RANGOON — A painting by celebrated Burmese artist Win Pe commemorating the 25th anniversary of Burma’s 8888 Uprising fetched almost US$2,800 at a charity auction on Sunday.
The acrylic painting titled ‘88 Democratic Revolution’ was presented for auction by Min Ko Naing, a prominent student leader of the ’88 movement and member of the Convention Committee for the 8888 Silver Jubilee that
organized the event.
The work appears on the cover of The Four Eights Magazine, a 336-page issue published by the committee to mark the jubilee, which will be commemorated during several events on Aug 6, 7 and 8.
Hundreds of thousands of Burmese took to the streets in August and September 1988 to demand democracy and an end to the rule of Dictator Ne Win. The 8888 people power uprising was, however, brutally crushed and the army would continue to rule Burma for more than two decades.
Min Ko Naing said during his opening speech at the Royal Rose Restaurant in Rangoon that the 48’’ x 36’’ painting, which features abstract human faces, was up for auction by the artist’s request.
During the auction, the floor price began at 8888 kyats, but it surged to 2000,000 kyats (about US$2000) within a few minutes when four bidders competed against each other for the ownership of the painting. The painting eventually went to Htet Aung, a fifth bidder who offered 2800,000 kyats (about $2,800).
The 78-year-old artist, who has lived in the US since 1994, had promised editors of the commemorative Four Eights magazine during a recent visit to Burma that he would paint a magazine cover for them.
“He sent the painting from the States on time,” said Tun Win Nyein, a member of the magazine’s eight-strong editorial team. “He told us he will donate half of the price fetched at the auction to the committee that organizes the 88 Uprising memorial event.”
The editor recounted what the artist had said about the work: “Saya U Win Pe explained to us that he had created the painting with all his feelings towards the Four Eights movement… This is the only one painting by U Win Pe about the popular uprising.”
A movie director, scriptwriter, novelist, cartoonist and artist, Win Pe has played leading role in the evolution of modern art in Burma. After nearly two decades in exile, he visited his home country for eight months before leaving again in July.
The winning bidder Htet Aung, a Burmese political observer, said he felt happy to own the painting and proud to support the 88 commemorative ceremony. “I thought I would have to pay more,” he added.
Sunday’s auction was the third high-profile charity auction in Burma in the past year.
In September, an acoustic guitar with hand paintings by 88 Generation Students leaders Min Ko Naing, Pyone Cho and Htay Kywe fetched nearly US$70,000 at an auction held during a fund-raising concert.
In December, two sweaters hand-knit by famous opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi were sold for $123,000 to an anonymous
bidder and a chairwoman from Burmese radio station Shwe FM, during a fundraising event of the National League for Democracy.