5 Can’t-Miss Works by Leading Contemporary Artists Heading to Poly Auction’s 10th Anniversary Sales This July

The Chinese auction house's Modern and contemporary art sales will take place from July 9 to July 14 and feature works by high-profile artists.

Katherine Bernhardt, Gold Pepsi Eyes (2019). Courtesy of Poly Auctions.
Katherine Bernhardt, Gold Pepsi Eyes (2019). Courtesy of Poly Auction Hong Kong.

In a market dominated by auction houses that have been in business for centuries, Poly Auction Hong Kong has made quite a splash since it was founded ten years ago. The young firm’s subsidiary, Beijing Poly International Auction, is today the largest auction house in China, with the highest auction transaction volume of Chinese art globally. 

Poly’s influence extends far beyond China, too, and in the past few years the house has carved out unique partnerships with its Western counterparts, including Philips and Artnet Auctions. It has found remarkable success by introducing Asian collectors to Western contemporary artists, as well as the reverse. Even amid the financial and business tumult of recent years, Poly Auction Hong Kong concluded 2021 with an impressive HK$2.6 billion in sales. 

To celebrate its 10-year anniversary, Poly Auctions is hosting a week of high-profile auctions including both Modern and contemporary evening and day sales (July 12 and 13, respectively), with a number of covetable works by trending artists. 

Ahead of the auctions, we’ve handpicked five works heading to Poly Auction’s Modern and contemporary art evening sale that we don’t think you should miss. Check out our picks below.

Xie Nanxing
The First Round with a Whip No.2 (The Wave No.2) (2008)
Estimate: HK$3,500,000–5,500,000

Xie Nanxing, The First Round with a Whip No.2 (The Wave No.2) (2008). Courtesy of Poly Auctions.

Xie Nanxing, The First Round with a Whip No.2 (The Wave No.2) (2008). Courtesy of Poly Auction Hong Kong.

With his progressive vision, Xie Nanxing has become one of the most significant Chinese artists in the contemporary field. Born in Chongqing in 1970, the artist first came to wider attention at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, where he showed a series of distinctive portraits. The First Round With a Whip No.2 (The Wave No.2), created in 2008, marks a clear departure from his works from the 1990s and early 2000s.

The painting is part of a series consisting of three works—titled No.1, No.2, and No.3 respectively—that were shown in his solo exhibition “BIG SHOW” at the Galerie Urs Meile in Beijing the same year they were painted. In these works, the artist intended to explore the idea of the “Freudian slip,” an unintentional verbal or physical manifestation of subconscious feelings, as coined by famed psychologist Sigmund Freud.

The works are meant to play a visual game of concealing and revealing meaning—both from the viewers and the artist himself. In The First Round With a Whip No.2 (The Wave No.2), a group of children are faintly depicted with their elongated figures shrouded in a blue halo. The mysterious image immerses us in a long, dizzying game of looking. 

 

Huang Yuxing
Red Cliff (
2017)
Estimate: HK$ 1,000,000–2,000,000

Huang Yuxing, Red Cliff (2017). Courtesy of Poly Auctions.

Huang Yuxing, Red Cliff (2017). Courtesy of Poly Auction Hong Kong.

One of the most important Chinese artists to emerge in the 1970s, Huang Yuxing is known for his fantastical imaginary worlds, from futuristic cityscapes to natural wonders, made from jewel-like blocks of neon color. Red Cliff is a quintessential example of the artist’s defining aesthetic, showing a river shining against richly textured mountains.

Red Cliff has strong cultural connotations as well—the ancient Battle of Red Cliff in the winter of 208 C.E. was a pivotal moment at the end of the Han Dynasty, in which a smaller group of soldiers overcame a larger army.

One hundred years after the battle, the poet Su Shi would visit Red Cliff, writing his famous verse First Visit to the Red Cliff, which delves into the tensions between the beauty of illusion and the harshness of reality. In Red Cliff, Huang Yuxing seems to respond to Su Shi’s lines with a sense of anxious contemplation and exuberant visual effects.

 

Adrian Ghenie
Lidless Eye (2016–18)
Estimate: HK $50,000,000–75,000,000

Adrian Ghenie, Lidless Eye (2016–2018).

Adrian Ghenie, Lidless Eye (2016–18). Courtesy of Poly Auction Hong Kong.

Born in Romania during the late 1970s, Adrian Ghenie has earned widespread acclaim for his expressive, visceral style of painting. Lidless Eye is a self-portrait and sets itself apart as one of the largest such depictions by the artist to appear on the market to date.

The painting is both a tribute to and inspired by Vincent van Gogh, whom Ghenie has named as one of his greatest creative influences and whom the artist considers a spiritual mentor.

Ghenie’s 2014 painting The Sunflowers in 1937 is another obvious tribute to Van Gogh. In February 2016, the work sold for a stunning £2.65 million, an auction record at the time for the artist.

 

Tomokazu Matsuyama
Hollow Moon Hypothesis (2014)
Estimate: HK $650,000–1,000,000

Tomokazu Matsuyama, Hollow Moon Hypothesis (2014). Courtesy of Poly Auctions.

Tomokazu Matsuyama, Hollow Moon Hypothesis (2014). Courtesy of Poly Auction Hong Kong.

Artist Tomokazu Matsuyama combines aspects of traditional Japanese painting with a strong sense of Western Expressionism in his work, and the painting Hollow Moon Hypothesis is a premier example of this. Here one recognizes distinctive ukiyo-e elements, particularly a likeness to 19th-century artist Ogata Gekko’s portrayal of the Japanese samurai, in terms of the composition.

The figures of the young men on horseback, however, seem plucked from an American Boy Scouts guide. Still, the two disparate references meld into something new and playful, the fighting spirit of the samurai and the cowboy, creating an imaginative cross-cultural tableau, marked by bold colors and patterns. 

 

Godwin Champs Namuyimba
Arise and Shine (2021)
Estimate: HK $500,000–800,000

Godwin Champs Namuyimba, Arise and Shine (2021). Courtesy of Poly Auctions.

Godwin Champs Namuyimba, Arise and Shine (2021). Courtesy of Poly Auction Hong Kong.

Ugandan artist Godwin Champs Namuyimba (b. 1989) centers his work around the people in his life, as a form of both personal introspection and ethnic identification. In the portrait Arise and Shine, the background is filled with richly colored designs and patterns, many of which are symbolic of African culture.

A Black man is pictured calmly sitting cross-legged on a sofa, confidently looking at viewers, wearing an astronaut suit and with a helmet resting on the sofa beside him. Such Afrofuturistic symbolism frequently appears in the artist’s works, which put Black figures at the center of conversations about human history.


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