Tan Swie Hian's painting sold at auction for S$4.4 million, breaks own record for priciest work by Singapore artist

Local artist Tan Swie Hian's ink-on-rice-paper work titled Portrait Of Bada Shanren, which sold for S$4.4 million at the 2014 Poly Auction in Beijing on Sunday night. -- PHOTO: POLY AUCTION
Local artist Tan Swie Hian's ink-on-rice-paper work titled Portrait Of Bada Shanren, which sold for S$4.4 million at the 2014 Poly Auction in Beijing on Sunday night. -- PHOTO: POLY AUCTION
Local artist Tan Swie Hian at his Telok Kurau studio in 2013. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Local artist Tan Swie Hian at his Telok Kurau studio in 2013. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

On Sunday night, Singapore art hit a new high when artist Tan Swie Hian's ink-on-rice-paper work titled Portrait Of Bada Shanren sold for 20.7 million yuan (S$4.4 million) at the 2014 Poly Auction in Beijing.

This broke the artist's previous record for the most expensive work sold at an auction by a living Singapore or South-east Asian artist. In 2012, his oil painting When The Moon Is Orbed (2012) sold at the same auction for a record S$3.7 million

The most recent sale was confirmed by Mr Guo Yuanchao, Poly Auction's modern and contemporary art consultant.

Speaking via a translator, he said: "The first auction of Tan's ink work in China saw it selling for a price higher than his oil painting. This shows the high recognition Chinese collectors accord to the Singapore artist's work."

While it is not known who the work was sold to, the bidding is said to have been intense.

When contacted, the Cultural Medallion recipient, a multi-disciplinary artist known for his larger-than-life works, said: "I feel blessed and honoured."

The 71-year-old artist added: "This has come as a complete surprise. It is certainly a rare honour to be recognised in China which is emerging as the global art centre. My art has been embraced by collectors there who continue to support me."

The sale is significant as it took place in China, which now dominates Asian art sales.

China accounted for 33 per cent of global fine arts sales last year and the country's growing wealth has fuelled prices and demand for art. For a Singapore artist to have broken into a market dominated by big-name China artists is a big leap.