Fang Lijun - Contemporary Art London Friday, October 13, 2006 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Alexander Ochs Galleries, Berlin

  • Catalogue Essay

    Born in 1963 at the height of Chairman Mao’s reign, Fang Lijun grew up despising the false utopian ideals promised by a regime he saw inherently flawed. He suffered particular hardship as he was forced, under Mao’s program of rectification, to denounce his own grandfather who formerly enjoyed prosperity. As an escape from the harsh realities of the Cultural Revolution, Fang Lijun began drawing cynical cartoons of China’s past and present leaders. However, it was not until 1985, several years after the end of the Cultural Revolution with Chairman Mao’s death, that Fang Lijun properly enrolled in art school. He studied printmaking at the Central Academy in Beijing and in 1989, still a student, participated in the ground breaking art exhibition of Chinese contemporary art, China/Avant-Garde. At the Central Academy. Fang Lijun developed his instantly recognizable artistic style of stylized men and women wearing peasant’s clothing and bearing shaved heads. Since the early 1990’s, Fang Lijun has been the leading proponent of the Cynical Realism movement and with the critical acclaim awarded him at the 45th Venice Biennale in 1993, his arrival on the international art scene was sealed. While Fang Lijun’s early oeuvre can be read as very pessimistic, satirizing and parodying the destructive policies of Mao’s totalitarian regime, his more recent canvases offer an optimistic outlook for the Chinese people with hints at a better future.

    Of the present lot Knöpfe, 2002, a large scale four panel work art historian Karen Smith has written, “The multiple-figure compositions Fang Lijun began to produce in the late 1990’s comprise an inordinate and complex volume of people… Here Fang Lijun points to both the innocence of childhood that had been denied him, and the sense of loss this engendered as he matured, mingled with the mass blindness of society… Fang Lijun denies the figures any individual traits that would distinguish one from another: he simply repeats the same figure again and again… The flowers that float within the pictorial space allude to the blooming of a hundred new thoughts and ideas- subconsciously scoffing at Mao’s own Let One Hundred Flowers Bloom campaign- as China embraced a market economy… Fang Lijun is clearly cynical about what such manna from Heaven implies.” (K. Smith, Nine Lives: The Birth of Avant Garde Art in New China, Zurich, 2005, p. 165-167)



painted in 2002
Oil on canvas in four parts.
Each panel: 157 ½ x 69 ½ in. (400 x 176.5 cm); overall dimensions: 157 ½ x 278 in. (400 x 706 cm).

£250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for £478,400

Contemporary Art

14 Oct 2006, 7pm