Chinese artist's 'Last Supper' sets 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

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In Zeng's work, the religious figures have been replaced by young communists with red neckties.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.