Li Chen - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Thursday, March 30, 2023 | Phillips

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    “We live in a highly complex and volatile age. There is a deep spiritual poverty within humanity – they are spiritually lost and confused souls. Art is not merely a record of life and its activities, but is also a valuable form of spiritual healing.” ­
    — Li Chen

    Li Chen (b. 1963 in Taiwan) is a prominent sculptor whose works are an amalgamation of Eastern philosophical thought and contemporary art aesthetics. His characteristic bronze sculptures, whether miniature or monumental in size, draw profound influences from his studies in Chan (Zen) Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism. Currently exhibiting a solo show at Asia Art Center in Taiwan (Li Chen: Paradox in Elegance—Spiritual Journey through the Mundane World, 11 March – 20 April 2023), Li’s body of works are deeply spiritual and seek to instill in the viewer a sense of joy and enlightenment.


    The physical appearance of Li’s sculptures is decidedly modern through the minimalistic rendering of the figures and their elongated stature. However, one immediately recognizes elements characteristic of traditional East Asian art and Buddhist sculptures. The benevolent and tranquil expression of the Buddha is reflected in both figures of the present lot, The Pavillion and Angelic Smile, executed in 2010 as part of the artist’s renowned The Beacon series.


    The figures harmoniously resonate with one another, as the female figure faces upward with a modest and honest expression that embraces a state of bliss and nirvana. In her hands is a golden lotus flower, a Buddhist symbol of spiritual awakening and purity that stems from the plant’s ability to rise from murky waters, clean and untainted. The use of gold is both symbolic of divinity and enlightenment. Behind her head floats a cloud shaped like a pillow or a surreal face, lending a touch of whimsicalness and humor to the otherwise thought-provoking work. Furthermore, Li deliberately emphasized the roundness of the figures which is characteristic of East Asian features.


    By contrast, the male figure faces downward, embracing in his arms a golden pavilion, an important cultural heritage of the literati tradition. The literati of ancient China enjoyed their idle time reading the Classics, appreciating the natural landscape, conducting tea ceremonies, and engaging in discussions of art under a pavilion, usually situated in a classical Chinese garden. Li admires the lifestyle of the literati and yearns to find a balance in the fast-paced modern society where we no longer take the time to slow down and introspect.


    The present sculpture is an embodiment of contrasting elements, conveying at once a strong physical presence and spiritual weightlessness. The viewer rejoices in the familiarity of traditional culture and the serene energy in Li’s work while reflecting on the excess and anxieties of modernity. Through its meditative and transcendent quality, The Pavilion and Angelic Smile restores a sense of inner peace and joy in the viewer, reminding us of the importance of spiritual cultivation and the timeless wisdom of ancient philosophy.



    Li Chen, Angelic Smile, 2010
    Sold by Phillips Hong Kong for HK$4,284,000, 22 June 2022


    Collector’s Digest 

    • Internationally and critically acclaimed, Li has received prominent recognition from both critics and collectors alike. In 2007, Li was invited to exhibit his works in a solo show at the 52nd Venice Biennale, an outstanding achievement as he was the first artist from Taiwan to accomplish this, cementing his status in the contemporary art scene as one of the most sought-after sculptors.

    • Li Chen’s work has been presented in prestigious galleries and museums, with recent solo shows including;  Being: In/Voluntary Drift Li Chen Solo Exhibition (2017) at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei; Through the Ages – Li Chen Solo Exhibition (2018-2019) at the Aurora Museum, Shanghai; Ethereal Cloud – Li Chen New Works (2019) at the Asia Art Center, Beijing, among numerous others. The present lot, Angelic Smile, was part of the Greatness of Spirit – Li Chen Premiere Sculpture Exhibition in Taiwan (2011), Taipei, and Monumental Levity: Li Chen 2013 Place Vendôme Premiere Solo Sculpture Exhibition in Paris (2013) — a large-scale outdoor display at the historic Place Vendôme in Paris.

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    • Description

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    • Provenance

      Asia Art Center, Taipei
      Acquired from the above by the present owner



The Pavilion and Angelic Smile

incised with the artist's seal and signature 'LiChen' on the reverse of the left figure; incised with the date '2010' on the reverse of the base; further incised with the artist's seal and number '3/8' on the reverse of the right figure
68.4 x 61.5 x 36.4 cm. (26 7/8 x 24 1/4 x 14 3/8 in.)
Executed in 2010, this work is number 3 from an edition of 8, and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Asia Art International Group Corporation.

Full Cataloguing

HK$1,200,000 - 2,400,000 

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Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 30 March 2023