The discovery of four watercolours by Cheong Soo Pieng (1917-83) hanging on the walls of a private residence during an estate appraisal had been magnified when another three pictures were found in the cellar.
All were executed during the late 1950s and early ‘60s and were thought to relate to the Borneo expedition that inspired many of the artist’s later paintings. The vendor’s father had been introduced to the artist in the early ‘60s by his law firm’s client, the magnate, collector and ornithologist Loke Wan Tho.
The appearance at a valuation day of a vibrant oil on board of a fishing village by Nanyang School artist Chen Wen Hsi (1906-91) had seemed an almost impossible coincidence. The artist is much copied so the auctioneers chose to describe it as an ‘attributed’ work. However, all attracted attention, from agents, collectors and institutions across Singapore and Hong Kong.
The Soo Pieng ink and watercolour works on paper sold at prices between £10,000 and £33,000 – topped by a 3ft 1in x 17in (94 x 43cm) composition depicting moored boats in a Kampong fishing village that carried a two-character signature and red seal mark and a further signature in English. Dated 1961, the picture was backed with pages from a Singapore edition of The Telegraph dated 1962.
Bidding for the 21in x 2ft 6in (53 x 75cm) Wen Hsi oil opened at £10,000 with competition sending it to £58,000.
It had been inherited by the vendor from his father, the Reverend Frederick Mason, a professor at the University of Malaysia in Singapore during the ‘50s who served on the exhibition committee of the Singapore Art Society. This work may have been included in an exhibition in 1951.