Matthew Wong Sets Another Auction Record
By Margarita Cheng
Paintings by self-taught Chinese-Canadian artist Matthew Wong (1984–2020), known for his colorful, abstracted landscapes, are continuing to soar in price, with a canvas setting a new auction record for the late artist of USD 4.47 million at Christie's New York’s Post-war and Contemporary Day sale on October 7. Ever since his passing just over a year ago, on October 2, 2019, Wong’s paintings, which only debuted in auctions earlier this year, have garnered intense attention of buyers.
The Christie’s sale sold 190 lots for a total of USD 36.5 million, led by Wong’s oil-on-canvas depiction of a waterfall surrounded by trees in multi-colored hues, Shangri-La (2017), which sold for six times its high estimate of USD 700,000. The previous record for one of his paintings was set in July during Sotheby’s New York’s virtual Contemporary Art Evening Sale with a slightly smaller landscape, The Realm of Appearances (2018), depicting a red-hued meadow beneath a full moon, which hammered at almost 23 times its high estimate at USD 1.82 million.
Wong's auction debut took place at Sotheby’s online Contemporary Art Day sale in May, with a small untitled watercolor-on-paper from 2018, which made USD 62,500 over a high estimate of USD 15,000. At Phillips’s Hong Kong’s 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening sale on July 8, his red-toned Warmth (2017) made HKD 2.6 million (USD 335,470), four times its high estimate. The breakout sale came during the Hong Kong leg of Christie’s ONE: A Global Sale of the 20th Century on July 10, when his painting of a house in field, Homecoming (2017), made HKD 3 million (USD 386,970), over the high estimate of HKD 640,000 (USD 82,580).
Since then numerous auction houses have featured his works. Also in New York, at Phillips’s sale on September 30, his painting Blue Tree (2016) sold for four times its high estimate at USD 300,000. At Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated sale on October 2, a watercolor of a vibrant garden, Secret Window (2018), sold for more than five times its high estimate at USD 162,800.
Toronto-born and Hong Kong-raised Wong died of suicide in Edmonton last year. After completing his studies in cultural anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, he began drawing and painting in 2012, and then pursued a MFA in photography at the City University of Hong Kong's School of Creative Media in 2013. New York’s Karma gallery, which represents Wong’s estate, first presented his works at a Matthew Higgs-curated group exhibition in 2016. The gallery went on to produce Wong’s first solo show in 2018, followed by another one in November 2019, which took place as previously scheduled shortly after his passing but was not a selling exhibition.
Margarita Cheng is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.
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