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Lot 3
Liu Xiaodong
(B. 1963)
27 May 2023, 15:00 HKT
Hong Kong, Admiralty

Sold for HK$3,179,000 inc. premium

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Liu Xiaodong (B. 1963)


signed and dated 1991 on the upper left;
signed, dated 1991 and titled on the reverse
oil on canvas

100 x 73 cm (39 3/8 x 28 3/4 in)

Schoeni Art Gallery label affixed to the reverse

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Schoeni Art Gallery.

Part of the proceeds will be donated to Hong Kong Cancer Fund.


Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong Kong (acquired directly from the artist)
Collection of the Schoeni Family

Hong Kong, Schoeni Art Gallery, Latitude/Attitude: Schoeni Art Gallery 20th Anniversary Exhibition, 26 November 2012 - 2 February 2013

Schoeni Art Gallery Ltd.,Latitude/Attitude: Schoeni Art Gallery 20th Anniversary, Hong Kong, 2012, p.123, illustrated in colour

油彩 畫布

簽名︰小东1991 (左上);形影不离 100 X 73 CM 劉小东 1991(背面)





「緯度/態度 — 少勵畫廊二十周年展」,少勵畫廊,香港, 2012年11月26日 - 2013年2月2日


Executed in 1991, Liu Xiaodong's Lovers is an exceptionally rare self-portrait by the artist featuring not just himself but also his lover, fellow painter Yu Hong. As an extremely early piece, the highly accomplished Lovers already illuminates Liu Xiaodong's extraordinary prowess in the genres of portraiture and realism from the very nascence of his career. The artist's exacting technique and unaffected directness of his brushwork is echoed by the sparse, concise, yet powerfully eloquent composition.

Yu Hong embraces her lover from behind, encircling her arms around his body. Liu Xiaodong's hands are loosely folded over his lover's tightly clasped palms; a casual, relaxed, yet telling posture evocative of love, comfort, and protection. While Liu Xiaodong appears lost in a reverie, Yu Hong's gaze is direct, piercing, even coyly provocative. Anchoring the composition is the young lovers' gracefully interlocking forearms, their bare skin and long fingers enacting a dialogue that is simple, unpretentious, yet rich with emotion. An exquisite testament to the superlative power of Liu Xiaodong's unique brand of Neo-Realism, Lovers captures a deeply private moment, and in so doing manifests a quietly revolutionary encapsulation of a gravely estranged chapter of contemporary society—a feat that anchors the very core of Liu Xiaodong's greater oeuvre.

Undisputedly one of the greatest Chinese artists of the present generation, Liu Xiaodong occupies a singular position within the history of Chinese contemporary art. In 1989, when Liu Xiaodong participated in the landmark exhibition "China Avant-Garde", his straightforward, apathetic realism was at odds with the bombastic satire of Cynical Realism and Political Pop. Espousing a detached documentary style that subtly yet powerfully conveyed the conflicting energies of society at the time, Liu Xiaodong swiftly emerged in the 1990s as a leading figure of a new generation of Neo-Realist painters, with his adherence to figurative painting amounting to a kind of conceptual stance in an age dominated by photographic media. Encapsulated within his stark unembellished scenes are gently heart-wrenching medleys of the most human of emotions: tension, anxiety, despair, passive acceptance, and silent revelry within the small joys of everyday life. In terms of technique, Liu Xiaodong's loose brushwork and thickly applied paint convey the abstract potential of the medium while preserving a high degree of realism. Although Lucian Freud was an early and defining influence, what is noteworthy for the present Lovers is that in 1991, Liu Xiaodong had yet to see Freud's works in real life, having only encountered them in books and pictures.

Simultaneously tender, enigmatic, and infinitely arresting by way of Yu Hong's gaze, at the heart of Lovers lies a profound mystery. The architecture of the painting implies the unseen presence of either a camera lens or a mirror: Was Liu Xiaodong painting from a photograph? If so, who took the photo, and where is the camera? Was he painting himself and his lover as live models, using a mirror? If so, where is the easel and brush? And who is Yu Hong looking at—herself, her lover, or the viewer? In a similar vein to Diego Velázquez's Las Meninas (1656), Liu Xiaodong's Lovers evokes multiple relationships: that between husband and wife, artist and fellow artist, the male subject and his internal psyche, and finally, both subjects and the external voyeur, be it the painter, the cameraman, or the scores of viewers to encounter the painting in the infinite future present.

Little known to many, around the time Lovers was painted, Liu Xiaodong and Yu Hong were cast in the leading roles of Wang Xiaoshuai's film The Days (1993), a film that was never released commercially in China but won prestigious awards at international film festivals. Shot in black and white, The Days follows the lives of an artist couple. In director Wang Xiaoshuai's words: "... there may not be an obvious story line in The Days, but at least it presents the truth about the lives of people from my generation" (Michael Berry, 'Wang Xiaoshuai: Banned in China', in Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), p. 167). In one scene, Chun (played by Yu Hong) stops and gazes directly at the camera for a sustained moment—a scene uncannily echoed by Yu Hong's gaze in the present work. Upon repeated viewings, one cannot decide whether Yu Hong's gaze is tantalizing or passive, inviting or apathetic. Endlessly alluring, her frozen, infinitely sustained gaze in Lovers encapsulates the documentary impulse that drives Liu Xiaodong's painterly oeuvre as well as the singularly poignant apathy that pervades the very best of his creations.





很少人知道的是,在《形影不離》完成之時,劉小東和喻紅擔任了王小帥的電影《冬春的日子》(1993)的主演。這部電影在中國從未在中國的戲院中上映,但卻在國際電影節上贏得了重要獎項。《冬春的日子》以黑白攝影的方式呈現一對藝術家夫婦的生活。導演王小帥說:「...也許《冬春的日子》沒有明顯的故事情節,但至少它呈現了我這一代人的生活真相」(Michael Berry,《影像對話:當代中國電影製片人訪談》,紐約:哥倫比亞大學出版社,2005,第167頁)。在一個場景中,春(由喻紅飾演)停下來直視攝影機,持續了一段時間——這一幕與喻紅在《形影不離》中的凝視形成了奇妙的回響。反覆觀看後,人們無法確定喻紅的凝視是具有誘惑力的還是被動的、邀請的還是冷漠的。她靜止的、持續不斷的凝視在《形影不離》中永不衰退,體現了驅動劉小東創作的對紀實的衝動,以及他頂級作品中那種獨特的、深層沈著的情感。

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