This portrait by S'porean artist Tan Swie Hian took one minute to create. It just sold for S$4.4 million at a Beijing auction.

He holds the record for the most expensive work sold at an auction by a living Singapore or South-east Asian artist.

Belmont Lay| November 30, 10:49 PM

Singaporean artist Tan Swie Hian's work titled, Portrait Of Bada Shanren (pictured above), has sold for S$4.4 million (20.7 million yuan) at the 2014 Poly Auction in Beijing.

This ink-on-rice-paper work's record sale price beat Tan's 2012 record, where his oil painting When The Moon Is Orbed (2012) sold at the same auction for a record S$3.7 million.

By surpassing himself, the artist still holds the record for the most expensive work sold at an auction by a living Singapore or South-east Asian artist.

It is not known who the buyer is but the bidding is said to have been intense and the sale has been confirmed by Guo Yuanchao, Poly Auction's modern and contemporary art consultant.


Tan Swie Hian (Wikimedia)

What is more impressive is that Tan had reportedly created the large-scale portrait of Bada Shanren, a Ming and Qing Dynasty artist, in just a minute and then composed a lengthy inscription to accompany the minimalist portrait.

When contacted, the 71-year-old, 1987 Cultural Medallion recipient and a multi-disciplinary artist, told Channel News Asia on Nov. 30, 2014:

"For someone who has devoted single-mindedly all his life to artistic creations, the result of the auction is heartening and I'm certainly pleased that I have broken my previous record."

"The record itself also registers a message from my very supportive Chinese collectors that I have to continue working hard and at the artistic level, it feels as if I have one of my works selected for a very important group exhibition - showing the piece alongside the works of China's most celebrated contemporary ink-painters and the piece happens to be also loved and appreciated by Chinese collectors. This is a great learning experience and I feel blessed and honoured."

The sale is significant as it took place in China, which now dominates Asian art sales and where the market has been dominated by big-name China artists.

Internationally, China accounted for 33 per cent of global fine arts sales last year.

Art is a form of currency for the rich who use it as an investment and to hedge against inflation.

Besides his prized paintings causing a stir in the art world, Tan made the news early last year when he saved a stray cat first instead of his precious paintings when a blaze broke out at Telok Kurau Studios, an artists’ community.

He later returned to retrieve six paintings, which he estimates to be worth about $9 million in all, from his personal collection.


Top photo via Poly Auction

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