Art Market

A Sanyu nude painting is expected to fetch around $13 million at Sotheby’s.

Justin Kamp
Sep 30, 2020 9:48PM, via Sotheby's

Sanyu's Nu, ca. 1950s—60s. Courtesy Sotheby's.

A painting by the late Chinese-French painter Sanyu, titled Nu (ca. 1950s–60s), will lead Sotheby’s upcoming Hong Kong sales, scheduled to take place on October 5th and 6th. The painting is expected to sell for at least HK$100 million ($12.9 million), which, if achieved, would place the work firmly within the artist’s top ten auction results. In 2004, the work broke Sanyu’s auction record at Christie’s, selling for HKD $7.3 million ($947,000). According to Art Market Monitor, the work has since appreciated an estimated 1,200 percent.

Nu is representative of Sanyu’s signature style of nude oil painting, reminiscent of both Chinese calligraphy and Fauvist forms, which has led some to dub the artist the “Chinese Matisse.” Nu was included in Sanyu’s final exhibition before his death in 1966, where it was shown alongside a nearly-identical version of Nu painted in 1965. This earlier iteration of the painting sold at Sotheby’s in October of last year for HK$197.9 million ($25.2 million); then a record-breaking price for the artist. It has since been topped by two group nude paintings, Quatre Nus (1950) and Five Nudes (ca. 1950–59), which sold for HK$258.3 million ($33.3 million) and HK$303.9 million ($38.8 million) respectively.

Vinci Chang, Sotheby’s head of modern Asian art, said in a press release:

Following the success of our Modern Art sales series in July, this autumn we are thrilled to present, for the first time ever in our Evening Sale, four legendary masterpieces by Sanyu and Wu Guanzhong, the figure heads of two generations of Chinese émigré artists in France before and after World War II. Both transcended the boundaries between Asia and Europe in their impact and influence, and together they wrote an important chapter in the history of modern art.
Justin Kamp