The top auction houses have scheduled live auctions previously postponed owing to the coronavirus pandemic to take place in July in Asia.
In a press conference last Friday, Sotheby’s announced new highlights for its Hong Kong contemporary sales that will take place at the city’s Convention Center during the week of July 5. Along with major works by Chinese master Sanyu in the Modern evening sale and David Hockney’s anticipated 30 Sunflowers, a large-scale 2008 painting by the Bejjing-based contemporary artist Liu Ye titled Leave Me in the Dark will go up for auction at an estimate between HK$25 million and HK$35 million (US$3.2 million and US$4.5 million) in the Contemporary art evening session on July 9.
Liu Ye is known for depictions of cherubic childlike tropes and inspiration drawn from Piet Mondrian. One of four canvases by the artist to feature a lone figure, according to Sotheby’s, the painting is one of Liu Ye’s major works and measures up, in both scale and subject matter, to his previous record breakers. The artist’s top-selling work, SMOKE (2001–02), hailing from the prominent Gillion Crowet Collection, achieved $6.7 million at Sotheby’s in October 2019 during the Hong Kong contemporary evening sale, against an estimate of $3.2–$4.5 million. Another recent record for a single-figure picture by the artist was the sale of Mermaid at China Guardian in November 2019 for $3.7 million.
With a style influenced by state censorship and his early development following the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1960s, Liu Ye’s work has become a mainstay of Hong Kong auctions, and emblematic of sociopolitical change in the following decades in contemporary China. Liu Ye’s masterpiece-level works feature a scheme combining fantasy and art historical reference.
Institutional attention around the artist in recent years has also bolstered his market results. In 2018, Liu was the subject of a solo survey at Shanghai’s Prada Rong Zhai, which showcased a group of works from the early 1990s and after. His work was also featured in Viva Arte Viva, a showcase at the Venice Biennale in 2017, and major examples from his practice reside in permanent collections of the Shanghai Art Museum and the Long Museum, among others.