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Frank Cohen’s collection goes on the block down under

Sale at Mossgreen in Melbourne has Asian contemporary focus and aims to appeal to expatriate community

Collidonthus (2007) by Jitish Kallat. Photo courtesy of Mossgreen. Mossgreen.

British businessman and megacollector Frank Cohen is selling 80 works from his vast collection, including paintings, sculptures, photography and installations, through the Australian auction house Mossgreen on 17 September.

Carrying a total presale estimate of about £5 million, the 80 lots, under the moniker “A Contemporary Vision”, are heavily weighted toward Chinese and other Asian and Middle Eastern artists who flew high during the boom years that ended with the 2008 global financial market crash. Most come from Cohen’s Dairy Art Centre, which opened in Bloomsbury, London in 2013 as a free public art gallery but has now closed.

Sky No. 7, 2005 (2005) by Zeng Fanzhi. Photo courtesy of Mossgreen. Mossgreen

Highlights include Zeng Fanzhi’s haunting Sky No 7, 2005, tagged at U.S. $700,000-$900,000, and several paintings by the Cynical Realist painter Fang Lijun, estimated variously between $300,000 and $700,000. Other major names represented include the Indians Subodh Gupta and Jitish Kallat, the Korean Lee Ufan, the Iranian Farhad Moshiri, the Young British Artist Mat Collishaw and the US collective Bruce High Quality Foundation.

Cohen’s choice of Mossgreen’s Melbourne saleroom reflects the Asian content. Australia has a large population of wealthy Chinese expats, and Mossgreen, since opening in 2004, has accrued a strong track record in single-owner sales.

“There is a regional logic in selling in the southern hemisphere,” says Mossgreen's chief executive, Paul Sumner. Plus, he adds, “Mossgreen has a history of selling Asian art into these markets, and Australia is seen as a reliable country in which to trade,” because its legal and banking systems offer buyers more security than some alternative Asian venues.