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CHINA B. 1964

By: JC Rodriguez

Born in Beijing in 1964, Liu Ye grew up during China’s Cultural Revolution. As a young student of the arts, he assisted the mural painting department at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. By 1989, he’d moved to Berlin to continue his studies and earn his MFA from the Berlin University of Fine Arts in 1994.

That year, he returned to Beijing, where his paintings began to show the prominent use of the color red. Particularly with a series of paintings featuring a red curtain. From 1995 to 2000 a number of paintings were created with children in a theater setting and the prominent red curtain in the back. When Liu was a child his father would put plays together for children. The theater and the use of red was a way for Liu to return to his childhood memories. Following the red painting series there were many paintings with children and an homage to his favorite painter, Piet Mondrian.


Combining different elements and sources, his paintings are generated by a plurality of creative forces: memory, observation, imagination and artistic education. All his works are pervaded by a certain ambiguity as they seem suspended between two worlds: reality and invention. During his career he created a personal domain, at the same time accessible and impenetrable to others, which can be described as a subjective reality. He employed his art as a means of self-exploration and discovery, in a context in which artistic creation and daily life mutually influenced each other. As he specified, “Even though I have never become an abstract artist, I am nonetheless interested in stripping down narrative and simplifying.”

The highest price paid at auction for a work of the series was $2.9 Million dollars for ‘Choir of Angels.’ Other works that were created later on were sold at higher prices, such as ‘Leave me in the Dark,’ which sold for $4.9 Million dollars. Work by Liu is held in numerous public collections, including the Long Museum, Shanghai; M+ Sigg Collection, Hong Kong; Shanghai Art Museum; Today Art Museum, Beijing; and the Yuz Museum, Shanghai. Liu lives and works in Beijing.



david zwirner

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