Ashmolean gifted mega collection of Chinese modern art

Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum has been bequeathed the largest private collection of modern and contemporary Chinese art held in the West.

More than 400 modern and contemporary pieces of Chinese art have been left to the Museum by the art historian and connoisseur Professor Michael Sullivan, who died in September at the age of 96. Press reports have estimated the value of the collection at ‘more than £15m.’. In our view, £150m. would be nearer the mark: the collection contains works by Qi Baishi (12864-1957), Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), Fu Baoshi (1904-64) and contemporary painter Xu Bing (born 1955). A work by Qi Baishi recently fetched more than $40m.

Professor Sullivan was not only the first person in the West to collect Chinese modern art, but he was also the author of the ground breaking book Chinese Art in the 20th Century (1955). A regular visitor to China, he struck up personal relationships with many Chinese artists and his collection includes a significant number of works gifted to him. There is already a gallery at the Ashmolean named after him and his wife, The Khoan and Michael Sullivan Gallery, and in March 2014 there will be a commemorative exhibition Michael Sullivan: a Life of Art and Friendship.

The works in the newly acquired collection will be shown in rotation by the Museum.

Michael_Sullivan, Huang Xiang 2011

Professor Michael Sullivan pictured 2011 on a visit to China with artist Huang Xian