The June 2 auction at Koller (25/22/15% buyer’s premium) in Zurich showed that his works have lost none of their attraction. On offer was a 2ft 1in x 4ft 5in (63cm x 1.39m) long ink and colour scroll painting of Mount Tai Shan at Sunrise (previewed in ATG No 2491), which had an unusual provenance.
It was painted in 1957, while Li Keran was visiting Berlin and was given by the artist to the then foreign minister of the German Democratic Republic, Lothar Bolz. In the 1970s, it was purchased by a German collector.
The guide was set by Koller at SFr150,000-250,000, which proved to be cautious. The hammer price of SFr2.05m (£1.61m) is a European auction record for the artist. Not surprisingly, the buyer was an Asian collector.
A Tibetan thangka with a photo-realistic portrait of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso (1876-1933) caused just as much of a stir when it was offered for Sfr25,000.
Bids from several quarters drove the price upwards, until a Swiss collector sealed the deal at SFr420,000 (£330,710).
The bidders in Zurich were not only interested in paintings. A ritual bronze-lidded wine vessel of He type, which resembles a teapot, from the so-called spring and autumn period of the Zhou Dynasty, which lasted from the 8th-5th centuries BC, was the main attraction.
It was fresh to the market, having been in a Swiss collection since 1927, and is now the property of a German collector, whose winning bid of SFr168,000 (£132,285) was twice the upper estimate.