An extremely rare, 11th-century Chinese scroll is said to set an auction price record according to Bloomberg, for an Asian artwork when it goes on the block at Christie’s November Hong Kong sale. The scroll is estimated in excess of $51 million or HK$400 million and is only one of two known scrolls produced by Song dynasty artist Su Shi. The piece will be the first to ever appear at auction, Christie’s said. The other scroll resides in Taiwan at the National Palace Museum.
“This is simply the best Chinese painting you could possibly get,” said Jonathan Stone, co-chairman of Christie’s Asian Art department. He was infatuated with the piece’s significance and rarity to that of “Salvator Mundi” by Leonardo Da Vinci. “In the purely market sense, there is comparability.”
Su Shi was an 11th-century scholar, statesman, poet, writer, calligrapher and artist who holds a household name in China. His painting style influenced virtually every Chinese painter ever since, according to Kim Yu, Christie’s international senior specialist of Chinese paintings.
Su Shi began an “aesthetic revolution” that came from the highly detailed and precise academic Song dynast works, which required several months to finally complete. Yu said Su Shi’s “Wood and Rock” is a simple and spontaneous work created for the artist’s personal pleasure. Also mentioning Shi completed the painting in just one sitting.
Four “colophons” or commentaries by famous calligraphers were added to the scroll between the 11th and 16th century, which now is more than six feet long. The scroll also contains 41 collector’s seals that provide a record of its ownership provenance.
Similar to Da Vinci, Su Shi was a “renaissance man,” though Stone states this was long before the Western concept came into existence several centuries later. “I like to think of Leonardo as a Western Su Shi, rather than Su Shi as a Chinese Leonardo. We shouldn’t look at things through an Atlantic lens,” he said.
The current owner of the scroll is a Japanese family that initially acquired it from a Chinese dealer way back in 1937. After the success of a $263 million sale of Chinese artworks from the Fujita Museum, the family contacted Christie’s about selling the scroll.
The record for an Asian work of art held at an auction was set in Beijing for a handscroll sold at Poly International Auction Co. in 2010. The piece sold for $64 million, including buyers premium added to the price. The scroll currently at Christie’s for HK$400 million, does not include the premium.