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Ink-wash painting sells for US$4.3m

A TRADITIONAL ink-wash painting (left) jointly created by Wu Changshuo and Qi Baishi, two important figures in China's modern art history, fetched 27.5 million yuan (US$4.3 million) at auction in Shanghai yesterday.

The first sale in the city by Beijing-based Rongbaozhai, a 300-year-old art dealership, raised 742 million yuan on the first day of a two-day event at the Four Seasons Hotel.

The choice of Shanghai for the sale surprised many in the art world as the auction market in Shanghai has been sluggish in recent years compared to the booming scene in Beijing.

"The total amount raised at art auctions in 2010 in Beijing exceeded 35 billion yuan, while only 4 billion yuan in Shanghai," said Ma Wuyi, general manager at Rongbaozhai. "But Shanghai, the center of international economy, finance and trade, is of huge potential in the area of art."

The first-day success of Rongbaozhai restored some confidence in the market after the China Guardian Auction House reported that proceeds from its autumn sale had decreased almost 30 percent.

"Some even said that the winter of the art auction market was about to arrive," said Zhan Hao, a veteran art critic. "But the truth is that 'the best of the best' could never disappoint both sellers and buyers."

A highlight of the Rongbaozhai auction is a copy of "Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains" by Chen Peiqiu which will go under the hammer today.

The original painting created by Huang Gongwang (1269-1354) was burnt in 1650 by an owner who wanted to take it with him in the afterlife. His nephew rescued the burning painting, but it had already been torn in two.

The landscape has been recreated by a number of Chinese masters. Recently, Wu Hufan's "Imitation of Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountain" sold for 98.9 million yuan.


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