Three Sections of Human Body

Three Sections of Human Body
signed and dated 'WGY 88’ (lower left) ; signed in Chinese (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
88.8 x 64.2 cm. (35 x 25.3 in.)
Painted in 1988
Chinese Century Gallery, Paris, France
The former collection of Guy and Myriam Ullens de Schooten
Anon. sale, Sotheby's Hong Kong, 5 April 2015, Lot 768
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Demetrio Paparoni ed., Wang Guanyi: Works and Thoughts 1985-2012, Skira, Milan, Italy, 2013 (illustrated, p. 380)

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Lot Essay

Wang Guangyi's sampling of a variety of imagery, from propaganda images to advertisement photographs, and its fusion with corporate brand names in order to undermine their original purpose is widely recognized. This derives from the artist's intent of "Expunging Zealous Humanism" from traditional imagery and to bring his audience to a rational and objective analysis of the subjects depicted.

After the rational movement of "Northern Art Group" to develop a sublime art detached from everyday phenomena and to portray its profound message, Wang shifted his themes of concern and focused onto the perception of tragedy. His obsession with Classicism and Neo-Classicism during his academic years embodied this infatuation and generated the Post-Classicism series in 1986, whose one of the earliest works is Three Sections of Human Body (Lot 271). It was once in the collection of Guy and Myriam Ullens de Schooten, the former director of Ullens Centre of Contemporary Art, Beijing, which is one of the remarkable and holistic private collections in Chinese contemporary art history.

On the canvas find their place three sections of a man's back, inscribed by black dotted lines, random alphabets and imprints of numerical codes. For Wang's obsession with tragedy and classics, this is Michelangelo's David, the hero portrayed before his battle against Goliath whom he fought against with his rock, sling, courage and faith in God. He is portrayed in a classical contrapposto posture, the same rendered famous by the Michelangelo's statue. Wang's appropriation of the classics brings the spectator to both internalize and reinterpret them, activities that allow him to demonstrate that our ability of correcting previous cultural forms determines the meaning of our existence.

Three Sections of Human Body is not only Wang's early example of the "deconstructionist" and "constructionist" impulse that became a constant of his artistic language, but also his endeavor to subject traditional imagery to rational analysis, both of which rendered him the main protagonist of Chinese contemporary avant-garde.

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