Specialist Picks—Heritage Auctions: East Meets West

On occasion of this year’s Asia Week, dozens of galleries, auction houses, private dealers, and museums open their doors to beautifully curated exhibitions of some of the most exquisite works hailing from every corner of the Asian continent. For this 10-day long festival, Heritage and Artsy have curated a sale called “East Meets West,” bringing together works by established artists of Asian descent. Here are a few highlights to consider for your collection, especially if you are looking to expand. 

Hiroshi Sugimoto

This exceptional work is from Sugimoto’s series Theaters, for which the Japanese photographer traveled to American movie palaces and drive-ins to condense an entire passage of a movie into a single shot. Aspiring to capture all of a film’s light, imagery, and emotion in one frame, Sugimoto once explained that a brighter screen featured a more optimistic movie, while a darker screen signaled a melancholic story. With the gleaming, shining screen, the theater becomes an otherworldly setting, almost akin to a place of worship or meditation. The present lot features the Akron Civic Theater, one of sixteen atmospheric theaters from the 1920s still in existence in the United States. Sugimoto’s work is held in the collections of the Tate Gallery, London, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York among many others.

Gu Wenda

Gu Wenda is a renowned, Chinese avant-garde artist who is most famous for his use of pseudo-languages written in the style of traditional Chinese calligraphy. In the early 1980s, Gu began creating these ink paintings, with what appeared to be old and meaningful characters yet, in reality, they offered no linguistic sense. The artist was preoccupied with language as subject, exploring its functions, nuances, and most importantly, its suppression. In 1984, he exhibited his work in Wuhan City through the help of China Art Research Institute and Shanxi Artist Association. This exhibition was closed by authorities who felt there was a hidden, aggressive meaning behind his undecipherable characters. This poignant moment marked the beginning of conceptual ink art in China; Gu’s influence in contemporary ink painting cannot be understated. The present lot is an original ink painting, and is a powerful example of this artistic focus. His art has been included in countless publications and surveys of art history, and has exhibited internationally from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York to Art Basel, Hong Kong. 

Chitra Ganesh

This original work by Chitra Ganesh is also a personal favorite. This artist draws inspiration from non-Western figures, non-canonical stories, Bollywood posters, and lesser-known Hindu deities to create a complex, multi-layered alternate reality in which women and marginalized individuals are front and center. These female figures appear dangerous yet alluring, and are imbued with absolute strength and power. Ganesh has been exhibited widely, from a 2014 installation at the Brooklyn Museum, to the Queens Museum of Art, to MOCA Shanghai. Her work is also included in prominent institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and more. 

Hiroshi Sugimoto

This work is from Sugimoto's more recent Architecture series, for which the artist traveled far and wide in the 1990s to capture notable landmarks around the world. Though these architectural features would usually be immediately recognizable, Sugimoto’s angles and out-of-focus style dissolve any sense of location, time, and history. The present lot features the Satellite City Towers dreamed up by renowned Mexican architects Luis Barragán and Mathías Goeritz. Situated right in the middle of one of the busiest streets in Mexico City’s metropolitan area, they are considered to be a symbol of regeneration and growth in the new century. Though easily identified from a distance by their striking primary colors, Sugimoto transforms the towers into architectural ghosts. Works from this series have been shown at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago as well as Sonnabend Gallery in 2003 before its closing. 

Huang Yan

Huang Yan’s work merges the human body with Chinese landscape painting, one of the oldest and most revered artistic traditions in the world. These gorgeous, introspective scroll paintings were not only of huge influence to the Heian Court painters of 10th century Japan and European landscape artists, but also have had a profound and continuous impact on Chinese visual culture. Huang Yan takes this tradition and gives it a decidedly contemporary twist, using the human body as a canvas with outlines of mountains, visible brushstrokes, and atmospheric washes. Through his unique combination of painting, performance, and photography, the artist conceptually joins the “contemporary Chinese body” with its remarkable history and heritage. The present lot is an excellent example of his style, as he depicts the same painting through different poses, allowing the human body to contribute to the overall piece with every movement. 

Explore Heritage Auctions: East Meets West, exclusively on Artsy. For any direct inquiries, you may reach out to specialist@artsymail.com.