29 May 2012 HUANG YAO’S “IMMORTAL CHESS PLAYERS” INK PAINTING AUCTIONED FOR US$ 88, 012 (HKD680, 000) BY CHRISTIE’S
Christie’s Hong Kong today successfully auctioned Huang Yao’s “Immortal Chess Players” (Lan Ke Shan Tu) or “Playing Chess” (Christie’s title) ink painting under Lot 3037 in the Fine Chinese Modern Art Paintings category for US$ 88, 012 (HKD680, 000), exceeding Christie’s estimates of US$19, 419 (HK$150,000) to US$ 25, 893 (HK$200,000).
The “Immortal Chess Player”, sized 140 cm x 74.5 cm was painted by Huang Yao in 1980. It tells the story of a woodcutter in the Jin dynasty who came upon two children playing chess whilst working in the hills. He stood there watching them, and found, before the game ended, that the handle (ke) of his axe had decayed (lan). He hurried home only to find that no one recognised him and those who he had known had all passed away. Indeed, he had encountered two immortals playing chess. On the painting, Huang Yao writes in his characteristic upside-down calligraphy, chuyunshu, a poem about a lifetime in the worldly sphere being but the duration of a chess game in the immortal realm.
Earlier this month, two of Huang Yao’s paintings that belonged to private collectors were successfully auctioned by Henry Butcher Art Auctioneers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for US$ 12,369 (RM39, 600) and US$24,738 (RM79, 200).
“This sale by Christie’s marks the start of our plan to bring Huang Yao out of ‘the waiting room’ to get the recognition that he deserves and take his place in the history of Modern Chinese artists”, says Carolyn Wong, granddaughter of Huang Yao.