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

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  • My work is a reflection on reality, taking topics from real life or inserting them into reality. We don’t just look to the past, but also think about and develop a future vision.”
    — Liu Wei

    Born in 1972, Liu Wei graduated from the China Academy of Art in 1996 and was part of a generation in China that experienced rapid urbanisation and a quickly changing socio-political landscape. First rising to international prominence alongside Chinese artists Qiu Zhijie, Yang Fudong, and others for their 1999 exhibition Post-Sense Sensibility: Alien Bodies and Delusion, Liu’s earlier works were more political in approach, commenting on the overtly ideological nature of art during that time.


    Since gaining recognition for his own practice, Liu has most recently exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2019, May You Live in Interesting Times. Working across various mediums from video, installation, sculpture, painting to drawing, Liu’s current practice touches upon a broader exploration of the human experience in the context of urban life.



    Liu Wei, Microworld, 2018. Aluminium plates. Dimensions variable.
    Courtesy Liu Wei Studio & Faurschou Foundation Beijing Photo: © Jonathan Leijonhufvud



    Part of Liu Wei’s seminal cityscape series, Purple Air 2017 No.1 presents the viewers with monolithic neon-green structures, set against a vivid, pink sky – a modern interpretation of and homage to the tradition of Chinese landscape paintings. Though the abstracted landscape is a recurring motif throughout the history of art, Liu’s interest seems to lie beyond the visual deconstruction of the Beijing skyline.


    Purple Air 2017 No.1 presents a duality of scenes: one in which a sweet, sticky blanket of pollution weighs down on the city. And the other being: one in which a rising pink sunrise, illuminates the city below – as if Liu has captured the serenity of a bustling city at dawn, a static vibration of energy, ready to exhaust itself anew. These scenes are not lyrical in any sense, but rather an observation of the brutalist architecture that has scattered the city skyline in the context of rapid urbanisation.

    Those who are truly contemporary are those who neither perfectly coincide with their time nor adapt to its demands...Contemporariness, then, is that relationship with time that adheres to it through a disconnection.”
    — Giorgio Agamben


    The linear deconstructions of Liu’s cityscapes find comparison in another work to be offered in this season’s sale: Gerhard Richter’s Strip (lot).  Beyond the visual similarities of both works, there is a further connection found within the way in which these images are informed.



    Lot 17, Gerhard Richter, Strip (923-23), 2012 
    Phillips Hong Kong, 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 30 March 2023


    Both Liu and Richter were born into a generation dealing with the aftermaths of certain unprecedented events that caused psychological trauma to the collective psyche: Europe in its post-war era and China in its post-Cultural Revolution era. For both artists, the reference point is clear—Richter’s Strips begin with his Squeegee paintings (and his photorealistic paintings before that) and Liu’s cityscapes begin with the city of Beijing (and the tradition of Chinese landscape paintings before that). What you are seeing is never the question, but rather the why. In making sense of the present, there is a return to the past to understand the scope and scale of these consequences.

    I am with the viewers, in the quest for meaning. I hope the viewers could use my works as starting points or points of reference in their discussions, contributing to their own thinking. In this sense, art means freedom. Not only am I free as a creator, the viewers are free as spectators as well.”
    — Liu Wei 

    Liu’s Purple Air 2017 No.1 depicts two distinct temporalities in the Beijing skyline: one in which the past still dwells heavy in its atmosphere and one in which the present is trapped amid pollution and rising skyscrapers with nowhere to go. In a city where the past and present are so tangibly interconnected, Liu imagines the potential and freedom for the future – simultaneously asking his viewers to consider the same.



    Liu Wei at work in his studio. Image courtesy of Liu Wei Studio.


    Collector’s Digest


    • Since his first European solo show, Purple Air, where this work made its debut at Grace Li Gallery, Zurich in 2006; his multi-faceted works continue to show in solo exhibitions internationally, including the White Cube, London in 2014; Long March Space, Beijing in 2018; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland in 2019. Liu has participated in multiple Biennales including two installations at the central show of the Venice Biennale May You Live in Interesting Times in 2019.
    • Many more of his works can be found in major collections worldwide, including the DSL Collection in Paris; the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and the M+ Sigg Collection in Hong Kong, which holds another work from the Purple Air series.
    • Condition Report

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    • Description

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    • Provenance

      White Cube Gallery, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, White Cube Bermondsey, Memory Palace, 11 July – 2 September 2018



Purple Air 2017 No. 1

signed and dated 'Liu Wei [in Chinese] Liu Wei 2016-2017' on the reverse
oil on canvas
300 x 300 cm. (118 1/8 x 118 1/8 in.)
Painted 2016-2017.

Full Cataloguing

HK$3,000,000 - 5,000,000 

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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