Ding Yi - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in association with Yongle Hong Kong Tuesday, November 29, 2022 | Phillips

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  • DAW Chinese Contemporary Art Collection: A Collector’s Story


    DAW was exposed to and fascinated by western contemporary art through attending Art Basel and working in New York in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was collecting western Pop art, a reflection of the rising industrialisation and economic power in the 1960s and 1970s.


    When visiting Shanghai and wider China for the first time in 1997, DAW quickly felt the shift from communism to capitalism and was introduced to Lorenz Helbing, a Swiss and owner of ShanghART Gallery. DAW was intrigued by the quantum shift in economic growth, infrastructural mega projects, and the fast social adoption by the Chinese people. This shift was reflected in the Chinese Contemporary Art driven by creative and free-spirited artists. DAW was immediately attracted by the strength and power of this art.


    With the support of Lorenz, DAW visited most of the represented artists in their studios and started to collect works from many of China’s most significant artists, including Zeng Fanzhi, Zhang Enli, Wang Guangyi, among many others….. Recently, PHILLIPS spoke with DAW about how he entered the art world and the evolution of his collecting journey.


    Portrait of DAW by Xue Song, 2003


    PHILLIPS: How did your path to collecting Chinese Contemporary Art begin? Do you recall what the first piece was you acquired?


    DAW:  I took my time to visit many galleries and artist studios, before buying my first Chinese Contemporary Art pieces, since I wanted to deeply understand the market (I guess a very Swiss approach). Finally, I bought my first pieces from Xue Song, Geng Jianyi, Ding Yi and Zeng Fanzhi at once through ShanghART in 2002.


    PHILLIPS: Looking back over your collecting journey, how have your tastes evolved?


    DAW: When the Chinese Contemporary Art market started to take off through the first pieces appearing at auctions in 2006-2007 (for example, Zeng Fanzhi shot in the world auction ranking from position 4,968 in 2004 to 28 in 2007), a new and younger generation of artists emerged with different views and topics reflecting the quantum shift and the fast-changing world. I started to visit these younger artists and collecting their artworks.


    PHILLIPS: You are truly an engaged collector in that many of your works have been purchased directly from the artists’ studios. Is it important for you to meet artists in person?  


    DAW: I am a very curious person and like to meet interesting people. Therefore, it was natural for me to meet the source of inspiration and understanding more about the creators.


    PHILLIPS: What is the focus regarding the artists in your collection? Do you feel there are themes that unites the works you have acquired? What inspires you in this category of art?


    DAW:  To simplify it, I guess that my collection is all about faces, scapes (land and city) and objects. It all goes back to the people, their country, and creations.


    PHILLIPS: What advice would you give to a collector who is just starting out? What criteria should one set for oneself when collecting?


    DAW: First of all, it is important to collect what you like (unless you see art as alternative investment asset). Second, I never saw myself as a collector, as I was passionate about living with the art pieces. Third, if you are buying into new art (like I did at that time) and it does not cost too much money (all relative of course), do not worry too much. If the price tag is heavier, carefully look at the artist works portfolio and evolution, understand the role of the gallery representing the artist and check out potential auction results.


    PHILLIPS: Apart from art, are there any other interesting categories that you’ve collected in? Does this relate to your art collecting habits or philosophy in any way?


    DAW: I was into Asian antiques, vintage cars, watches, and furniture and of course into books, music, films and wines. It was all about surrounding myself and enjoying the most beautiful things of what life has to offer. 


    PHILLIPS: From your point of view, what are the key trends shaping the future of art collecting and collection management? Which part of the technological advances today excites you the most?


    DAW: Collecting art (like many other categories) has become a lot easier and transparent with the birth of the internet. With the birth of blockchain technology in 2009, art collecting and collection management will move more digital. This does not mean that physical and traditional art media will disappear, but it will be more and more digitally depicted. Blockchain and NFTs are a game changer for traditional and digital art. The last two years of the Covid19 pandemic have perpetuated this shift.



    Appearance of Crosses 95-B75


    I think the most precious quality in an artist is having their own personal judgement, rather than conforming to someone elses. I want to distance myself from that kind of conformity ad remain independent.
    Ding Yi

    One of the abstract artists that emerged from the New Wave Movement in China in 1985, Ding Yi arrived at his unique abstract style by steadfastly deviating from the oft-treaded paths of Expressionism and Surrealism preferred by his peers. For the past four decades, Ding has been exclusively creating abstract paintings covered by repetitions of small cross motifs superimposed in different layers, colours and rotations, all of which require a painstaking amount of precision and technical skill. As showcased by Appearance of Crosses 95-B75, the hypnotising charm of the repeated patterns automatically engages the viewer on a level beyond intellectual comprehension, as the response is both visceral and immediate.


     Born in 1962 in Shanghai, Ding worked at a printing factory before graduating from the Shanghai School of Arts and Crafts in 1983. Now a professor at the Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts, his signature and enduring method of creating the cross pattern in his work emerged in the late 1980s, when Ding began working on a series of painting titled Appearance of Crosses, which the present work finds itself in. His inspiration for the series stems from his time spent working at a factory designing commercial packaging, and this can be seen in the repeated ‘x’ and ‘+’ shapes that Ding explores as a recurring motif, with the intention of merging painting and design into a single form of expression.


    An early work from this series, executed in 1995, Appearance of Crosses 95-B75 is a representative example of the artist’s hand painted abstract works on paper. Formed of organised and superimposed lines and cross shapes, along with painterly intrusions such as the skipping, pooling and splatter of pigment, the beautifully textured work exemplifies Ding’s distinct visual approach.


    Ding Yi has been extensively exhibited globally and has participated in the Venice Biennale (1993), the Yokohama Triennale (2001) and the Guangzhou Biennale (2002), among others. The Museum of Modern Art of Bologna in Italy dedicated an important solo exhibition to the artist in 2008. His latest exhibitions include Ding Yi: Lightscapes at Timothy Taylor, New York (4 May – 12 June 2021), and Ding Yi: Highlight with Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne (3 September – 6 November 2020). The artist lives and works in Shanghai, China.




    The artist talks about his creative process and inspiration

    Courtesy of M+ Museum, Hong Kong

    • Provenance

      ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai
      Acquired from the above by the DAW Collection



Appearance of Crosses 95-B75

signed, titled and dated '"Appearance of Crosses 95-B75" Ding Yi [in Chinese] 1995' along the lower edge
mixed media on paper
50.5 x 67.5 cm. (19 7/8 x 26 5/8 in.)
Executed in 1995.

Full Cataloguing

HK$120,000 - 220,000 

Sold for HK$189,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2027

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in association with Yongle

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2022