Yu Hong - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale Hong Kong Friday, October 6, 2023 | Phillips
  • Known for her monumental figurative paintings that take inspiration from the everyday and the humane, Yu Hong is regarded as one of China’s most accomplished female artists. Born in 1966 in Xi’an, Yu’s education at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing honed her techniques in figural realism, while her observations of drastic social changes inspired the artist’s continuous exploration of human nature and its relationship with wider reality. A witness of the country’s contemporary history, her works focus on intimate scenes of ordinary people and places, presenting genuine depictions of social reality on a more personal scale.

    On frequently capturing momentary snapshots of contemporary life in her work, Yu explains ‘Because people live in the times, they will inevitably be affected by the times. And both the positive and negative factors of the times have a significant impact on everyone. For an artist, the influence is directly or indirectly reflected in the work. I am still very concerned about social realities. My creative themes are directly related to what has happened during the time and the things surrounding me.’i


    Installation view of the current lot at Shanghai Art Museum, Yu Hong: Golden Horizon, 13 - 23 September 2011


    Part of the artist’s Gold series, Spontaneous Motion 5 presents a moment suspended in time, as five individuals skipping rope are shown frozen mid-jump. Yu’s acute observations and attention to detail are evident in her execution of the figures, their dynamic poses retaining the illusion of motion. Removed from their original environment, they are instead placed in an abstract gold leaf background devoid of setting or context. Yet despite deliberate exclusion of the jump rope, one is still able to recognise the popular Chinese pastime that remains relatable to a wider audience.


    Left: Guiding (Yinlu) Bodhisattva, circa 851-900
    Collection of the British Museum 
    Right: Antonio Vivarini, Virgin and Child, circa 1440
    Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


    The use of gold leaf in the present work stems from Yu’s knowledge of tradition, history and religious paintings. More than a signifier of wealth, gold was often associated with gods in both Chinese and Western tradition. An important component of rituals and ceremonies of worship, it was also used as a means of decoration for religious paintings. In particular, the background of Spontaneous Motion 5 can be compared with the application of gold leaf in both Dunhuang scrolls found in the Mogao Grottoes and medieval European painting. Merging classic antiquity and Western art with realism, Yu elevates her ordinary subjects into the realm of divinity. In doing so, she transcends the delicate relationship between past and present, belief and reality in her explorations of human memories in the hustle and bustle of modern society.

    Yu’s works are held in international public collections such as the Singapore Art Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the Ludwig Museum, Cologne, the Shanghai Art Museum and the Guangdong Art Museum. The artist has been featured at several solo exhibitions in China, including The World of Saha (2019), Long Museum, Shanghai, Virtual Reality (2018), Fauschou Art Foundation, Beijing and Concurrent Realms (2015), Suzhou Art Museum. Yu is currently a tenured professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.

    iYu Hong, quoted in Zhang Yizhi, ‘Yu Hong: Portraits of Oil Painting Require to be Gazed at, In Addition to an External Form’, CAFA Art Info, 28 January 2018, online

    • Provenance

      Long March Space, Beijing
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2011

    • Exhibited

      Shanghai Art Museum, Yu Hong: Golden Horizon, 13 - 23 September 2011

    • Literature

      Rosa Maria Falva, ed., Short Cuts, Milan, 2012, pp. 385, 405 (illustrated)


Spontaneous Motion 5

signed and dated 'Yu Hong 2010' lower centre
acrylic and gold leaf on canvas
200 x 180 cm. (78 3/4 x 70 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2010.

Full Cataloguing

HK$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Contact Specialist

Anastasia Salnikoff
Head of Day Sale, Associate Specialist
+852 2318 2014

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 7 October 2023