China’s Qi Baishi now among world’s ‘most profitable’ painters

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Qi Baishi (inset) became the highest valued Chinese painter after his "Twelve Landscape Screens" was sold at a record-high price. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

You can add Qi Baishi to Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol on the list of the world’s ‘most profitable’ painters.

Qi’s ‘Twelve Landscape Screens’ sold for 931.5 million yuan (US$141 million) at an auction in Beijing on Sunday, 60 years after the famed Chinese ink artist’s death.

Bidding for the 12-painting set started at 450 million yuan, and more than 60 bids were received in the space of 20 minutes before an unidentified Chinese buyer won it for 810 million yuan, according to Xinhua.

Adding in art house Poly Auction’s 15% commission took the total price paid to 931.5 million.

Painted in 1925, Qi gave the work, which features exquisite Chinese scenery and is accompanied by a poem written in calligraphy, to his friend, the well-known Beijing doctor Chen Zilin, as a gift.

The 12 screens, each measuring 47 centimeters wide and 1.8 meters in height, had been in the hands of a private collector since the 1980s.

Qi, a self-taught artist who was born to a peasant family in 1864, in Hunan province, also painted a second collection of Twelve Landscape Screens that is now stored at the Three Gorges Museum in Chongqing, in southwest China.

A believer that “paintings must be something between likeness and unlikeness [and] not cheat people,” Qi’s works depict everything from common animals and scenery, to human figures, toys and vegetables

With the record sale, Qi is now ranked the fourth most profitable artist of the last ten years behind Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Zhang Daqian, according to 1843 magazine.

Last year, a work of Qi’s sold for 230 yuan. His second highest-selling painting to date, Eagle Standing on a Pine Tree, sold for US$65.5 million in 2011, according to Artnet.

Last month, the world’s most expensive painting – Salvator Mundi by Lenonardo da Vinci – sold for US$450.3 million at a Christie’s auction.

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