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A golden tinge to a rich view of city history

THE spring auction of the Chongyuan Art Auction House has a romantic title - "The Golden Age of Shanghai."

According to Ji Chongjian, owner of Chongyuan, the period refers to the old Shanghai of the first half of last century.

"As you can see, many of the artworks such as traditional ink-wash paintings, calligraphy, ceramics and jade wares that will go under hammer have some connection with old Shanghai," he says.

Or to be more precise, the owners of these 137 artworks, the descendents of the entrepreneurs, intellectual celebrities and government officials, have some connection with the Shanghai's Golden Age.

"Many people asked me why I would have a big auction in such a bad time," Ji says. "But I think it is a good time to bring back to life the grace and sophistication of this beautiful city, and at the same time, it could really revitalize the art market."

In order to collect these pieces, Ji traveled abroad frequently in the past few years, convincing the once famous families or their descendents, most of them now residing in the US.

The name list includes Wang Yuqin who eventually became a partner of the Rong Group, one of the most famous companies in Shanghai during the 1930s, and Shi Liangcai, a newspaper mogul.

The highlight of the auction is a folding fan by Mei Lanfang (1894-1961), the master of Peking Opera.

The folding fan featuring red flowers and bird was created by Mei in 1922. Mei presented this painting to Shi Liangcai, owner of The Shun Pao and was murdered by Kuomintang regime in 1934 because of his support for the Chinese Communist Party. The floor price of this folding fan is set at 60,000 yuan (US$8,823.53).

"But besides its value, the fan also witnessed the friendship of two legendary figures of Chinese modern history," Ji says.

Another spotlight is a traditional ink-wash painting created by Zhang Daqian (1899-1983). The painting's bidding price is around 2.5 million yuan.

"Everyone is afraid of the possible collapse in the art market here due to the financial downturn," says Ji, "But I don't. Rare pieces with cultural and artistic value are still popular among collectors. After all there will always exist people who are interested in buying art."

According to Ji, this auction will be the beginning of a series focusing on the golden age of Shanghai, which "will stimulate further interest and a greater understanding of the original spirit of the city's unique culture, of course with a clear provenance of these artworks."

Date: March 30-31, 10am-7pm (preview); April 1, 1:30pm (auction)

Address: Zurich Hall, Swissotel Grand, 1 Yuyuan Rd


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