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

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  • “You must keep your love for art. I love to make paintings and I cannot forget this.”
    — Liu Ye

    Famed for his whimsical paintings that often feature young, oblique girls in ambiguous, mysterious settings, Liu Ye forms part of the first generation of contemporary Chinese artists to enter the international art market, establishing himself as both a leader and a trailblazer in his field. Executed in 2003, the present piece is a rare work that is the second painting of an intimately scaled duo, both titled Taking Off . Having not appeared at auction before, Taking Off II offers viewers a unique glimpse into the perceptions of beauty and femininity that defines Liu's acclaimed oeuvre.



    Detail of the present work


    Taking Off II is an alluring portrait of a woman dressed in smart attire, slowly lifting the hem of her skirt with her eyes cast downwards like two slithers of a moon. Daring in its sensuousness, the present work should not be interpreted as a fetishised fantasy of the female form. On the contrary, it should be understood solely as Liu’s desire to perfectly preserve and illustrate human beauty through painting, as espoused by Johannes Vermeer, whom Liu has cited as a major influence on his works. Indeed, his visual rhetoric brings to mind the works of the Dutch Old Master, permeated with a subtle stillness and enticing aura of mystery. Liu’s paintings conjure up an undisturbed air of juvenility as well, the subject matter often revolving around youthful figures and childlike imagery– a conceptual choice which stems from his father, who was a writer of children’s literature. Fascinated in capturing the fleetingness of innocence, Liu’s paintings are familiarly evocative of days gone by, appropriately provocative without losing their delicate gentleness.


    Vermeer's Love for Cornflower Blue – Canvas: A Blog By Saatchi Art


    Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, circa 1665

    Collection of Mauritshuis, The Netherlands 


    Often heavily imbued with references to legendary painters throughout art history, Liu’s works draw on a vast multitude of influences, all the while creating a distinctive painterly style that is unique to him. He cites his greatest inspiration to be Piet Mondrian, most known for pioneering the De Stijl movement with his abstract geometric paintings, composed of quadrilaterals rendered in primary colours and bold outlines. For those familiar with Liu’s oeuvre, this comes as no surprise, as the artist has explicitly referenced Mondrian in numerous works— notably in his 1995 painting, She Isn't Afraid of Mondrian  (sold by Phillips Hong Kong in 2019) which features an entire recreation of Mondrian’s iconic Broadway Boogie Woogie. Liu also pays tribute to his role model in subtler ways, such as in the present work— the artist’s captivation with Mondrian translates seamlessly onto the current canvas through a well-balanced composition and bold use of colour, such as the vibrant shade of royal blue that fills the painting’s background. It is the equilibrium that Liu strikes between geometry and subtlety which makes this artwork as poignant and enrapturing as it is.




    Left: Piet Mondrian, Composition with Large Blue Plane, Red, Black, Yellow, and Gray, 1921

    Collection of the Dallas Museum of Art

    Right: Liu Ye, She Isn't Afraid of Mondrian, 1995

    Sold by Phillips Hong Kong, 24 November 2019, for HK$26,550,000 (Premium)



    Liu’s paintings are held in numerous prominent collections, including but not limited to that of the Long Museum in Shanghai, the M+ Sigg Collection in Hong Kong, and the Today Art Museum in Beijing. The artist, who is currently represented by David Zwriner, was recently the subject of an international solo exhibition, titled Liu Ye: Storytelling. It was first presented at Prada Rong Zhai in Shanghai (2018-2019), then travelling to the Fondazione Prada in Milan (2020-2021). Undeniably at the forefront of Asian contemporary art, Liu’s powerfully eloquent works are widely praised by critics and highly sought after by collectors.

    • Provenance

      Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong Kong
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Hong Kong, Schoeni Art Gallery, Liu Ye: Red, Yellow, Blue, 8 - 14 January 2004, p. 33 (illustrated)
      Austria, Kunstraum Innsbruck; Kuopio Art Museum; Salo Art Museum; Tonsberg, Haugar Vestfold Kunstmuseum; Ystad Konstmuseum; Singer Laren Museum; Kunsthalle Recklinghausen, Facing China: Works of Art from The Fu Ruide Collection, 17 May 2008 - 24 June 2012, pp. 62, 137 (illustrated)

    • Literature

      Tong Dian, ed., China! New Art and Artists, Atglen, 2005, p.137 (illustrated)
      Christoph Noe ed., Liu Ye: Catalogue Raisonné 1991-2015, Berlin, 2015, no. 03-08, p. 312 (illustrated)


Taking Off II

signed and dated 'liu ye 2003 Ye [in Chinese]' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
30 x 20 cm. (11 3/4 x 7 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2003.

Full Cataloguing

HK$3,500,000 - 5,500,000 

Sold for HK$4,788,000

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