From a young age growing up in South Africa, I can vividly remember seeing this Chinese lady with blue/green skin gracing walls in homes across the country. She seemed to pop up in strange and mysterious places. My Aunt Pam had a print on her wall along with the three flying ducks! I remember observing this and wondered why on earth would so many people want this rather kitsch picture of a Chinese girl? I later found out that it was Vladimir Grigoryevich Tretchikoff from Kazakhstan who was the artist behind this twentieth century phenomenon.
Reunited with his wife and children in Cape Town in 1947, Vladimir found his subject model, Monika Pon-su-san, in a Chinese Laundry in Sea Point in 1950. She sat for him at the age of 17, not knowing at the time that reproductions of this iconic artwork would go viral. And viral it did go, selling over a million copies in other parts of the world. Art critics said it was the epitome of kitsch and hence Tretchikoff was nicknamed ‘King of Kitsch’ and became one of the most commercially successful artists of the twentieth century. Rumour has it that at the time Tretchikoff was the richest artist after Picasso
Laurence Graff – through his passion for art and jewels – recently acquired Tretchikoff’s famous Chinese Girl. He has added this work to his personal collection and it was Tretchikoff’s model the guest of honour Monika Pon-su-san who was there to unveil herself as the ‘Blue Lady’. The charity dinner held on the Delaire Estate for The FACET Foundation (For Africa’s Children Every Time) was a great success raising money to aid the partnership with Pebbles Project. This will see the launch of the first Graff Mobile Learning Centres in early 2014. Another beautiful facet to the evening was the opening of Graff’s flawless and magnificent new jewellery boutique on the estate itself.
When you have a chance to visit Delaire you will see the real deal that, through the meaning of life Laurence Graff has given the ‘Blue Lady’ a place back home. It may also be worth your while to check with your aunts and uncles if they have a Tretchikoff in their attic and if so hang on to it, so to speak. It could be worth a lot of tea in China.