Seminal Work by Martin Wong, New York's 'Painter of Modern Life,' To Lead Bonhams Post-War & Contemporary Auction

New York - Bonhams will be featuring Martin Wong's Quong Yuen Shing & Co. (1992), a stunning, large-scale masterwork in its Post-War & Contemporary Art sale on May 19. This top lot is one of Wong's most important paintings. Making its auction debut, the painting is expected to fetch up to $1,500,000. Fresh to market, with just one owner and significant exhibition history, the painting was purchased at the behest of the artist, a year before his untimely death.

Demonstrating his virtuosic technique, the imagery, of the longest continuously operating business in New York's Chinatown, is a quintessential example of Wong's legacy as the "painter of modern life" of the downtown New York neighborhoods of the Lower East Side and Chinatown.

Quong Yuen Shing & Co. first opened in 1891. From the façade, Quong Yuen Shing & Co. operated as a general store but inside the space served as a larger resource for Chinese immigrants coming to New York. The store acted as a home address for numerous immigrants yet to find permanent housing where they would receive mail, reunite with loved ones, and socialize with others in their community. Most intriguing to Wong, Quong Yuen Shing & Co. also hosted the local bachelor's society where young men would come in hopes of planning an arranged marriage.
An essential exponent of the American scene, Wong's practice ennobled the crumbling edifices and oft-neglected denizens of downtown New York. This capturing of contemporary urban life was the natural bookend to 20th century art in New York. The façade of Quong Yuen Shing & Co., with its intricate carving, gives way to an even more ornate interior, with delicate latticework and fine molding. As an epicenter of the community, Wong presents the store in the form of a portrait, in orientation and presentation. Consciously excluding extraneous figures, which he would have surely encountered on his many trips to the store, Wong focuses purely on the main subject, denoting importance bordering on reverence.

A remarkable and visionary artist of the late 20th Century, Wong's work can be found in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the de Young Museum, Los Angeles; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the New York Historical Society. Retrospectives of his work took place at New York's New Museum in 1998 and the Bronx Museum, New York, in 2015, the latter of which included the present painting.


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