‘Highest-estimated Asian artwork’ in HK worth HK$350m-HK$450m fails to sell at Christie’s auction

Source: Christie's

25th May 2021 – (Hong Kong) Slave and Lion — an oil painting claimed to be a milestone work for Xu Beihong and Chinese modern art history has failed to be sold at Christie’s auction The prized artwork estimated at HK$350 million – HK$450 million only attracted bids up to HK$320 million at Christie’s Evening Sale auction yesterday evening. The auctioneer had to deliberate for almost 10 minutes before passing the lot.

According to Christie’s, between 1919 and 1926, Xu Beihong  often referred to as the father of modern Chinese painting lived in Europe. He studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris and enjoyed observing and imitating techniques from classical European art in the museums, he also frequented different cities to draw inspiration from nature. 

It’s said that in 1922 he spent every day for three months sketching lions in the Berlin Zoological Garden. ‘I love to depict lions’, Xu said. ‘I have seen them smile, I have touched them in proximity, I have heard them roar angrily, and I have watched them dance.’  

Slave and Lion. Picture credit: Christie’s

All this practice would serve the artist well in the many depictions of lions he produced later in his career none more memorable than Slave and Lion, which as being offered in a single-lot, Evening sale at Christie’s Hong Kong yesterday.

As one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century, he paved the way for Chinese Realism and pioneered modern art education in China. The work carried an estimate of HK$350,000,000 – 450,000,000/ US$45,000,000 – 58,000,000, the highest estimated Asian artwork ever offered at auction.