Next month in Hong Kong, Christie’s will host a 20th-century and contemporary art evening sale with Chinese-French artist Sanyu’s Five Nudes (ca. 1955) as the highest-estimated lot. The house expects it to go for around HKD 250 million, or about $33 million, which would be a new high for the artist on the block.
If the work looks familiar to some market-watchers, that’s because they may very well have seen it before. The piece previously set an auction record for the artist when it sold for HKD 128.32 million ($16.5 million) in 2011 at Ravenel auction house in Hong Kong. (At the time, that also marked the highest price ever paid for an oil painting by a Chinese artist at auction. That record is now held by a $65 million Zao Wou-Ki.)
Five Nudes, an oil-on-masonite work that shows five naked women against a crimson background, with cats playing at their feet on a mustard-yellow floor, is one of 56 known paintings by the artist featuring the female nude, according to Christie’s, but this one is special: it is the largest of the bunch, measuring about 47 by 67 inches.
The market for Sanyu—who died in 1966 at the age of 65, and who’s sometimes referred to as the “Chinese Matisse”—has been hot recently. Earlier this month, his personal best at auction went even higher, as his painting NU (1965), showing the legs of a reclining woman, sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for HKD 197.94 million ($25.26 million).
Other works on offer in the Christie’s sale, which takes place on November 23, include Zao Wou-Ki, Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, and Kim Whanki.