• Asian Contemporary Art (Day Sa auction at Christies

    Sale 2726

    Asian Contemporary Art (Day Sale)

    30 November 2009, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1512

    LIU YE

    Price Realised  


    LIU YE
    (B. 1964)
    The Yellow Menace (formerly Death of Marat)
    signed 'L.Y.' in Pinyin; dated '91' (upper right)
    oil on canvas
    45 x 45 cm. (17 3/4 x 17 3/4 in.)
    Painted in 1991

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    Liu Ye lived in Europe as a young artist throughout much of the 1990s. During this time, he says he was able to "concentrate on himself" (B. Fibecher, "Liu Ye", Kunstmuseum Bern Timezone 8; p. 12), honing his skills as a painter, concentrating on his craft through explicit and conceptual investigation of his favorite artists. During this time, Liu frequently painted intimate and disarming personal parables dense with private symbols. Meticulously rendered forms and colors, these paintings often featured quotations from his favorite works of Western art history, appropriations that allowed Liu Ye to enter into the great European tradition of painting, but also to demonstrate his own difference and unique vision - a mixture of classicism, formalism, and surrealism - at once an homage, as well as kind of audacious challenge.

    In The Yellow Menace (Lot 1512) from 1991, Liu paints an idiosyncratic self-portrait surrounded by allusions to various European masters. Liu paints himself shirtless, one leg on an anonymous red book and standing before an apparent reproduction of Johannes Vermeer's famous A Girl Reading A Letter by an Open Window. Vermeer's own signature inclusion of dramatic light pouring through an open, leaded window is further echoed by the window to Liu Ye's left. A nude male stands in an awkward diagonal position next to the artist, standing a top a mysterious cube. His turban and spear appear to be reference to Orientalist Paintings, but he equally resembles the image of Marat from Jacques-Louis David's famous posthumous portrait. Indeed, Liu's original title for the painting was "The Death of Marat". Additionally, the highly formal composition and balance of light, color, and shadow, further echoes the structure of the canvases of Piet Mondrian's whom Liu also greatly admired. Ultimately, Liu does not necessarily suggest that the viewer can fully unlock the secrets of the composition. Instead he simply offers himself as an image of an artist, surrounded by objects of knowledge, history, and art, with and his own solemn commitment to asserting his own place within that rich world.


    Galerie Taube, Berlin


    Galerie Taube, Dezembersalon 92, exh. cat., Berlin, Germany, 1992 (illustrated, plate 46, unpaged).
    Galerie Taube, Ye Liu: Bilder & Graphik 1991-1993, exh. cat., Berlin, Germany, 1993 (illustrated, plate 4, unpaged).


    Berlin, Germany, Galerie Taube, Dezembersalon 92, 4 December, 1992-30 January, 1993.
    Berlin, Germany, Galerie Taube, Ye Liu: Bilder & Graphik 1991-1993, 23 April-5 June, 1993.