A Singaporean art collector has sold a rare painting by contemporary Chinese ink artist Fu Baoshi for a record $47.2 million at an auction in Beijing - the highest price paid in the sale.
The 1954 work, The God of Cloud and Great Lord of Fate, measuring 114cm by 315cm, has been kept in Singapore by various collectors since the early 1960s. The work was among the 1,200 paintings sold at Poly Auction's spring sale from June 4 to 6.
The painting of two fairy gods was inspired by a poem by Warring States poet Qu Yuan more than 2,000 years ago and is believed to be the largest painting of human figures by the late artist available in the market.
His other similar-size works are all kept in museums in China.
The painting's successful bidder is believed to be Chinese Guanghui Group, a business conglomerate based in Xinjiang, China.
Poly executive director Zhao Xu said after last Saturday's sale that the price fetched for the painting is a record for the artist, adding that the work is Fu's most significant masterpiece and the most sought- after by museums both in and outside China in recent years.
He did not say who the Singaporean seller is.
The painting was last exhibited at Poly Museum in Beijing as part of Singapore's Qiu Zhai Collection in 2010, and before that to mark the centenary of Fu's birth in 2004, at museums in Nanjing and Taiwan. It was loaned by its Singapore collector.
In 2003, it was shown at the Singapore Art Museum in a 20th century contemporary Chinese ink exhibition.
Chinese art collectors here believe the painting was sold by Fu's family to a Singapore collector after his death in 1965, and it remained in Singapore since. They added that the sale of Fu's masterpiece was a great loss to Singapore art.
Businessman G.G. Tan, 67, whose family donated its Xiang Xue Zhuang collection of over 100 fine Chinese artworks to the Asian Civilisations Museum in 2000, said: "I am saddened by the news of Fu's masterpiece being sold. It means we have one less in Singapore."
Retired journalist and Chinese art writer Toh Lam Huat, 63, wished the piece could remain in Singapore. He said: "As with many other Chinese masterpieces owned by the older generation of Singapore collectors, we are losing them probably because present collectors and the museum authorities here do not see their value."
A spokesman for Singapore's Qiu Zhai Collection declined to comment except to say that it had once owned Fu's masterpiece.
About Fu Baoshi
Born in the south-eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi in 1904, Fu Baoshi started to learn Chinese painting and seal-carving when he was 12.
By the age of 19, when he was studying at a teachers' training college, he had started to paint professionally in his own studio.
After teaching art at the secondary school level, he went to Japan to study at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in 1933.
He translated several books on art from Japanese into Chinese and added Japanese visual elements to his Chinese ink painting.
He was a vice-chairman of the Federation of Chinese Artists and taught at Nanjing University's art department.
Well-known for his Chinese landscapes as well as human figures, Fu died in 1965 at the age of 61.