Chinese artist Qi Baishi joins the $100 million club

Qi Baishi's Twelve Landscape Screens, 1925. Image courtesy of Poly Beijing.

A set of twelve of Chinese artist Qi Baishi's ink-brush panels sold for $140.8 million (£105 million) at Beijing Poly International Auction on Sunday. The identity of the buyer has not yet been made public.

Qi Baishi is highly regarded in the Chinese art world and is best known for his brush painting and calligraphy. The Twelve Landscape Screens series was painted in 1925 when the artist aged 62. There is only one other example of this series which hangs in the Three Gorges Musuem in Chongqing.

Baishi is little known outside of China but his work commands prices in the millions. Chinese art is primarily traded within the country's borders.

There are only 15 other artworks that have sold for over $100 million at auction, but this series by Baishi is the first work by a Chinese artist to reach this sum. The other works that have joined the $100 million club are by some of the world's most recognised artists including Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Leonardo da Vinci, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso.

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust by Pablo Picaso, 1932, sold for $106.5 million.

Image courtesy of

Born in 1864, Qi Baishi was trained in the Chinese style of gonbi, which is fine brushwork with a focus on detail, by Hu Qinyuan. Despite this his style is not restricted by this mode. He was very highly regarded in the world of Chinese art and, despite his training, is noted for many of his works using the more expressive style of xeiyi. In 1953, towards the end of his life, he was made President of the China Arts Association. He died in 1957.

A photograph portrait of Qi Baishi in 1956.

Despite living through the political turmoil of the fall of the Qing Dynasty and the introduction of new technologies and Western influence, Baishi's style remains distinct and unaffected. His focus remains primarily on natural forms, notably landscapes, shrimp, birds, insects and mice. Twelve Landscape Screens is typical of his style.

Until Sunday the Highest price paid for a Chinese painting was a $63.9 million painting by Huang Tingjian sold in 2010.

As with many Chinese works fakes and false attributions of Baishi's art is common. He is thought to have produced between 8,000 and 15,000 distinct works throughout his lifetime, however auctioneers have attempted to sell over 18,000 distinct works attributed to him. His famous work Eagle Standing on Pine Tree, sold at auction for $65.5 million in 2011 but the seller fell victim to the ever rising issue of non-payment with Chinese buyers due to a suspected issue with authenticity.

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