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  • Provenance

    Private collection, Europe

  • Catalogue Essay

    Liu Jianhua, born in Ji’an in 1962, undertook his apprenticeship in a porcelain factory in Jingdezhen, China’s “porcelain capital,” at the age of fourteen. He went on to study sculpture at the Jingdezhen college and is perhaps the most renowned contemporary Chinese artist working in this traditional art form today. His internationally acclaimed sculptures were displayed at the Chinese Pavilion at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003.

    The artist is most recognized for his sculptures of reclining cheongsams with headless and armless models, displaying only a pair of shapely legs that are occasionally barefoot, more often clad in stiletto heels. The cheongsams’ exquisitely detailed patterns and provocative poses belie the viewer’s sense of uneasiness that arises from the sculptures’ amputated forms and their mass-produced nature. “The rigid substance, the form and colors fixed once and for all, and the sense of immortality bound up therein can be played off against the fragility of the object…The material appeal is so persuasive that one almost forgets the loss of individuality and humanity.” (B. Fibicher, Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection, Ostfildern, 2005, p. 256).

    In addition to underscoring the cheongsam as symbol of both gender and cultural exotica, Liu uses his work to question the broader role of Chinese culture on the international stage. While the lone cheongsams of his earlier sculptures retain a partial sense of faded or unrealized individuality, the larger perspective of the Games series is potentially dehumanizing. In works such the present lot, the cheongsams overtly appear as immaculately presented morsels awaiting consumption on an oversized blue-and-white ceramic plate. The cheongsams’ miniaturization juxtaposed with the platter’s massiveness indicate these items’ pure objectification and their solely symbolic function, devoid of utility. In the words of the critic Pi Li, “‘Games’ looks more like a delicacy born of Chinese cuisine, both attractive to the eye and appetizing to the taste. Who will have the good fortune to regale upon this delicacy? And who was the Chef of this dinner?” (L. Pi, Painted Sculpture, Qipao and Chinese Porcelain).

240

Games (Polychrome Ceramic Series)

2002
Porcelain.
14 x 50 in. (35.6 x 127 cm) diameter.

Estimate
$40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for $168,000

Contemporary Art Part II

18 May 2007
10am & 2pm New York