arts • 05 Apr, 2017
Le Pho’s ‘Family Life’ Breaks Vietnamese Record at Sotheby’s
‘Lot 1022’ goes for 1.2 million USD in Hong Kong auction
Le Pho’s intimate portrait of family life has sold for nearly USD1.2 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong over the weekend, making it the most expensive piece of Vietnamese art to ever go under the hammer.
Featuring a colourful depiction of mother and child on a leisurely 1930s Saigon day, the auction of the ink-and-gouache on silk painting attracted competition from fifteen bidders, before ending up in the hands of what Sotheby's told AnyArena was a 'private Asian collector'. The price it went for, which was way above estimate, also sparked reactions from around the world.
“This is a milestone,” said Ngo Kim Khoi, an art appraiser based in Paris, where Le Pho studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1932. “It proves that from somewhere in the corner of Asia, a Vietnamese painter has made his name known to the world.”
Others were more surprised that it had taken so long. “Le Pho’s paintings have been auctioned by two of the most prestigious auction houses in the world for half a century, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one would eventually pass the $1 million mark,” said Vu Tuan Anh and Tran Quoc Hung, who run local auction house Chon.
Seen as a potential barometer for future evaluations, painter Le Kinh Tai said the sale marked a significant turning point. “In the past, international collectors only bought Vietnamese paintings out of curiosity or personal interest, rather than for their collectability or investment,” he said. That looks set to change.
Dia Projects’ Richard Streitmatter-Tran agreed, saying it confirmed modernist South East Asian art as a 'bigger part of the conversation’, but expressed his surprise that such works hadn’t already been snapped up by institutions. “Perhaps it’ll be interesting to revisit the history of these painters who emerged from the Ecole des Beaux Arts L’Indochine,” he told us.
Born in 1907, Le Pho studied under the prominent French painter Victor Tardieu, the man who founded the Ecole des Beaux Arts L’Indochine in Hanoi in 1925, and later taught there on his return from Paris. ‘Family Life’ was among a raft of his works that sold at the Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong over the weekend, underlining buyers continued appreciation of his impressionist vignettes of a long lost Vietnam. The artist passed away in 2001.
"Family Life" by Le Pho
'Family Life' goes under the hammer at Sotheby's in Hong Kong
Words by jonaspin
Pictures courtesy of Sotheby's