight Wu Guanzhong oil paintings on auction, paying 42
million yuan, not including a 10 percent buyer's premium.
``Jiaohe'' was last sold in 1991 by Sotheby's Holdings auction for
HK$2.55 million ($326,900), a record at that time for Chinese oil
paintings outside the country.
``Jiaohe is the epitome of Wu's work,'' said Chang Tiangu, Poly's art
director. ``This is the piece that a true collector and admirer of
Wu's work would aspire to.''
Poly's record prices extend a trend that has seen paintings from
China's contemporary artists regularly sell for many times the
expected price. On May 27, Christie's International sold a record $79
million of 20th century Chinese art and Asian Contemporary works. Yue
Minjun's ``Portrait of the Artist and His Friends'' fetched HK$20.5
million, five times the presale top estimate.
At Poly's auction, Yue's ``Untitled'' sold for 1.7 million yuan,
beating the 1.2 million yuan top estimate.
Wang Yidong's ``Innocent Years,'' depicting a newlywed couple's
journey home, sold for an artist record of 8.5 million yuan, beating
the 6.7 million yuan fetched in December for his oil painting of a
girl playing cards.
Wang, 52, paints in a signature style that dresses a maiden entirely
in bright red against a backdrop that's usually a darkened interior or
the stark snow-covered landscape of his native Shandong province. He
began his art training at 17 and has held exhibitions in Tokyo, Paris,
Rome and the U.S.
Three oil paintings by Zeng Fanzhi, a favorite among overseas
collectors of Chinese contemporary art, surpassed top estimates. His
``Mask No. 14'' sold for 8 million yuan, his portrait ``Andy Warhol''
fetched 2.4 million yuan, while ``Landscape'' sold at 4 million yuan.
Mao Yan's ``Memory or the Dancing Black Rose'' sold for 9.1 million
yuan, triple the top estimate.
The auction wasn't all smooth sailing. Xia Xing's ``Perfume in
February'' was auctioned twice. The painting depicting a naked maiden
was first sold for 820,000 yuan. Fifteen minutes later the auctioneer
put the painting back on the block. This time the hammer came down at
750,000 yuan -- to a different winner. Poly officials declined to
explain the discrepancy.
To contact the reporter on this story: Eugene Tang in Beijing on