Fang Lijun (B. 1963)
Property from an Important European Collection of Asian Contemporary Art
Fang Lijun (B. 1963)


Fang Lijun (B. 1963)
acrylic on canvas
78.2 x 178 cm. (30 3/4 x 70 in.)
Painted in 2002
Alexander Ochs Gallery, Berlin, Germany
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Hebei Education Press & Documentation Library of Today Art Museum, Chinese Artist of Today: Fang Lijun, Hebei, China, 2006 (illustrated, pp. 290-291 & 415).
Lo Yinhua (ed.), Taipei Fine Arts Museum & She Jie Yi Shu Chu Ban She, Live Like a Wild Dog: 1993-2008 Archival Documentation of Fang Lijun, Taipei, Taiwan, 2009 (illustrated, p. 291).

Lot Essay

Fang Lijun's career has evolved in lockstep with the opening up of China from the 1990s onwards. In the earliest years of his career, Fang's palette was almost exclusively grey, just as the emotional tone of the works was restrained and neutral, his figures moody and adrift. As China's breakneck development continued to change the face of contemporary life, and as a globalised consumption culture took hold, Fang's work was marked by significant shifts. His palette brightened; his compositions became filled with saccharine sweet flowers and populated by bald figures now appearing as genderless children in states veering between wonder and dread. These works drew upon the heady, seductive imagery of high communist culture and its associated appeals to mass political movements, suggesting both the draw as well as the underbelly of such utopian movements.
With 2002.2.15 (Lot 460), Fang eliminates the figures entirely in favour of an elegant, dryly ironic vision. In a broad horizontal format reminiscent of Chinese handscrolls, Fang offers a cool, infinite horizon of gently undulating clouds, melting into snow-capped mountain peaks, reminiscent of the peaceful vistas one finds during long-haul flights. In the foreground is a bed of chrysanthemums in a range of buttery pastels. The flowers tumble gently about, free from gravity and suggesting a timelessness. Their soft petals invite the viewer into the space, promising a kind of transcendent experience as surely as they promise annihilation. Although Fang's usual figures have been eliminated, they are replaced by the viewer's presence. In so doing, Fang draws us viscerally into the core philosophical concepts of his practice. The work contains echoes of the history of utopian images both East and West. But it is not a lyrical pastoral nor a politically charged work of propaganda. It has an air of salvation, but, ironically, the vista is one you might only find at 30,000 feet. Fang's ambiguous approach to such imagery recalls his fundamentally iconoclastic spirit and his ambivalence towards beauty, reminding us again that all that glitters is not gold.

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