Zhang Daqian may not be a household name in the West, but in China — and the global art market at large — he is on par with the likes of Warhol and Monet. A master of classical Chinese painting who later reimagined modern art in his adopted American homeland, Zhang’s work spanned traditions from ink landscapes to abstraction. And while the pervasive “Picasso of the East” comparison is misleading stylistically, it nonetheless speaks to his ability to transcend genre — and the sky-high prices his paintings now command.
Landscape after Wang Ximeng: the most expensive of Zhang Daqian’s artwork. Credit: Sotheby’s
In April, almost 40 years after his death, Zhang’s 1947 painting “Landscape after Wang Ximeng” became his most expensive work ever to sell at auction, fetching $47 million at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong.
It was just the latest in a string of major sales. The artist’s work generated more than $354 million at auction in 2016, exceeding any other artist — dead or alive — in the world that year, according to an annual ranking produced by the Artprice database. Last year, he finished 6th in that same list, ahead of market heavyweights like Vincent van Gogh and Banksy….