Lot 1103
  • 1103

FIRENZE LAI | Happily Ever After

600,000 - 1,200,000 HKD
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  • Firenze Lai
  • Happily Ever After
  • oil on canvas
  • 100.3 by 80 cm.   39½ by 31½ in.Executed in 2013.


Vitamin Creative Space, Beijing
Acquired from above by the present owner


Venice, La Biennale di Venezia, Viva Arte Viva, May - November 2017


The work is in very good condition overall. Upon close observation there is evidence of very light abrasion along the edges. Examination under ultraviolet light shows no sign of restoration.
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Catalogue Note

Her compositions of individuals, pairs, and groups capture not actual people but feelings of how people work, and she identifies herself generously with the mass of humanity that she captures.

Robin Peckham

Exhibited at Viva Arte Viva at the Central Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale, Happily Ever After exemplifies Firenze Lai’s disarmingly simple visual lexicon that quietly speaks volumes. With estranged contorted figures reminiscent of German expressionism and an oneiric palette that recalls Fauvism, Lai’s paintings are whimsical psychological landscapes that construct precise emotive narratives, evoking beguiling visual pleasure as well as undertones of dislocation, angst, and pathos. The unique powerful worlds that Lai conjures compel universal resonance in spite of, and precisely because of, her figures’ anonymity. In the artist’s own words: “I make figurative work, not portraits. This kind of figurative work is universal” (the artist cited in “Firenze Lai in conversation with Hera Chan”, Ocula, 23 March 2019, online). Elsewhere, she declares: “Each figure that I paint is the same person. It is you and I. A universal character taken at different moments” (the artist cited in Judith Benhamou-Huet, “An exclusive visit to meet one of Hong Kong’s young high profile artists: Firenze Lai”, online).

Born in Hong Kong in 1984, Lai graduated from Hong Kong Art School and worked as a book designer before becoming a full-time artist in 2011. While working as a book designer, Lai painted and drew at night at a tiny desk, which limited the size of her works. The role of space is key within Lai’s practice, which often featured figures contorted against backdrops or compressed within enclosed spaces. Stripping her subjects of all individuality, Lai’s paintings foreground the relationship and hidden dynamics between the psyche, the body, and their surrounding environs. In doing so, she powerfully evokes the shared dispositions of humanity, including tensions between individuals, between the individual and self, and between the individual and societal conventions.

The intensity of such collective pathos is quietly yet vividly potent within each work. Lai has said: “My spatial awareness is very narrow. It extends to about 200 feet. But inside that space, feeling is very strong. For example, when I speak to you now, the surface of this yellow table gives a strong feeling” (the artist cited in “Firenze Lai in conversation with Hera Chan”, Ocula, 23 March 2019, online). With gestural brushwork to compliment her mastery over spatial strategies, Lai’s compositions capture forgotten slices of humanity that illuminate the poignancy of our times. The artist has exhibited in international solo and group shows, including Turbulence at Mirrored Gardens in Guangzhou (2015), the 10th Shanghai Biennale, Social Factory (2015), the 2015 New Museum Triennial, Surround Audience (2015), and in Venice for the 57th Venice Biennale (2017). More recently, Lai’s works were exhibited in Contemporary's Contagious Cities: Far Away, Too Close at Tai Kwun in Hong Kong (2019).