a master who revitalized post war Chinese abstract art
& the Rarity of his artworks on the auction market
In March 2018, the China Art Museum in Shanghai organized a large-scale retrospective of Hsiao Chin with the theme of Coming Home and subsequently set up the Hsiao Chin Art Research Centre to study the contributions of the artist to the development of Chinese modern art. Hsiao Chin finally returned to his birthplace and the roots of his oriental culture and spirituality at the age of 83.
“In the history of modern art, Hsiao Chin is an international master who has travelled between the East and West for decades and remains to be a great theoretician. Hsiao Chin is active in both the Eastern and Western art circles, magnificently incorporating oriental aesthetics in the field of abstract painting, resulting in a distinctive style that reaffirms his accomplishments in the Western art scene. In retrospect, he went back to Europe without hesitation to practice his own artistic approach and introduced numerous members of the Ton Fan Art Group to Europe, he wrote articles in domestic newspapers and magazines to introduce the Western art scene to the locals that had paved the way for the avant-garde artistic developments and opened up a window for the Asian art world. The post-war art created by these artists have been pertinent to the development of global art in the middle of the 20th century and has become crucial to the development of international modern and contemporary art.” (Excerpts taken from the Sotheby’s Hong Kong Contemporary Art Evening Auction.)
In 1935, Hsiao Chin was born in Shanghai. As the son of Hsiao Yu-mei, a pioneer in modern Chinese music education, he has a special liking for painting. Hsiao Chin had commented on numerous occasions, “I married art at 16 years old. If I hadn’t lost my father so soon, perhaps he would want me to become a music conductor rather than a painter.” In 1956, 21 years old Hsiao Chin went to Europe to learn painting and was then deeply influenced by Western modern art trends. After coming to Europe, he began to explore independently of his own cultural orientation and also the importance of self-introspection of Chinese cultural independence. “We would fall behind and it would be difficult to formulate an artistic dialogue without these qualities”.
It was under these circumstances that allowed Hsiao Chin to thrive as a revolutionary art advocate in reinventing and reinvigorating post war abstract art. In 1961, he co-founded the Punto International Art Movement with artists such as Italian painter Antonio Calderara in Milan, Li Yuanchia and Azuma Kenjiro, this movement was considered as the only international art movement at the time that was predominantly inspired by an Asian philosophical worldview and advocated the notion that art should be a means of meditation and introspective aim to articulate the human spirits. Punto is an Italian word for ‘point’, punto artists use the point as a totem to break through the stagnation of Western abstract art devoid of spiritual substances in the late 1950s. In this regard, the Punto totem has expanded itself into a spiritual bridge that connected and facilitated profound cultural and artistic exchanges between the east and the west. There were in total thirteen exhibitions led by Hsiao Chin that engaged the representatives such as Lucio Fontana of Spatialism, the Azimuth group, the nuclear movement and Op Art artists of various nations in the 60s throughout Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Taiwan. Hsiao Chin commented “In order to pursue aspirations in life, I have injected the ancient wisdoms of the East, such as the philosophical thoughts of Buddhism and Taoism. I use the Western material as a medium to place my own feelings in the East. With this understanding, it is easier for people to read my works.”
These remarkable accomplishments hint at the importance of Hsiao Chin’s artistic productions after the post war art golden period from about the end of the Second World War to the seventies, about thirty years, where the artist often depicted dramatic grandeur of expansive brushstrokes to convey the flows of energy in the universe as he looked into the origin of the universe in his metaphysical contemplation. Notably, he also adopted the post war invention of the more intense and luminescent acrylic pigment to express the spiritual energy of the universe. A remarkable work of Hsiao Chin attributed to the 60s, Dancing Light 17, a period of significance importance was sold for HKD 5.9 million (with buyer’s premium) in Sotheby’s HK 2017 autumn sale. Another work entitled Dancing Light 16, dated to 1963 was sold for HKD 2.5 million (with buyer’s premium) in Sotheby’s HK 2017 spring sale. In essence, these impressive sale results intrinsically portray the significance of this representational bodies of works dated to the period of the Punto International Art Movement. Nevertheless, there still remains a gulf between the valuation of Hsiao Chin’s works and his pivotal status in modern and post war art history.
In retrospect, Hsiao Chin’s had evidently taken on an Eastern cultural advocate role at the forefront of leading the development of 20th century International post war Chinese abstract art diligently over the past 6 decades and has lived and worked in Taiwan, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, and United State. He was among the first few pioneer artists of Chinese descendent to lead the international art movement with the premise of adopting abstract painting into Eastern philosophy, and that constitute the pillars that forged the golden age of post-war contemporary art. To pay tribute to the artist’s rigorous contributions in the modern art history, In March 2018, the China Art Museum in Shanghai organized a large-scale exhibition Coming Home: Hsiao Chin’s retrospective exhibition and announced the establishment of Hsiao Chin Art Research Centre. After a lifetime of perseverance in art, the artist was welcomed back to his birthplace with the highest honor. Notably, Wu Guanzhong is another artist with such an extensive research group formed in his honor by the same public institute. Internationally, there will be another remarkable Solo Exhibition of the artist held by a renowned museum in Paris in 2019.
In essence, works dated to the 1960s are coveted by seasoned collectors and connoisseurs alike, each canvas is akin to a piece of the puzzle that that records the history of post war avant-garde art movement. Notably, Hsiao Chin’s iconic series of works in the 1960s appear to be sought-after, and in particular, those large-scale works measuring 110 x 140cm or above, works dated to this period of impeccable provenance and in superb condition are increasingly rare on the market, its relative record-breaking prices on the secondary auction market seems to reinforce the artist’s significant achievements of the 1960s which continue to become more widely recognized globally. Experts forecast that according to the current market development, Hsiao Chin will likely share the international stage with other Western masters as he continues to increase his exposure in the post-war international art market in the near future.