Chinese Girl fetches nearly £1m in auction


Chinese Girl

Chinese Girl, a painting by Vladimir Tretchikoff, sold for almost £1 million at auction yesterday - twice the price the auction house had put on the painting, and a record for the artist.

So what happened?

The painting

The painting was of a girl who worked in a laundrette near Tretchikoff's home in Cape Town.

It is instantly recognisable, largely because according to Bonhams auction house it is the most reproduced picture in the world. In the UK it gained particular currency in the 1950s when Woolworths sold a popular reproduction, and it adorned walls all over the country.

In recent years, it has again gained popularity with the fashion for retro prints.

However, it has never exactly attracted kind words from critics. Among the kindest is the title 'The Mona Lisa of Kitsch'.

The sale

It was given an estimate of £300,000-£500,000, but sold by Bonhams for £982,050 to British jeweller and art collector Laurence Graff (said to be worth £2.8 billion). He will keep it at his estate in South Africa.

Bonhams said the unusually high price is partly due to the art community reassessing the artist and his legacy - and that a high profile retrospective of his work in 2011 in South Africa was instrumental in this.

They said that the last 20 years has seen 100 of his works appear at auction, charting a 'remarkable resurgence in the artist's popularity.' Before this painting sold, the record for his work was £337,250, for the semi-nude 'Portrait of Lenka (Red Jacket)', featuring Tretchikoff's lover and muse.

It is thought that interest was also generated by the auction-house's decision to display the painting around the world in recent months. Eventually there were around 120 interested parties at the time of the sale.

Giles Peppiatt, Director of South African Art at Bonhams, said in a statement: "This was an exceptional price for a work which really does merit the word 'iconic'. And it's very happy news to hear that it is going home."

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