Liu Ye (B. 1964) She is so Beautiful

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Lot 12
Liu Ye (B. 1964)
She is so Beautiful

Sold for HK$ 6,252,500 (US$ 796,789) inc. premium
Liu Ye (B. 1964)
She is so Beautiful

signed in Chinese and Pinyin and dated 2000 on the lower right
acrylic on canvas

46 x 38 cm (18 1/8 × 14 15/16 in)


  • Provenance
    Sale: Poly International Auction Co., Ltd., Chinese Oil Paintings, 4 June 2006, Lot 00005
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

    London, Chinese Contemporary Gallery, Liu Ye: Fellini, A Guardsman, Mondrian, The Pope and My Girlfriend, April 2001

    Chinese Contemporary, Liu Ye: Fellini, A Guardsman, Mondrian, The Pope and My Girlfriend. exh. cat., London, 2001, p. 21, illustrated in colour
    Hubei Fine Arts Publishing House, The First Triennial of Chinese Arts, China, 2002, p. 64, illustrated in colour
    Christoph Noe, Ed., Liu Ye Catalogue Raisonné 1991-2015, Berlin, 2015, p. 295, no. 00-13, illustrated in colour


    簽名:2000 野 Liu Ye(右下)



    《劉野作品全集1991-2015》,Christoph Noe編著,柏林,2015年,第295頁,00-13號,彩圖

    She is so Beautiful is another work that exemplifies Liu Ye's tribute to the western masters through his masterful use of colour and space. Since the beginning of the 21st century, Liu Ye retained only the dramatic atmosphere from his practice and stripped away most of the other extraneous factors. As such, the format of his paintings has become more uncomplicated and absolute — the near-monotone background makes the figures more striking. Art critic Zhu Zhu explained that Liu Ye's succinct treatment of the background is a marriage between Mondrian's abstraction and the use of empty spaces in traditional Chinese painting. In She is so Beautiful, we witness a pivotal change in Liu Ye's artistic career — by enveloping the subject with a simple background, the picture is imbued with a sense of intimacy and peaceful quietude.

    She is so Beautiful emanates a sense of mystique — poetic, balanced, and calm, its harmonious palette is reminiscent of the still life works by Giorgio Morandi. The relaxed and clean brushwork as well as the simple treatment of light and shadow position this work between a flat depiction and a three-dimensional rendering. Not only do the empty background and the reduced imagery filter out all temporal and spatial cues, but they also reject any direct narratives. The way that this work processes complex issues with simplicity is very much akin to Constantin Brancusi's minimalistic approach. Both artists adopt a bare-bones strategy that emphasises the clarity of lines in order to highlight the internal spirit of the subject matter.

    She is so Beautiful speaks to Liu Ye's understanding of beauty and his emotional reaction to it. The face of the female figure in the painting is refreshingly elegant. Its oval shape exudes an amiable personality. The openness of her wide-set eyebrows as well as the clarity of her black irises conveys a sense of warmth and tenderness. Her mouth and nose are diminutively sized and delicate. The contour of her face is gentle without any angularity. Overall, the subject projects a sense of internal peace. The subtle blush on her cheeks complements the strong vermillion on her lips, and her skin glows in a classically soft tone. The warmth of her palette radiates femininity and tranquillity.

    The subject's expression is placid and demure. The slightly upturned corners of her mouth suggest a smile. Introverted yet at ease, her mature composure is tinged with the sweetness of youth. The curves of her shoulders and breasts contrast with the straight lines of her swan neck and raven hair to create an impeccable sense of figurative beauty. The upper half of the figure commands the entire painting surface. The centre part of her hair draws a straight line down the ridge of her nose and follows the median of her sternum and stomach. Her perfectly smooth hair drapes on her narrow shoulders, the lines continue down her arms and outside of the canvas. The symmetry of this work conveys a graceful sense of openness and balance.

    Liu Ye is not projecting his own fantasies on the female gender, nor is he trying to visualise his obsession with the female body. To him, they are the medium on which the artist can manifest the ideals of human beauty. The style employed in She is so Beautiful is lyrical and exquisitely rendered. It highlights the graceful and ethereal aspects of the subject. It is a kind of beauty that is subdued and unblemished. This treatment is reminiscent of Botticelli's iconic depiction of Venus. And like the Roman goddess who is the embodiment of love and beauty, the woman whom Liu Ye depicts symbolises the coming of truth, goodness, and beauty. With innocence and empathy, she seeks to resonate with the viewers' sense of beauty within their collective memories. The direct and natural use of warm tones translates to a much more intuitive use of colours. Both artists utilised the most primordial hues to paint directly on the canvas. The way in which these basic tones synergise with each other heightens the emotive power of the pictures. Such guileless yet powerful brilliance is comparable to sunlight itself poured onto the canvases.

    Between 2002 and 2006, Liu Ye painted a series of female nude portraits. In these works, the figures either avert their gazes or turn their torsos away from the viewers and cover themselves with their hands — a certain degree of bashfulness is unmistakable. The way in which the figure in She is so Beautiful so candidly faces the viewers frontally is exceptional. Her lean torso and arms are perfectly posed, and her subtly visible collarbones indicate an ideal level of litheness. The superior physique of this young woman exudes a sense of irresistible allure that inspires admiration from the viewers.

    The figure in She is so Beautiful does not feign modesty. Her forthrightness can also be found in the subject of Standing Nude (Elvira) by Amedeo Modigliani. The woman in Modigliani's painting looks squarely at the viewers. Without a hint of pretentiousness, she exemplifies with confidence the eternal beauty of the human nude. Liu Ye also attempts to subvert the relationship between the subject and the viewer by manipulating the gaze from a female perspective. The woman in the painting gazes at the viewers intently. Her expression is relaxed and natural. Yet it is not without a hint of coyness. It is worth pondering that not only does her countenance convey a sense of confidence in beauty itself, but it is also a re-enactment of the intimate exchange of gazes between her and the artist. In Ways of Seeing, John Berger explained, "To look is an act of choice. ... We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves". The woman in the painting is not surrendering herself to the gazes of the viewers. The way in which she actively meets their gazes head-on shifts the power away from the viewers and onto herself.

    Liu Ye expressed during an interview, "I believe beauty is the sole means to save the world". As the most iconic milestone in Liu Ye's artistic career, She is so Beautiful thoroughly expresses a distilled and transcendental version of the human nude. At the same time, it re-examines how women can position themselves in art history. It is an exquisite work with an astonishingly sophisticated message.








    劉野曾在訪問中言道︰ 「我認為美感是可以拯救世界的唯一形式。」 《她是如此美麗》作爲劉野創作生涯中具標誌性的里程碑作品,充分表現了純粹、極致的人體美感,亦重新審視女性在藝術歷史中的自我位置感,為意義重大的驚艷之作。

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Liu Ye (B. 1964) She is so Beautiful
Liu Ye (B. 1964) She is so Beautiful
Liu Ye (B. 1964) She is so Beautiful
Liu Ye (B. 1964) She is so Beautiful
Liu Ye (B. 1964) She is so Beautiful
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