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China painting nets record $65 million at auction

23 may 2011, 18:57
A work by Chinese artist Qi Baishi was sold at auction in Beijing at the weekend for 425.5 million yuan ($65.5 million) -- a new record for a contemporary Chinese painting, AFP reports, citing the auctioneers Monday.

The 1946 painting of an eagle perched on the branch of a pine tree, surrounded by two calligraphy scrolls, measures 100 by 266 centimetres (three by 8.5 feet), the China Guardian auction house said.

Sunday's sale marked the second-highest amount ever paid for an artwork at auction in China, after the 436.8 million yuan paid in 2009 for a work by Song dynasty calligrapher Huang Tingjian, who lived during the 11th century.

Qi, who died in 1957, was one of the most prolific Chinese artists of the 20th century, and his works have recently become sought after.

The self-taught painter focused on depictions of nature such as plants, insects, birds and fish.

China Guardian did not reveal the identity of the buyer.

Chinese art prices have rocketed in recent years, fuelled by the country's economic boom and its growing numbers of super-rich.

China topped the United States in 2010 as the country with the richest art auctions, according to the French company Artprice, which tracks global deals.

China generated sales accounting for 33 percent of art sold worldwide in 2010, while the US cash registers took in 30 percent.

Britain represented 19 percent of the total, with France coming in fourth place with five percent.

After Pablo Picasso, the artist whose works brought in more cash than any other in 2010 was Qi, according to Artprice. Compatriots Zhang Daqian, Xu Beihong and Fu Baoshi were in third, eight and ninth place, respectively.

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