Chen Dapeng: Chinese sculptor with world vision


Accolades for Chen Dapeng at the Paris Louvre Exhibition last year

Chen Dapeng, a sculptor already enjoying wide popularity in his native China, is now firmly set for making an impact worldwide. At the end of last year, he exhibited successfully at the world famous Musee de Louvre in Paris from November 7-11 on the occasion of the 19th World Intangible Cultural Heritage Exhibition. He is currently making final arrangements for a US tour, the details of which will be announced next month (full details will be available here). Thereafter, he intends to return to Paris for another exhibition.


Chen Dapeng: in the footsteps of Rodin?

Chen Dapeng was born in 1962 in Hunan province. During the 1990s he was a friend and pupil of Chinese sculptor Pan He and currently lives and works in Songjiang, on the outskirts of Shanghai where he works from a dramatically-designed studio, which he created himself.

chen da peng home bst

Chen Dapeng’s home & studio in China.     Photo Paul Harris

He believes that sculpture is a cultural patrimony shared by all humankind and says that he found enormous support in France. ‘Local artists in Paris described me as ‘the modern Rodin’, he told us but added, ‘Westerners may know sculptures but they don’t know Chinese culture. I simply hope that my sculptures serve as a good interpreter to spread Chinese culture throughout the world.’

Chen Dapeng’s sculptures are in many private and public collections in China. Some of his work in stone and metal is on a very large scale and features in public places, like parks and squares. Work on a smaller scale in bronze, wood and maquette form is in private collections in China and abroad. His work very much takes a historical perspective and its essential realism makes it easily accessible to Chinese and foreigners alike. In this way, it represents a good introduction to Chinese art when shown abroad.

Inter alia, Chen Dapeng is the writer of more than 1,000 poems, carrying on the ancient and honourable tradition of the Chinese scholar artist.



Unusual Chinese art images seven Footbinding

Continuing our popular series . . .

footbinding maybe the last pic

Picture courtesy Joseph Rupp

Not only unusual, this photograph showing the effects of foot binding is probably one of the last taken of the ancient tradition. This is an extraordinary picture taken by the German photographer Joseph Rupp in 2007 of an 87 year-old woman, Zhou Guizhen, and graphically displays the long term effect of the practice. Foot binding, which started during the Song Dynasty almost 1,000 years ago was introduced both as an instrument of fashion and also as a deliberate way of impeding the movement of women. It was not banned until the end of the Qing dynasty, in 1911.

China auctions recover in 2013

jade dragon

The message is clear in recently released figures for 2013 from the major international auction houses: without sales in Asia, the market would be flat-lining and it is both there, and in the contemporary art market, where most future growth looks likely to be.

Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s sales in Asia, principally out of Hong Kong, recovered dramatically last year after a pronounced dip in 2012 (as we recently predicted would happen). Christie’s report sales up last year in Asia from US$705.4m. to $977.5m. last year. Sotheby’s increase in sales was even more pronounced: up from $5592.9m. in 2012, to $931.4m. last year.

In 2012, China’s principal auction houses had seen revenue almost halve. That trend has been sharply reversed.  At Beijing’s Poly Auctions, which is effectively government owned via the military colossus, sales leapt from the equivalent of $965m. (RMB 6.1bn.) to $1.3bn (RMB 7.9bn.). At China Guardian, the second largest auction house, sales were up from $820m. (RMB 5.2bn.) to just over $1bn. (RMB 6.6bn.). No figures have been issued in relation to hammer sales unpaid for but, after the setbacks experienced by Chinese auctioneers between 2010 and 2012, it might be assumed that they now have a handle on that particular situation.

Global results saw Christie’s easily beat Sotheby’s to the top spot with total sales of $5.9bn. with Sotheby’s managing $5.1bn. That having been said, Sotheby’s’ saw a faster year on year revenue growth of 19% as opposed to 12%. Christie’s overtook Sotheby’s in the currently fashionable contemporary art market and without that growth the two would have very much found themselves at similar levels.

Unusual Chinese art images six The Changsha Meixihu International Culture & Art Centre

Chengdu Contemporary Art centre architects drawing

Picture courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects

It may look more like an airport or, even, space station but this is the architect’s impression of what the new Chengdu contemporary art centre in Changsha is going to look like!

This is the latest project in the so-called ‘Tier 2’ cities of China. It will be enormous: a massive 115,000 square metre cultural hub called the Changsha Meixihu International Culture and Art Centre. It is scheduled to open in October 2015 and, knowing China, we guess it will be on time!

The complex is being designed by London-based operation Zaha Hadid Architects who have been responsible for many ambitious futuristic, big budget projects in countries such as Dubai, Qatar and the PRC. In China, the firm designed the stunning Guangzhou Opera House (2004-10). The work of Baghdad-born Zaha Hadid (63) has been recognised internationally and she was created a Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

Chen Chengwei tip for buyers of Chinese contemporary art

We note that yesterday Paul Fraser of the well known collectibles site, published his tips for four ‘hot’ contemporary artists who he thinks will gain wider recognition (and higher prices) during 2014. He tips Chinese artist Chen Chengwei saying ‘the hype around Chengwei is growing but has yet to reach fever pitch’.

chen chengweiChen  Chengwei : artist to look out for . . .

Chengwei, born in 1984, is already commanding healthy prices at auction in China. His works are meticulously executed in a very individual photo-realist style and, as such, represent virtually precise, richly colored copies of people and scenes depicted. For some people, they may not exactly be the most exciting or challenging works but they do, nevertheless, demonstrate considerable reserves of skill and application.

chen chengwei village memory

Village Memory

In November 2013, Beijing Huachen Auctions achieved a price of US$12,919 for his picture titled Village Memory and his total sales value at auction last year reached $442,000. His best price ever, $71,187, was achieved last year at Poly International Auction House in Beijing for China No. 4 – Beauty.

chen chengwei 'china no.4 beauty' China No. 4 – Beauty

Doubtless, we shall hear more of Chengwei in the short/medium term. Whether or not his works stand the test of time depends on trends in the wider market.


The Year of the Horse is upon us!

The Year of the Horse is almost upon us! January 31 sees the beginning of the Chinese New Year.


One of the prime exponents of the art of the horse has to be Chinese artist Xu Beihong (1895-1953). Here he manages to capture the energy and the pride of the animal. Indubitably, his best pictures were of horses.

In Chinese astrology, the Year of the Horse is regarded as a lucky one which will bring good things. The horse of legend embodies many desirable characteristics: strength, courage and resilience. The horse is regarded as a heroic presence, not least because important battles throughout history were won due to its strength and power. The two pictures here do, we think, reflect those characteristics.

Below we have a superb ink drawing. We have not been able to identify the artist as yet (if you recognise who it might be do let us know!). A beautiful piece of draughtsmanship, it is a spirited work which well captures the capricious nature of the horse. . .

lr scroll ,horse, pen & ink

Photographs courtesy Chinese Art in Scotland. Both pictures can be seen on their site and are available for purchase.


Unusual Chinese Art Images five The £50m. vase . . .

Continuing our series of the unusual . . .

Mary Katrantzou dress

The model is wearing a dress designed by Mary Katrantzou. Notice anything familiar about it? Full marks if you recognise the fact that the design is based on the notorious £50 million vase (which eventually was sold by private treaty at around £20m.). The Quianlong vase, thought to have Imperial connections, was sold for £53.1m. by Ruislip auctioneers, Bainbridges, in November 2010.

For anybody who might have forgotten, here is said vase . . .

£50m vase Quianlong

The question is – Which do you prefer, the dress or the vase?


Chinese art market booms in Paris

drouot's chinese buyer examines

A Chinese buyer examines a porcelain piece at a Drouot pre-auction exhibition in Paris    Picture by Li Xiang, China Daily

The market for Chinese works of art is not just booming in acknowledged centres like London and New York, but auction houses and dealers in Paris are reporting a substantial growth in the number of Chinese buyers.

An associate director of French auction house Artcurial, Isabelle Bresset, was quoted in a recent issue of China Daily, as saying, ‘We have seen the number of Chinese clients double over the past year. More than 90 per cent of the visitors at the pre-auction exhibitions of Asian art are from Asia.’

Nearby, at  legendary French auction house Drouot, Catherine Delvaux, chief of communications, thinks the trend has taken place over a rather longer period, ‘The steady growth of the Asian market is perhaps one of the most important trends in the global art market in the past decade. Everyone in the market, including auctioneers, dealers and fair organisers, is interested in touching base with wealthy Chinese collectors.’

The UK’s weekly ‘bible’ for all antiques auctions, The Antiques Trade Gazette, is now replete with colourful full page advertisements for Asian sales throughout Europe, and especially Paris.

In France alone, the total sales for Asian art exceeded 200 million euros in 2012, accounting for 24% of all sales in the French art market. These are figures which can be relied upon as they are issued by the Conseil de Ventes, the French auction regulatory authority.

Many experts are saying that whilst sales figures may be declining on mainland China, they are actually increasing abroad where Chinese buyers are more comfortable away from the fakes and forgeries which mar the marketplace at home. As one Chinese dealer put it to us, ‘I am much more comfortable buying from a major auction house in Europe. They tend to ‘weed out’ the forgeries, do good research and can be relied upon.’

Note: The record for a piece of Chinese art sold in a French auction house still stands at US$31 million which was paid in 2011 for an 18th century Quianlong period silk scroll painting.

Unusual Chinese Art Images four At the Morgan

The latest in our series of images featuring Chinese art . . .


Girl in the Chinese Porcelain Room: At the Morgan Collection (1910) by Matilda Auchincloss Brownell (American 1871-1966)

This beautiful, rich oil painting shows Susan Kirkham Worcester (1873-1958) and was in the possession of the Worcester family, to which it was gifted in the early 1960s by the artist. The artist had not intended it to be available on the open market and it was exhibited, a few years after completion, at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, a world’s fair held in San Francisco in 1915 that celebrated the completion of the Panama Canal.

Picture courtesy Skinner Inc., Auctioneers, Massachussetts, USA


Forbes: Chinese Contemporary Art is going Global

Just a few days ago, we reported The Wall Street Journal’s distinctly downbeat assessment of the Chinese art scene, drawn from the records of Chinese auctioneers and Artnet.

Much of this ‘evidence’ is discounted by an article just published by the influential US Forbes Magazine. We quote, ‘Be it auction records, international museums initiatives, prominent collectors’ efforts, or bienniale and art fairs’ focus, 2013 was a tremendous year for Chinese contemporary art. And 2014 will be equally so, if not more.’

Significantly, the Forbes evidence is drawn not from 2012 (as The Wall Street Journal’s article was) but from the rather more recent year, 2013. It pointed, as an example, to the price of US$23.3m. paid for a painting by 49-year old Zeng Fanzhi. The painting, The Last Supper, was, interestingly, bought by a non-Chinese collector. Fanzhi was shown in 2014 by the Musee d’Art Moderne in Paris which mounted a major retrospective of the relatively young artist’s work..


The Last Supper by Zeng Fanzhi (2001) sold for US$23.3m. by Sothebys

The article also points to the involvement in mainland China in 2013 of both Sothebys and Christies. Also, The Guggenheim announced in April that it will partner with the Robert H N Ho Family Foundation to acquire Chinese contemporary art for the museum’s permanent collection.

Forbes also says that ‘influential’ US collectors Don and Mera Rubell have used their entire museum space in Miami to showcase 28 Chinese Contemporary Artists. Meantime, the 2013 Venice Bienniale featured nearly 350 Chinese artists.

In 2014, the Armoury’s Show (March 6-9) will have its focus on China in a selection made by Philip Tinari, Director of the UCCA.

Never before have so many influential players in the art world had their eyes focused hard on China . . . watch this space.


Unusual Chinese Art Images three

The latest in our series of unusual or surprising Chinese art images. . .

Image 012

Portrait of Mao by Qiu Jie (2007) Lead on paper, 250x168cm.

We have previously noted the exciting and distinctive work of Qiu Jie, who has exhibited internationally. Qiu Jie is a pseudonym meaning ‘outsider’, a political as well as an artistic statement. His works are generally executed on a large scale and his command of the pencil is unequalled in China today. Portrait of Mao is also a play on words: ‘mao’ means ‘cat’ in Mandarin. The Saatchi Gallery showed this work and opined ‘Qiu’s sentimental homage offers a surrealist vision that’s alchemically toxic, and seductively coy.’ The calligraphy is reminiscent of Song dynasty masterworks, the foreground foliage of more traditional elements of Chinese art. But the confident, almost smug, cat dominates.