MEET THE ART. Paddle-worthy picks at Shanghai's First Auction

Kristen Dollard
Sep 24, 2013 7:51PM
Orlando Rock, Christie's Head of Private Collections and Country House Sales, reveals his predictions for Shanghai's First Auction on September 26, 2013.

When China’s future is the topic of conversation, the phrase “China is opening up” is often stated. This common thesis underscores the public enthusiasm for access to and interest in the world superpower. With no fewer than 400 museum openings in 2013, the demand for art and ways to experience it free.

Timed with the economic rise and Christie’s Shanghai auction on September 26, we spoke to Orlando Rock, Executive Director - Private Collections & Country House Sales at Christie’s, whose role as curator in chief offered exceptional proximity to the people and the property. The poetic Rock shared the two lots he’d raise his paddle for while standing on the Shangri-La’s famously colorful carpet. And, Rock offered insights into what, in his “utopian view,” a Shanghai sale in 2020 may reveal.

What does this landmark auction in Shanghai mean?

From my point of view Shanghai is symbolic of China opening. It is a gateway to a new marketplace that is fundamental to the auction business as a whole. The potential is vast. And as exciting as it is to offer a Picasso in mainland China to curate the sale properly, we have to have Eastern and Western Masterpieces that will appeal to new buyers in China.

What art stands as an example of this new conversation?

Thomas Heatherwick’s The Seed Cathedral. The sculpture [made of 60,000 fiber optic rods] won the Gold Medal at Shanghai’s WORLD EXPO 2010. The “UK Pavilion” was the most visited pavilion at Expo, optimizing cooperation across both cultures with its inspired design and inspired architecture. It is just an extraordinary building that wowed everyone.

Also, Sui Jainguo’s Clothes Veins Study Series plaster sculptures. What looks like plaster figures so embodies the East-West conversation. There are inspired by classical figures and Greek-like poses but upon closer look, some of the figures are wearing Mao suits. This opens up the debate about 19th century being England’s century; The 20th century being the US’s, and the 21st century being China’s.

What does this event predict for 2020?

In 2020 I would love to see that Shanghai is or has one of the principal selling and noncommercial centers for art. I see artists increasing conversant in different cultures. I see a broader exchange of ideas with Chinese artist appreciated in West, even those not on an international stage today. What I see is not a one-way street and things flowing only from West to East.

What memory of planning Shanghai’s auction is most present for you?

When we went on our first rekey and entered the cavernous Shangri-La. It auction on a scale that no one has experienced. And there is this carpet… it is vibrant ---absolutely impossible to look at the art with this carpet.

Will you be looking at the carpet?

No, I’ll be standing on it, covering it.

And for what would you raise your paddle?

Very good question. It would have to be the Heatherwick model or Warhol Dust Shoes. Warhol was one of those artists who travelled in China, was very inspired by it. The work is emblematic of the incredible luxury retail market in 1960s and the best of Warhol. Every single luxury good brand is focused on Asia and Shanghai. It is the center; symbolic of transfer of power of West to East.

Kristen Dollard