What a nun wants, a nun gets. At least that's what Sotheby's decided this week, when a 60-year-old Taiwanese Buddhist sister demanded that a $1.65 million sale be halted in Hong Kong.
The auction house canceled the sale of a 20th century Chinese painting by Zhang Daqian after the unhappy nun, Lu Chieh-chien, requested a court hearing to prevent the bidding. She challenged the ownership of the 1950 ink and color painting, titled "Riding in the Autumn Countryside," claiming that the work was the property of her family and had been consigned without their permission.
According to the BBC, Lu claims that Daquian himself presented the painting to her father, a friend, in the 1950s, and that its safekeeping was eventually entrusted to an employee of her brother's. The South China Morning Post said that Lu called the police about the painting's new whereabouts after learning of them in September, through an advertisement for the Sotheby's auction.
One of Zhang Daqian's other works, "Morning Mist in Spring," which was estimated to be worth between US$700,000 and 960,000 in 2011. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
The murky, yet-to-be-confirmed account of the painting's history was enough to dissuade Sotheby's from selling the estimated $1.65 million Daqian original, the most expensive lot offered in this month's Fine Chinese Paintings Sale. But in keeping with its standards of confidentiality, the auction house has so far kept mum on who consigned the work to them.
“Sotheby’s takes issues of title seriously,” Kevin Ching chief executive officer of Sotheby’s Asia stated to Business Week. “We will not sell anything that we cannot be sure that we can pass good title to, and therefore we are withdrawing the lot.”
In the past, works by Daqian have sold in the millions at auction, with one work setting a record in 2011 with a price tag of HK$191 million ($24,638,427).
Check out images from Sotheby's Hong Kong Contemporary Asian Art Sale that took place on October 7th, 2012 below.