Du Qiurui - New Now & Design Hong Kong Sunday, November 26, 2023 | Phillips
  • “The initial inspiration came from the ‘unknown’ women in the neighbourhood, and I found some of their characteristics particularly amusing. Sometimes they are very traditional and conservative, but sometimes they are very westernized and open, like a microcosm of contemporary Chinese society. So, I created a series based on them, using their perspectives to observe all kinds of strange people in the streets and alleys, such as bumper cars, temple fairs, ‘happy hour’ in bars, or people in Chinese costumes, and the viewers follow the footsteps of these women to watch a ukiyo-e full of urban farce. People often ask me why I want to create a series with these ‘Auntie’, also known as Dama, as the main character. Why not? Everyone's story deserves to be told.”
    — Du Qiurui


    Du Qiurui's work is a vivid reflection of his personal and cultural explorations. The vibrant colours and the whimsical themes of his works are more than mere visual stimuli; they are the channels through which he communicates the stories of ordinary people navigating the crowded streets of a fast-evolving Chinese society and echoes his personal narrative as a queer individual encountering the interwoven tapestry of life. Du’s creativity extends beyond the conventional; he observes the everyday with a unique lens, incorporating the bizarre and larger-than-life elements of his surroundings into his artworks, which are often filled with bright colours and flat images that invite viewers into an illusionary dimension where reality and imagination blend. 

    In the present work, Let Them Eat Cakes, the vivid colours make the depicted scene appear heightened and exaggerated, giving it an almost dream-like quality. The use of flat imagery diminishes the traditional three-dimensional space and form, further pushing the scene into the realm of surreal. The painting, however, is grounded in common experiences that are highly personal and relatable. The juxtaposition of imaginative aesthetic with recognizable, or ‘corny’, scenarios creates a dazzling impression for the viewers. Let Them Eat Cakes was featured in two of Du Qiurui’s solo exhibitions: Garish at Common Art Centre in Beijing’s 798 art district in 2023 and A Portrait of a Good Will at EYECANDIES in Shanghai in 2022.


    Installation view of the present work (right) at A Portrait of a Good Will, 28 October – 4 December 2022, EYECANDIES, Shanghai


    Drawing from his childhood memories, personal experiences, and observations, Du Qiurui is known for portraying the character Dama Wang, a representation of Chinese middle-aged women. Dama Wang is an amalgamation of urban citizens of small towns. They are usually common and yet sophisticated people who would bargain at grocery markets, rush to purchase gold, and come up with new square dancing despite holding contrasting beliefs with the younger generations. Let them eat cakes! C.A.K.E, cake! also features two of such ladies in an exaggerated rococo hairstyle holding a mirror as depicted in the painting. The lady on the left, in a vivid facial expression, tells the other lady who is celebrating her birthday: ‘You are a year older.’ Even though it is only one year, the increase in age is particularly emphasised here and symbolises the anxiety that women experience around aging in our current society.


    Du Qiurui shares challenges faced by artists today and how he tries to make art more accessible to the general public
    Video courtesy of TEDx Talks


    Originally from Beijing, China, Du Qiurui has since established himself in New York City. His journey into the arts was nurtured from a young age under the influence of his artistic family. He earned a BFA in painting and illustration from the Parsons School of Design and an MFA from the Pratt Institute. Du Qiurui has had his works featured in numerous esteemed galleries and museums, including the Able Fine Art NY Gallery in New York. In his art, Du Qiurui often explores social issues and reflects on his Chinese roots, as seen in his solo exhibition A Bizarre World in May 2018, where he delved into his childhood memories, social conflicts, and pop cultures influenced by China's remarkable development. Du Qiurui’s solo exhibition Love the Unloved is currently on view at TCCA, Xiamen until January 2024.

    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Shanghai, EYECANDIES, A Portrait Of A ~Good~ Will, 28 October - 4 December 2022
      Chengdu, WAYBE SPACE, Let's be happy!!!!!!!!!!, 17 December 2022 - 14 January 2023
      Ningbo, University of Nottingham Library Exhibition Room, Plastic Spring, 1-31 March 2023
      Beijing, Common Art Centre, Garish, 22 July - 19 August 2023


Let Them Eat Cakes

signed and dated 'Qiurui Du 2022' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
120.5 x 100 cm. (47 1/2 x 39 3/8 in.)
Painted in 2022.

Full Cataloguing

HK$40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for HK$53,340

Contact Specialist

Angela Tian
Associate Specialist, Head of New Now & Design Sale
20th Century & Contemporary Art, Hong Kong
+852 2318 2058

New Now & Design

Hong Kong Auction 26 November 2023