Top prices for a collection of modern Chinese paintings

This year Lempertz in Berlin discovered an up till now unknown, unusual private collection of highly important Chinese paintings. The total of 37 hanging scrolls were offered in a special catalogue and included paintings from artists such as Qi Baishi (known as the Chinese Picasso), Zhang Daqian and Fu Baoshi, the leading and most expensive Chinese artist to date. It is rare that a collection with such a provenance comes onto the market: so great was the interest that ahead of the auction a German collector already offered to buy the complete collection.

The leader of the collection was Zhang Daqian's (1899 - 1983) hanging scroll Journey to the Red Wall, and intense demand pushed the work from 40/60.000 Euros to 186.000 (lot 190). A painting of a landscape with a pavillion in the style of Huang Binhong (1865 - 1955) was equally treasured, reaching a sale of 155.000 (lot 177, 10/15.000). Another work going back to China is Qi Baishi's (1864 - 1957) Schrimps, rising up to 111.600 (lot 171, 20/30.000), whilst a hanging scroll by the  same artist depicting morning glories sold for 72.000 (lot 170, 60/80.000).

There was great demand for a hanging scroll by Gao Jianfu of the Lingnan School (1879 - 1951), whose cockerel and chickens under a snake gourd started at 10/15.000 and ended at 81.800 (lot 183). His picture of chrysanthemums also rose to reach 34.700 (lot 182). A singing bird on a banana tree by another artist of the Lingnan School, Gao Qifeng (1889 - 1933) rose steeply from 4/6.000 to 69.400 (lot 185), whilst cabbages in a basket from the same artist jumped from 8/10.000 to 69.400 (lot 184). Chrysanthemums on a rock by Wu Changshuo (1844 - 1927) found a new owner for 62.000 (lot 16, 50/60.000), whilst a painting of bamboo by Xu Beihong (1895 - 1953) changed hands for 49.600 (lot 188, 40/60.000)


Two thirds of the hanging scrolls were acquired from Guo Ruping (1913 - 1992), a well known collector and art dealer of Chinese painting, who also sold many important works to the Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst in Berlin in the 1960s and 70s. Many of the works sold by Guo also had important previous owners. For example the scrolls from the artists of the Lingnan School Gao Jainfu (lots 182 and 183, 34.700 and 81.800), Gao Qinfeng (lots 184 and 185, 64.500 and 69.400), as well as He Chong (lot 180) were once in the collection of Dr. med. Otto who taught as a guest lecturer in Canton medicine at the Sun-Yat Unversity in the 1930s and knew the Gao brothers personally, who in turn assisted him with his collection. The painting from Gao Qifeng is personally dedicated to Dr. Otto, in Cantonese Hodou (Chinese Hedao) (lot 185, 69.400).

The painting by Zhang Daqian (lot 190, 186.000) was previously owned by Jerg Haas, Chinese Xia Hansi, who taught at the university for foreign languages in Shanghai as a 25 year old during the Cultural Revolution, and who also brought together his own collection whilst there.