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Raden Saleh painting, rare Hermès bags to be auctioned in Hong Kong

Muthi Achadiat Kautsar
Muthi Achadiat Kautsar

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, November 16, 2018  /  02:40 pm
Raden Saleh painting, rare Hermès bags to be auctioned in Hong Kong

'Mail Station at the Bottom of Mount Megamendung', created by the legendary Raden Saleh Sarief Bustaman in 1871. (JP/Handout/Christie's)

Jakarta has seen the latest preview of Christie’s autumn auctions, set to be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on Nov. 23-28.

The preview, which took place in late October at the Grand Ballroom of Grand Hyatt Jakarta, displayed precious lots including luxury handbags, accessories and watches, magnificent jewels and artworks from different categories. Among the artwork categories were Asian 20th century and contemporary masterpieces and Chinese masterpieces from classical to contemporary.

A number of works of Indonesian artists are being offered as part of the Asian 20th century and contemporary masterpieces lot. One highlight, for instance, is “Mail Station at the Bottom of Mount Megamendung”, created by the legendary Raden Saleh Sarief Bustaman in 1871.

Werner Kraus, author of Raden Saleh: The Beginning of Modern Indonesian Painting, was also flown in to Jakarta by Christie’s, to meet visitors to the preview.

Kraus, who describes himself as having a lifelong interest in Raden Saleh, said that he would keep conducting research on the late artist, looking into his life until his own last breath.

“Some people call me Raden Salah,” he jokingly said during the media walk-through, (salah translates into “wrong” in the Indonesian language, while Raden is a Javanese royal title)

Regarding the Raden Saleh painting to be auctioned, Kraus said that it was a real work of the artist, the true Javanese Raden Saleh who was in love with nature.

“Raden Saleh, for a long time, he was regarded as a kind of anak Belanda [a Dutch child], not a real Indonesian. People, especially the first nationalists believed that he was a member of the colonial elite. But this is not true. If you remember his painting, ‘The Arrest of Pangeran Diponegoro’, is very critical toward colonialism, and this painting [‘Mail Station at the Bottom of Mount Megamendung’], if you look closer and if you think about it, what do you see? You see a number of Sundanese people [natives of West Java], and you see a number of Dutch people. Who is walking, who is riding a horse and who is sitting in a carriage? It’s very clear,” Kraus told the media.

He went on to say that the Sundanese people in the painting were walking and carrying things, while the Dutch were riding the horse or sitting in the carriage.

“This is a very subtle criticism of the colonial situation,” said Kraus.

Later he points out that what he sees in the painting is the beginning of the destruction of nature, and that the important part of the painting for him is the big tree in the middle, which is strong, beautiful and growing, while there is another tree on the left side, already dying.

“He [Raden Saleh] expresses that already in this painting, in 1871, almost 150 years ago, he already had some idea about how the environment is threatened by human beings,” he said.

Furthermore, Kraus understands that Raden Saleh is not yet acknowledged as an Indonesian national hero, but for him the painter is one of the first modern Indonesian men, speaking Malay, Dutch, German, French and English.

“A totally educated person,” said Dr. Kraus.

- The most important things about Chinese painting -

Christie’s two-day autumn auction preview also shines an insightful light on Chinese painting.

Sophia Zhou, associate specialist in Chinese painting, Chinese ceramics and works of art, explained that Chinese painting was usually done with ink on paper, as opposed to oil painting, which is known for its heavy colors.

“This is [done] on paper, with a brush, so the only one thing you have to know is you can’t make any mistake. You have to be really good and strong with your technique,” she said.

Chinese paintings showcased at the Jakarta preview of Christie's autumn auctionsChinese paintings showcased at the Jakarta preview of Christie's autumn auctions (JP/Muthi Kautsar)

Popular as a subject matter in Chinese paintings is the lotus flower, known in the language as lián huā, which is considered as auspicious as it rhymes with the same character that describes togetherness. A Chinese painting depicting lotus flowers is therefore said to be a great thing to have at home, or a great gift for someone we admire.

Another significant part of a Chinese painting is the inscription that usually cites the name of the artist, the person to whom the artist dedicates the work, the date of the painting and finally a red seal underneath the signature.

The easiest way of storing a Chinese painting is to roll it up, to avoid damage by sunlight and mold. But these paintings are actually meant to be opened only on very special occasions.

To make sure the paintings stay in prime condition, collectors are advised to store them away from sunlight, in a place where humidity is consistent, after rolling them up.

“Some issues [regarding condition of Chinese paintings] are changing temperatures, changing humidity, and that’s how you get that sort of wavy paper, [but] ink will stay for thousands of years,” said Sophia.

Read also: Hermes keeps firm grip on China luxury market as sales soar

- Auction pieces you can wear or carry around -

Apart from catering to collectors who aim at gracing their homes or galleries with art masterpieces, Christie’s also caters to those who fancy wearing or carrying around auction pieces, a different level of discerning fashion enthusiast.

Alongside magnificent jewels and watches, luxury handbags and accessories stood out in the autumn auction preview.

Winsy Tsang, head of sale of handbags and accessories shared an insight on whether a Hermès bag offered for auction is custom made or limited edition.

“Look at the symbol, [and] you will find out whether this is custom made or just a limited edition. If you see the horse shoe stamp [on the left side of the front-facing Hermès logo], the bag is custom made. And sometimes you will see some interesting custom pieces in the auction, but you will never be able to see the same bag, because the color combination is not the same, because it has been tailor-made for a certain client,” said Winsy.

Among the custom, one-of-a-kind, pieces is a shiny braise and rose Scheherazade Birkin size 25 crafted from Niloticus crocodile skin, with brushed gold hardware.

Winsy also explained that the bags to be auctioned were graded according to condition. The highest is grade 1, meaning that the item shows no signs of use or wear, with its original packaging still available. A catalog she presented showed that the auction pieces are of grades 1, 1.5 and 2.

A shiny blueu electrique alligator sellier Kelly 25 with gold hardwareA shiny blueu electrique alligator sellier Kelly 25 with gold hardware (JP/Handout/Christie's)

Following the custom-made pieces, the handbag specialist moved on to iconic limited editions, with an example being the So Black collection.

“The entire bag is in black, including the accessories, the lock, the box, including the dust bag, everything for this bag is fully black in color, and it is designed by a very well-known designer, Jean-Paul Gaultier,” said Winsy.

Gaultier, she went on to say, was the creative director of Hermès around the year 2009, and the two So Black bags were designed in 2010.

“Jean Paul Gaultier no longer works for Hermès, so this is like a very iconic limited edition,” Winsy told the media. There is a So Black Birkin in size 30, that was handmade and offered for around HK$ 1.1 million (US$ 140,467).

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