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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Wu

My Inaugural Asian Art Auction at Heffel!

Updated: May 30, 2022

I'm back from Vancouver now! One of my big news updates of 2021 is I joined Heffel auction house back in January. I am now their official Asian art consultant! So for most of March and April, I was helping Heffel put together their first Asian art sale. This includes sourcing objects, meeting clients, writing catalogue entries, etc. It's been quite busy!

For those who aren't familiar with the Heffel name, Heffel is Canada's national auction house. They have offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Calgary and specialize primarily in high-end Canadian and International art. Typically they sell over CAD 50 million in artwork each year. My Asian art collaboration with Heffel is their first major foray into Asian art.

My role is to develop an Asian art department for Heffel, and this includes sourcing consignments from China, Japan, Korea, South East Asia, the Himalayan region and India. This will be an amazing project over the coming years and I will be sure to post more updates in the future.

The auction I am putting together for Heffel will consist of approximately 70 lots divided over three sessions. It will be online from April 1st, with a closing date of April 29th.

The majority of the highlights from this inaugural Heffel Asian art auction comes from the collection of Li Shukun 李樹坤 (known to everyone as S. K. Lee). S. K. Lee was an important criminal lawyer from Singapore who immigrated to Vancouver in 1977.

In addition to being a passionate collector of Chinese scroll paintings, books and porcelain, S. K. Lee was a notable member of Vancouver society. He made significant donations to a variety of organizations including the S. K. Lee College at the Vancouver Academy of Music, the S. K. Lee Academy Endowment Fund at the Chinese Cultural Center of Greater Vancouver, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Classical Garden, and the B. C. Chinese Orchestra.

Many well-known Chinese artists were in S. K. Lee's circle including Huang Junbi 黃君璧 (1898-1991). I was able to bring in three paintings by Huang Junbi from the S. K. Lee Collection for the Heffel auction.

Anthony Wu at Heffel Vancouver Asian Art Preview

Image 1. A photo of me at the Heffel Vancouver Gallery admiring two paintings by Huang Junbi from the collection of S. K. Lee. To the right are two small paintings by Wang Yongyu (more on these later), and in the middle is a large Chinese 19th Century lacquered wood figure of the Daoist immortal Liu Hai.

Huang Junbi River and Mountains

Image 2. S. K. Lee's most prized Huang Junbi painting. This painting is titled 'River and Mountains' and dates to 1971. It was prominently displayed above the owner's fireplace. S. K. Lee acquired all of his Huang Junbi paintings during the artist's North American tour in the early 1980's.

Huang Junbi was one of the most renowned Chinese artists of the second half of the 20th Century. Along with Zhang Daqian 張大千 (1899-1983) and Pu Ru 溥儒 (1996-1963), Huang was one of the 'Three Masters Crossing the Sea', moving to Taiwan from the Mainland after 1949. He is most famous for his grand landscapes which feature atmospheric clouds, waterfalls and mountains.

Huang Junbi Thundering Waterfalls

Image 3. Another painting by Huang Junbi from the collection of S. K. Lee. This one is titled 'Thundering Waterfalls' and dated to 1973.

Huang Junbi Cascading Waterfalls

4. The third Huang Junbi painting from the collection of S. K. Lee. This one is undated and called 'Cascading Waterfalls'.

Chinese Flambe Glazed Fanghu Vase Guangxu Mark and Period

Image 5. The S. K. Lee collection also features a wide range of Chinese porcelain from the Late Qing Dynasty to the Republican Period. The most impressive is by far this flambé glazed fanghu vase from the Guangxu Period (1875-1908).

The shape pays homage to Chinese bronze age vessels from 2500 years ago, and the glaze is of a rich copper red flambé which became exceptionally popular during the 17th and 18th centuries

Anthony Wu at Heffel Vancouver with a Guangxu Flambe Fanghu Vase

Image 6. A photo of me in late March examining this flambé glazed vase. A couple of other objects from the Heffel Asian art sale can be seen in the background.

Guangxu Mark and Period Flambe Fanghu Vase

Image 7. The reign mark on the base of the flambé glazed vase daqing Guangxu nianzhi 大清光緒年製, which translates to 'made during the Guangxu reign of the Qing Dynasty'.

This vase would have been made in the imperial kilns of Jingdezhen and used for display by members of the emperor's family.

Also from the Heffel inaugural Asian art sale are two paintings by the important Chinese artist Huang Yongyu 黃永玉 (1924- ). These works were given to the father of the present owner directly by the artist. The owner's father, Wu Tingjie 吳廷捷 (Ng Ting Chit) (1920-1974), was a very close friend of Huang. It was Huang who introduced the consignor's parents to one another in Hong Kong during the 1950's.

Huang Yongyu Young Lady from Yunnan

Image 8. A painting on silk by Huang Yongyu titled 'Young Lady from Yunnan'. The painting was executed in 1955 and dedicated to Ng Ting Chit during a trip to Beijing in 1965.

Huang Yongyu Young Boy

Image 9. A painting titled 'Young Boy' by Huang Yongyu that is also dedicated to Ng Ting Chit. This one is dated to 1952.

Finally at the Heffel auction is one of the most incredible Japanese ivory carvings I have ever seen. This impressive ivory okimono (decorative object) stands 15 inches high and depicts Kannon, the Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion.

Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who chose to remain in the earthly realm to ease the sufferings of others. Kannon is one of the more popular Buddhist deities and in other Asian regions can be referred to as Avalokiteshvara, Padmapani or Guanyin.

This carving was executed by famed Tokyo School artist Gyokuren 玉蓮 of the Meiji Period (1868-1913). The artist was active circa 1905 and is known for his depictions of Buddhist deities. Tokyo School carvings are internationally renowned and perhaps mark the pinnacle of ivory sculpture. They became exceptionally popular during the late 19th Century and many of these carvings were exported to America and Europe.

Tokyo School Gyokuren Okimono of Kannon

Image 10. The front view of Gyokuren's Kannon at the Heffel auction. Note the stunning details in the serene face, the robes blowing in the wind, the tasseled jewelry, and the dynamic dragon mount.

Tokyo School Gyokuren Okimono of Kannon's Dragon

Image 11. Close-up of the incredible details of the dragon mount staring at its master. You can also see the realism in the ocean waves.

Tokyo School Gyokuren Signature

Image 12. The base of the okimono of Kannon with the incised name and seal of Gyokuren 玉蓮.

Hope you enjoyed reading this blog. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me an email. If you have time, please check out this sale at Heffel!


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