Chinese Girl, 1951
The world’s most popular print is up for grabs.
‘Chinese Girl’, the most iconic work of Vladimir Tretchikoff – the Russian émigré who settled in South Africa – will be sold at Bonhams South African art sale on 20th March 2013 for an estimated £300,000-£500,000.
Said to be the most widely reproduced and recognisable picture in the world, from the 1950s prints of this famous work sold widely in South Africa, Britain, Europe and America.
Tretchikoff himself claimed that by the end of his career he had sold half a million large-format reproductions of the ‘Chinese Girl’ print worldwide (and that doesn’t include smaller print versions): today you can also find mugs, wallpaper and assorted other ‘Chinese Girl’ paraphernalia.
In their obituary to Tretchikoff (who died in 2006), the BBC confirmed that the ‘Chinese Girl’ was indeed the highest-selling print in history. Even as early as 1961, a BBC presenter made the following assertion (as related in Pigeon’s Luck, the artist’s life story): “Which painting do you think is the most famous in the world? Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’? Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’? Gainsborough’s ‘Blue Boy’?… Before you answer, let me tell you you’re wrong. It’s the green-faced ‘Chinese Girl’ by Tretchikoff.”
The ‘Chinese Girl’ is inspired by the sitter Monika Sing-Lee, who was working at her uncle’s launderette in Sea Point, Cape Town when Tretchikoff spotted her and asked her to model for him. Boris Gorelik, author of the forthcoming new book Incredible Tretchikoff (due out in 2013), was the first researcher to trace Sing-Lee in 2010. He remarks on the unmistakable resonance between photographs of Sing- Lee in 1952, and the painting of the ‘Chinese Girl’.
But the painting goes beyond a portrait to become something more iconic. Clearly, Tretchikoff had a personal investment in the work. Having spent many years as a child in Harbin (the Russian-founded town in Manchuria) after his family fled Russia, he later moved to Shanghai where he worked in advertising and commercial illustration until 1934. As the artist explains in Pigeon’s Luck: “In painting ‘Chinese Girl’ I had a lot of experience to draw on… My mind and soul went into this painting, and perhaps there lies the explanation for its success. Somehow perhaps I caught the essence of Chinese womanhood…”
This is a rad little clip from Robert Alcock’s 1984 documentary film Keith Haring: Barking Dogs and Babies, there’s another clip here. I managed to see this a few years ago but it’s virtually impossible to find.
GeorgiaPerry: Stumbled on this darling little video from 1980s Melbourne and the installation of Keith Haring’s mural in Collingwood.
The Ladder Of Fire II, 1939
Oil on canvas
This is the second painting of the “Graditation of Fire” or “Ladder of Fire.” Magritte compared this to the caveman’s first discovery of fire. He said in a 1938 lecture, “The Ladder of Fire afforded me the priviledge of being acquainted with the feeling experienced by the first men who produced a flame by rubbing together two pieces of stone. In turn from a piece of paper, an egg and a key, I caused fire to spring forth.”
The work is illegal because it is forbidden to put leave an object on the water unattended. Mulhern notes the high visibility of the die, they’re behaviour to follow the same current as any nearby vessels, and also their collapsible nature on impact render them safe on sea.
“I don’t believe in market research. I don’t believe in marketing the way it’s done in America. The American way of marketing is to answer to the wants of the customer instead of answering to the needs of the customer. The purpose of marketing should be to find needs — not to find wants. People do not know what they want. They barely know what they need, but they definitely do not know what they want. They’re conditioned by the limited imagination of what is possible. … Most of the time, focus groups are built on the pressure of ignorance.”
— Massimo Vignelli