Skip to main content

Chinese artist's 'Last Supper' sets record for Asian contemporary art

By Katie Hunt, for CNN
updated 3:26 AM EDT, Sun October 6, 2013
Zeng Fanzhi's The Last Supper scored an auction record for Asian contemporary art.
Zeng Fanzhi's The Last Supper scored an auction record for Asian contemporary art.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Oil painting recreating "The Last Supper" sets record for Asian contemporary art
  • Zeng Fanzhi's take on Da Vinci work shows young communists with red neckties
  • Painting sold for $23.3 million

(CNN) -- An oil painting by Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi has sold for $23.3 million at an auction in Hong Kong - a record price for Asian contemporary art.

The 4-meter wide painting was sold to a private collector, who wanted to remain anonymous, after 15 minutes of tense telephone bidding at an evening auction held by auction giant Sotheby's on Saturday. Bidding started at $9 million.

The 2001 work is a recreation of "The Last Supper" by Italian master Leonardo Da Vinci, which depicts the last meal between Jesus and the 12 disciples when Jesus foretold his betrayal by Judas.

In Zeng's work, the religious figures have been replaced by young communists with red neckties. The figure replacing Judas wears a western-style yellow tie - symbolizing China's move toward capitalism, said Evelyn Lin, Sotheby's head of contemporary Asian art.

"The painting represents a transformative period in Chinese society," she said.

Lin said the sale showed the market for Chinese art, which slowed significantly in 2012, was "very healthy."

The previous record for a work by an Asian contemporary artist was a sculpture by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami that sold for $15 million in New York in 2008.

The painting was sold by Swiss collectors Guy and Myriam Ullens de Schooten. They bought the work from a Beijing gallery in 2002.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:51 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
David McKenzie meets some American teenagers who are spending a year in China to be fully immersed in the culture.
updated 9:59 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
Chinese students show a handmade red ribbon one day ahead of the the World AIDS Day, at a school in Hanshan, east China's Anhui province on November 30, 2009.
The Chinese government pledges to protect a boy with HIV, who was shunned by his entire village in Sichuan, state media reported.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
A Chinese couple allegedly threw hot water on a flight attendant and threatened to blow up the plane.
updated 12:03 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
China's 1.3 billion citizens may soon find it much harder to belt out their national anthem at will.
updated 7:21 PM EST, Tue December 9, 2014
Los Angeles in the last century went through its own smog crisis. The city's mayor says LA's experience delivers valuable lessons for Beijing.
updated 12:42 AM EST, Sat December 6, 2014
At the height of his power, security chief Zhou Yongkang controlled China's police, spy agencies and courts. Now, he's under arrest.
updated 3:26 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
China says it will end organ transplants from executed prisoners but tradition means that donors are unlikely to make up the shortfall.
updated 1:48 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
China's skylines could look a lot more uniform in the years to come, if a statement by a top Beijing official is to believed.
updated 3:55 AM EST, Wed December 3, 2014
Despite a high-profile anti-corruption drive, China's position on an international corruption index has deteriorated in the past year.
updated 7:01 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
A daring cross-border raid by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates has -- so far -- yet to sour Sino-Russian relations.
updated 7:51 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
A 24-hour bookstore in Taipei is a popular hangout for both hipsters and bookworms.
updated 8:53 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
updated 5:57 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
North Korean refugees and defectors face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
updated 6:19 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.
ADVERTISEMENT