Painter Le Pho's masterpiece fetches nearly $428K in auction sale

By Phuong Linh   June 27, 2024 | 01:44 am PT
“Tinh Mau Tu” (Maternity) by artist Le Pho, the only artwork featured in auction house Millon’s “So Unique! Le Pho, Maternité” auction session, was sold for 400,000 euros (US$427,600).
Vietnamese painter Le Pho’s artwork Tinh Mau Tu (Maternity), measuring 62.5 x 46 cm. Photo courtesy of Millon

Vietnamese painter Le Pho’s artwork "Tinh Mau Tu" (Maternity), measuring 62.5 x 46 cm. Photo courtesy of Millon

The painting was auctioned on June 18. When the bid reached 400,000 euros, a connectivity issue arose, leading the auction house to finalize the sale at that price, which excluded additional fees.

Art researcher Bui Hoang Anh, also the director of Viet Art View, commented that the final price slightly exceeded Millon’s initial estimate of 200,000 - 300,000 euros. She noted that the technical glitch might partly influence the auction outcome.

A similar event happened at the Drouot Auction Center in March 2023 during the "Arts D’asie, Tableaux Modernes" (Asian Arts, Modern Paintings) auction by Art Research Paris. The artwork "Chan Dung Me Toi" (Portrait of My Mother) by Vietnamese painter Nam Son fetched 200,000 euros after technical difficulties prevented many online bidders from participating until the sale was concluded.

Le Quang, a representative from Le Auction House, expressed disappointment that the painting did not achieve a higher price, suggesting that the requirement by Millon for a substantial deposit restricted the number of participants.

The painting "Tinh Mau Tu" dates back to between 1930 and 1945, a period that encapsulates Pho’s transition to life in France in 1937. This era is noted for being the pinnacle of his creativity with silk and combines Eastern and Western cultural elements.

The artwork depicts a mother and child at a low wooden table, where the mother tenderly embraces her child, illustrating maternal love through their affectionate gestures. Pho used neutral tones and balanced, harmonious proportions to convey warmth and maternal care, highlighted by the mother using a scarf to shield her child, reflecting traditional Asian values.

Hoang Duy Cuong, director of Millon Vietnam, noted that the decision to host an auction featuring a single Vietnamese artwork demonstrates the house’s high regard for the Vietnamese art market. He added that this event sets the stage for another auction showcasing works by Vietnamese painters, scheduled for September this year.

Founded in 1928 and headquartered in Paris, Millon will conduct future art auctions in a duplex format. These auctions will simultaneously connect Vietnam and France, complying with the legal frameworks of both countries, stated Alexandre Millon, the president of the auction house.

Pho, born in Hanoi in 1907 and a resident of France from 1937 until his death in 2001, was a significant figure in Vietnamese modern art.

Along with Vu Cao Dam, Le Thi Luu, and Mai Trung Thu, he is recognized as one of the prominent artists of the golden age of Vietnamese modern art.

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