Wang Guangle - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Sunday, June 6, 2021 | Phillips
  • A graduate of Beijing’s renowned Central Academy of Fine Arts, Wang Guangle is widely recognised as a pioneer of conceptual painting in China. Resisting conventional labels such ‘representation’ or ‘abstraction’, his critically-acclaimed paintings represent a significant artistic breakthrough, embodying the physical effort of painting and capturing metaphysical concepts such as the passage of time through painstaking repetition.

    As a founding member of N12, a collective of young artists unified by a desire to break away from the traditions of representational painting in favour of individual expression, Wang spearheaded a new generation of Chinese artists dedicated to exploring “all possibilities beyond the rules of the Academy”. Rebelling against the mainstream realist aesthetics and the notion of social utility which were key to Social Realism (the sanctioned artistic style of the era), his 2000 graduation show at the Academy showcased five paintings which had taken him almost half a year to complete. The title of the series, “3pm to 5pm”, referred to the period when Wang would paint in his studio, working to capture the rays of light projected across his studio floor by the setting sun.

    Terrazzo, a composite material consisting of chips of marble, quartz, granite, or glass poured with a binder whose use became popular in the 1970s and 1980s, first appeared in Wang’s oeuvre as flooring within the 3pm – 5pm series. Originally focused on portraying the light projections on the floor, after a month trying to complete one such painting Wang realised there were two directions to take: either he could attempt to capture the narrative aspect of the scene with light entering the room, or he could choose to emphasise the painting process itself by focusing solely on the terrazzo and stripping out all other details. Deciding on the latter, the artist explained his growing fascination with painting terrazzo and how it led to the birth of the Terrazzo series, a cycle of twelve dedicated works:The Terrazzo theme made me reflect a lot. Terrazzo is a very common construction material. I consider it as a testimony of a past ideology of a certain period in China. We eat the same, we dress the same, we use the same materials, etc. […] I wanted to be independent. If I was independent then I could have opinions, which were different from the existing ideology” —Wang Guangle [1]

    Terrazzo No.9 (2003), an important early work from Wang’s Terrazzo series, depicts a slender, elegant slab of terrazzo set against a deep, inky-black background. Utilising his academic training in realist techniques, Wang applied slow, methodical brushstrokes and an unemotional rendering of colour and form to create a startling new form of painting. Eschewing the simplistic label of ‘abstraction’, he sought to make clear that his work was the result of a concept, namely the time he spent labouring on the painting: “One painting could require three months or more. The time I spent on the painting was for me the important part for me” (the artist, quoted in Garcia Frankowski, ‘Interview with Wang Guangle’, Intelligentsia, 5 September 2015, online). Once he had managed to capture “every stone detail, every different shape and size, round/square/triangle” then he would consider the work finished. The laborious, quasi-ritualistic act of painting, akin to the traditional process of grinding inksticks with water to make Chinese ink, gave him new insights into the nature of time:

    The sensation of the passage of time always inspires me. Time changes everything, and when I can detect the pure movement of time, nothing else seems to matter. In these moments, there is very little else I would want to do.”         —Wang Guangle [2]


    Lucio Fontana
    Lucio Fontana, Concetti spaziali, 1952
    © 2019 Artists Right Society (ARS), New York

    Wang’s work arguably transcended the efforts of other conceptual artists who explored the boundaries of monochrome painting such as Lucio Fontana, who punctured his canvases in an attempt to make form and color continuous with space and time (see his experimental Concetti spaziali, or ‘spatial concepts’), as well as Ad Reinhardt, whose Black Paintings represented for him ‘the strictest formula for the freest artistic freedom’. 


    Ad Reinhardt
    Ad Reinhardt, Abstract Painting, 1963
     Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York
    © 2019 Artists Right Society (ARS), New York

    Testament to the uncompromising and revolutionary nature of his vision, Wang’s work forms part of distinguished public collections including the M+ Sigg Collection, Hong Kong; Guy & Myriam Ullens Foundation, Geneva; M+, Museum for Visual Culture, Hong Kong; Sammlung Goetz Collection, Munich; Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum, China; Vanhaerents Art Collection, Brussels; and the White Rabbit Collection, Chippendale, Australia. Wang has been honoured with solo exhibitions at venues including Beijing Commune (2009, 2011, 2015), and Soka Art Center, Taipei (2011). Since 2000, his work has been featured in over ninety group exhibitions, including Spin: The First Decade of the New Century at Today Art Museum, Beijing (2012); ON | OFF: China’s Young Artists’ Concept & Practice at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2013); and 28 Chinese at Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (2015).


    [1] The artist, quoted in Garcia Frankowski, ‘Interview with Wang Guangle’, Intelligentsia, 5 September 2015, online

    [2] The artist, quoted in Lorraine Rubio, ‘artnet Asks: Wang Guangle’, Artnet, 24 November 2014, online

    [3] The artist, quoted in Barbara Rose (ed.), Art as Art: The Selected Writings of Ad Reinhardt, California, 1991, p. 52

    • Provenance

      Galerie Frank Schlag & Cie, Germany
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Essen, Galerie Frank Schlag & Cie, Chinese Abstract Painting Today!, 30 May - 8 August 2015, pp. 112-13, 170, 180 (illustrated pp. 112-13, 170)

    • Literature

      Jan Leaming, ed., Wang Guangle, Beijing, 2005, pp. 14-15 (illustrated p. 15)

Property from an Important Private European Collection


Terrazzo No. 9

titled and dated ' "Terrazzo No. 9 [in Chinese]" 2003' on the reverse
oil on canvas
180 x 140 cm. (70 7/8 x 55 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2003.

Full Cataloguing

HK$1,000,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for HK$1,512,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 7 June 2021