Li Chen - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale Hong Kong Tuesday, June 21, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "While his art is of a deeply serious nature, his fusion of traditional Buddhist styles and contemporary ideas has resulted in work that is both humorous and full of irreverent wisdom, as well as brimming with the vitality of life and its unpredictable nature."
    — Ian Findlay

    Executed in 2016 as part of the Li Chen’s ongoing exploration of a yearning for inner freedom in his Spiritual Journey through the Great Ether series, the present lot, Reverberance, showcases Li’s departure from his usual smooth and rounded treatment of his sculptural surfaces. Here, the artist instead experiments with a soft and wavy texture reminiscent of rippling water, which is further enhanced by the foiling technique Li applies to represent depth and gradation. In utilising the traditional method of Chinese lacquering with gold leaf, Li succeeds in creating a copperish-golden colour that resembles the rich resplendent hue of distilled whisky - the artist’s favourite drink.


    The name “whisky” in classical Gaelic is Uisge Beatha. Meaning “Water of Life”, the term presents a beautiful metaphor for the essence of the drink being comparable to that of human spirit. In Li Chen’s quest for spiritual freedom, the peaceful attitude organically portrayed by the figure in the present work poetically evokes the half-drunken ecstasy of having released oneself from the mundane. As the artist explains, ‘To celebrate the wine, and to lose oneself in intoxication; I savour my solitude and freedom between being fully awakened and drunk.’ In Reverberance, Li masterfully strikes a balance between the heavy, grounding material employed, and the light-hearted, ethereal spirit conveyed, creating a piece that transcends both time and space, whilst simultaneously blurs the boundaries between the internal and external.

     "In the Tang dynasty, the Buddhist sculptures were round and complete. Instead of being empty, they were full. To me, the fatness of my sculptures means tolerance and diversity. They are big and include all human beings…They are filled with the abundance of the world."
    Li Chen

    Throughout his artistic career, Li Chen has received prominent international recognition, exhibiting at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007 as the first Chinese artist to hold an independent show, and having shown work in major cities such as New York, London, Paris, Shanghai, Venice, and Geneva. More recently, Li was invited to exhibit solo at Song Art Museum in Beijing (20 June – 30 August 2020), and Asia Art Centre, Beijing (14 December 2019 – 5 April 2020).


    Left: Installation view of Li Chen’s Monumental Levity of Li Chen: Premiere Sculpture Exhibition Soothing Breezes Floating Clouds exhibition at Place Vendôme, Paris in 2013


    Right: Installation view of Li Chen, Soothing Breezes Floating Clouds (2005) exhibited at Beijing, Song Art Museum, 20 June – 30 August 2020

    • Provenance

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

    • Literature

      Asia Art Center, ed., Through the Ages-Li Chen, Taipei, 2019, p.135 (detail of another example illustrated)



incised with the artist's name, seal and numbered ‘Li Chen [in Pinyin] 15/30 2015’ on the reverse
44 x 23.5 x 18.7 cm. (17 3/8 x 9 1/4 x 7 3/8 in.)
Executed in 2015, this work is number 15 from an edition of 30, and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Asia Art Center.

Full Cataloguing

HK$200,000 - 500,000 

Sold for HK$856,800

Contact Specialist

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 21 June 2022