Sotheby’s HK sale of Asian art has started on a good footing. Its AM sale for Modern and Contemporary SE Asia art raised $10 million, with a respectable 80% of the lots sold and various records broken. “Father of Indonesian modernism” - S. Sudjojono’s A New Dawn sold for an impressive $1.4 million, over 4 times the high estimate with a fierce bidding battle among nine bidders. One of my favourite paintings, Ronald Ventura’s Natural Lies (photo) fetched $326,000, nine times its estimate and a new record for the artist. In this powerful piece, a young boy with a Pinocchio-like nose is surrounded by fantasy creatures who prod and tease him. Seating in a cluttered, dirty environment, the child appears in quiet contemplation against chaos. The little vermin play musical instruments into his ear, while wearing gas masks; a winged figure casually drops a bomb, while a perverted bronze figure politely makes his way through the child’s parted limbs. The Pinocchio-like nose is not a product of lying but of stress, of innocence in a malicious world.
Some of the auction’s best sellers included Belgian artist Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merpres’s Atelier de Tissage, a beautiful example of his impressionist style which brought in about $640,000. Affandi’s 1979 Self Portrait and its dynamic brushstrokes sold for $325,000. Sok Ngirit (Pretending to be Prudent) by Masriadi sold for $648,000, making him still the darling of the SE Asian contemporary art world. However, the price was only a touch higher than the one achieved for I’m Still Lucky, maybe indicating that the artist’s prices are starting to pick? Other artist records were set for works by several Indonesian artists including Gede Mahendra Yasa, Ay Tjoe Christine, Samsul Arifin, Hendra Gunawan and Filipino artist Andres Barrioquinto.