Cui Jie - Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Friday, May 31, 2024 | Phillips
  • "The twentieth century began with a sort of futuristic utopianism and ended in nostalgia. The faith in optimism about the future was discarded, like an outdated spaceship from the 1960s. Nostalgia itself has a kind of utopian dimension, only it no longer points towards the future."
    — Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia

    Cui Jie stands out as a beacon of innovation in the contemporary Chinese art scene, particularly through her intricate explorations of urban architecture. Born in Shanghai in 1983, she has quickly risen to prominence with her distinctive painting style that combines architectural accuracy with an almost fiction-like futuristic impression, creating layered narratives that reflect and interrogate the transformative landscapes of modern Chinese cities. The present lot, S House #5, is a quintessential example of her work, offering a complex dialogue between the past and possible futures of urban environments.


    Detail of present lot


    Masterful Techniques


    S House #5 presents an architectural form that strikes as alien and familiar at once, encapsulating Cui Jie’s fascination with the evolution of urban spaces. The painting portrays an imagined structure that blends elements of historical architectural styles with futuristic design. The sharp, precise lines suggest modernist influences, indicative of progress and the forward thrust of technology. In contrast, the softer, more fluid shapes hint at organic forms, perhaps echoing the unpredictability of nature and human life within these rigid frameworks.


    The colour palette in the present lot is restrained, with mostly shades of grey punctuated by stark whites and highlights of blue and yellow. This choice of colour combination focuses the viewer’s attention on the form and substance of the buildings rather than their ornamental aspects. Cui Jie uses light and shadow masterfully, creating a sense of depth and volume that makes the flat canvas pulsate with a life-like three-dimensionality. The viewer is drawn into a visual exploration of the structure from multiple angles, a testament to the artist’s skilful manipulation of perspective.


    The texture in the present lot adds a layer of complexity to the work. The surface of the painting suggests the use of mixed media although the only medium used on the canvas here is oil paint, which introduces a tactile dimension. This textural depth not only enriches the visual experience but also hints at the passage of time, suggesting the weathering of materials and the aging of architectural forms. This interplay between texture and form in Cui's work invites a deeper contemplation of the layers of history embedded within urban landscapes.




    Urbanisation and Alienation


    Cui Jie's artistic narrative is deeply rooted in her own cultural context, yet her themes have a universal appeal, particularly in her exploration of urbanisation and its impact on individual and collective identities. Her work reflects a keen awareness of various art historical movements, from the functionalist clarity of the Bauhaus, which emphasised the integration of technology and art, to the fragmented perspectives of Cubism, which broke down forms to view them from multiple vantage points.


    The masterful rendering of architecture is reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s House by the Railroad from 1925. Both artists use architectural motifs to explore broader social themes. Hopper’s painting captures the isolation and alienation brought about by modernity in America, using stark lighting and strong vertical lines to create a sense of separation between the house and the viewer. In contrast, Cui Jie’s work is dynamic, with its interplay of different architectural styles suggesting the complexity and layered nature of contemporary urban experiences in China.


    Edward Hopper, House by the Railroad, 1925, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Image: © The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence, Artwork: © 2024 Heirs of Josephine Hopper / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Collector’s Digest


    Born in 1983 in Shanghai, Cui Jie’s artistic journey involves exploring the heterogeneous angles in the various geopolitical contexts. Her ability to articulate the specificities of the Chinese urban transformation within a framework that is accessible to the international audience demonstrates her profound understanding of both local and global contexts. Her most recent exhibition includes: Cui Jie: Species as Gifts, West Bund Museum, 10 November 2023 – 25 February 2024; Thermal Landscapes, Pilar Corrias Savile Row, 22 September – 4 November 2023. She also participated in the Taipei Biennial in 2020, where she presented five of her new works.

    • Provenance

      Leo Xu Projects, Shanghai
      Private Collection, USA
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, MoMA PS1, Past Skin, 6 April - 10 September 2017


S House #5

signed and dated 'Cui Jie [in Chinese] Cui Jie 2016' on the reverse
oil on canvas
230 x 150 cm. (90 1/2 x 59 in.)
Painted in 2016.

Full Cataloguing

HK$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for HK$889,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2027

Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 31 May 2024