A rare photo of Mao Zedong, Chinese Communist Party icon, has been sold for $ 55,300 at an auction signifying his continuing popularity in China, 27 years after his death.
A photo of Mao relaxing in a wicker chair against a scenic backdrop of popular tourist destination Lushan Mountain has fetched 340,000 yuan ($55,300) at an auction yesterday, 10 times the pre-sale estimate.
The photo, titled “Chairman Mao, the Brightest Sun in the Heart of World’s People” was taken in 1961 by “Li Jin”, a pen name used by his wife Jiang Qing for photos she took during the “cultural revolution” (1966-76), state-run China Daily reported.
Bidding started at 22,000 yuan, the price of 100,000 yuan was soon passed, and then a white-hot race between two telephone bidders ensued.
Agents acting on behalf of the buyers spoke aloud to the auctioneer as the bidding intensified, when normally bidding cards are raised.
“The result came as a surprise,” Li Xin, the manager of Huachen’s photography department said.
“Photos taken by Jiang Qing rarely come onto the market, and this one is sizable, measuring 45.5 by 37 centimetres,” he said.
“The photo was highly sought-after, mainly because its photographer was such a unique figure. It clearly aroused huge interest,” he said.
“It also shows that ‘red-classic’ photos like this are becoming well recognised by the market. I saw many new faces in the salesroom,” he said.
The auction house had offered a special “red classic” photography section to commemorate the 120th birthday of Mao.
Most of the photos showed the late leader inspecting the countryside, meeting foreigners and attending party conferences.
The $ 55,300 photo by Jiang was taken in black and white and later hand-coloured, because colour film was not widely used then.
The past five years have witnessed a boom in demand for photography, especially “red classic” photos that recorded New China’s rise, development and reform, the Daily report said.
“Our first photo auction in 2006 achieved sales of 3 million to 5 million yuan. Last year, two photo auctions exceeded 13 million yuan in sales, a 20 per cent rise on the previous year,” Mr. Li said.