Fang Lijun - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Sunday, November 28, 2021 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • “I would like my work to show people’s hearts, beyond physical appearances…I want my paintings to be like a thunderstorm, to make such a powerful impression that they leave you wondering how? And why?”  — Fang Lijun

    One of the proponents of the early 1990s Cynical Realism movement, contemporary Chinese artist Fang Lijun was born in Hebei three years before the start of the Cultural Revolution and graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 1989. The Tiananmen Square crackdown heralded the birth of a new generation of artists whose ambivalent, polarised responses reflected new forms of disillusionment and cynicism with political ideology and social change.



    Detail of the present lot

    Fang’s early tableaux depicted surreal scenes with bareheaded men often depicted within or besides vast expanses of water. Paradoxically trapped in this boundless, shoreless realm, these solitary subjects are suspended in an emotional ennui, their subtle expressions glazed by shades of mockery, disdain, scorn and self-absorption. Theirs is a world overtaken by scepticism and mistrust of terms such as ‘modernisation’, ‘advance’ and ‘reform’. Their heads turn towards the viewer as if suddenly aware of an observer, but their movements are overtaken by apathy and weariness.


    Fang acquired a studio in Dali in 2000, moving out of Beijing and sparking a new period in his career. In his new retreat ‘beyond the clouds’ he worked in peace. The mountain ridges of Yunnan provided new inspiration, and images of naked newborn babies displaced his signature motifs. Glowing with ruddy, quasi-neon health, the choice of pigment parodies the rosy cheeks and healthy complexions of Socialist Realism. Amidst the backdrop of the one-child policy, these government posters exhorted citizens to marry later, conceive later and have less children, with pictures of chubby baby boys and golden carp (traditional visual elements from New Year prints) containing slogans to the effect that ‘one is better’.



    Li Mubai (李慕白), Children born under planned parenthood are strong, 1978


    Fang’s sharp social commentary reflects the particular tension between the collective and the individual in China. 2002.4.10 exudes this uneasy quality, with a sense of fragility embodied in the tension between the enormous hand that enfolds, upholds, and yet threatens to drop or crush its tiny charge at any moment. Like many of his generation who became artists, Fang began to draw because his father sought to restrict his playtime with other children. His paintings convey the overwhelming vastness of time and space: the sense of loneliness and of an individual’s smallness and vulnerability in the scheme of things, an experience so paradoxically isolating and yet shared by millions.

    “When a viewer looks at a portrait of an adult, he will try hard to discern which Tom, Dick or Harry is being portrayed; but when faced with a portrait of a baby, it is as though he is seeing himself. In any case, any image in an artwork is really just a kind of metaphorical hint or suggestion.”  — Fang Lijun

    Fang Lijun was the only student artist invited to participate in the China/Avant Garde exhibition in 1989 that came to be regarded as a landmark moment in the history of Chinese contemporary art. He has since exhibited internationally, including at the Venice Biennale and São Paulo Biennial. His work can be found in prominent public collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, among others. Fang lives and works in Beijing.


    • Provenance

      Prüss & Ochs Gallery, Berlin
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Iceland, Akureyri Art Museum; Austria, Stadtgalerie Schwaz; Austria, Kunstraum Innsbruck; Norway, Haugar Vestfold Kunstmuseum; Finland, Kuopio Art Museum; Finland, Salo Art Museum; Sweden, Ystads Konstmuseum; Netherlands, Singer Laren Museum; Germany, Kunsthalle Recklinghausen, Facing China: Works of Art from the Fu Ruide Collection, May 2008 - June 2012, p. 79 (illustrated)

    • Literature

      Sichuan Fine Arts Publishing House ed., Collected Editions of Chinese Oil Painters: Volume of Fang Lijun, Chengdu, 2006, p. 135 (illustrated)
      Zhang Qunsheng ed., Chinese Artists of Today: Fang Lijun, Shijiazhuang, 2006, p. 303 (illustrated)
      Carol Lu, Living Like a Wild Dog: 1963-2008 Archive Exhibition of Fang Lijun, Taipei, 2009, p. 290 (illustrated)
      Peng Lu and Chun Liu, Fang Lijun: Works Catalogue, Beijing, 2010, p. 348 (illustrated)
      Danilo Eccher, ed., Fang Lijun, The Precipice Over the Clouds, Milan, 2012, p. 97 (illustrated, titled as 2002.12.5)



signed and dated 'Fang Lijun [in Chinese] 2002.4.10' on the reverse
oil on canvas
130.4 x 90.7 cm. (51 3/8 x 35 3/4 in.)
Painted on 10 April 2002.

Full Cataloguing

HK$550,000 - 750,000 

Sold for HK$693,000

Contact Specialist

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 29 November 2021