Spotlight on: Li Yuan-Chia

Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

September 27, 2016

October 6–9, 2016

Frieze Masters
Spotlight, Stand G10
Regent’s Park
London

October 6–9, 2016

Exhibition dates: October 4–November 25, 2016
Private viewing: October 3, 6–8pm

Richard Saltoun Gallery
111 Great Titchfield Street
London W1W 6RY

www.richardsaltoun.com

“The fact that Li Yuan-chia has been missed by the art establishment of so many countries suggests that they have no instruments fine enough to detect a journey such as his. He simply slips past stereotypical cultural assumptions and ideological agendas…” –Guy Brett

Frieze Spotlight Section is dedicated to presenting rare solo presentations of significant but under-recognised 20th century artists. Few artists fit that description better than Li Yuan-chia (1924–94), one of China’s earliest pioneers of abstract and conceptual art.

To pursue his artistic vision Li had to leave Taiwan: engaging with the practices of western artists in both Italy and England, he developed a unique style combining traditional Chinese calligraphy with abstraction.

A founding member of the illustrious Ton-Fan group, and known as one of the “8 Great Outlaws,” Li rebelled against the traditional art methods and practices of Taiwan and China and became actively engaged in the international art world.

Li’s focus on the spirit of Chinese culture and philosophy, combined with an experimental aesthetic has resulted in a distinctive oeuvre, spanning painting, photography, sculpture and participatory kinetic installations.

To coincide with their Frieze Spotlight exhibition Richard Saltoun Gallery will simultaneously hold a retrospective exhibition of Li Yuan-chia at the gallery. The exhibition at Richard Saltoun Gallery is curated by renowned scholar Diana Yeh, and will provide a comprehensive overview of Li’s work. These exhibitions coincide with Li’s work on show in the current rehang at Tate Modern.

Richard Saltoun would like to thank the Li Yuan-chia Foundation and their archivists for their support and guidance, and the Gavina Family, Italy.

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Li Yuan-Chia (b.1929, Guangxi, China; d.1994, Carlisle, United Kingdom)
Born into a peasant family in rural Guangxi Province, Li was given up for adoption at the age of 11. His adoptive father was killed in the Sino-Japanese War, and he was subsequently raised in a succession of orphanages in China.

His early career was defined by his response to Taiwan’s introduction of martial law in 1957; forming, along with other artists and intellectuals, the Ton Fan Group. Recognized internationally, they were invited to present their work at the Fourth São Paulo Biennial (1957).

At the request of Hsiao Chin (of the Ton Fan group), Li moved to Bologna, Italy, in 1961, under the sponsorship of Italian furniture manufacturer Dino Gavina. Li and Hsiao were active in the formation of the Milan-based Il Punto Group—a group which seamlessly merged Eastern and Western art, and which included Lucio Fontana, Dadamaino and Antonio Calderara.

Artist David Medalla, a founder of the art space Signals, saw Li’s work and invited him to London in 1965. Li’s participation at Signal’s Gallery led to three solo exhibitions at Lisson Gallery but ultimately the city could not satisfy him.

Li settled in Cumbria, where, with his extraordinary energy, he converted a 100-year-old farmhouse into the LYC Museum and Art Gallery, a landmark cultural centre in an historic part of England.

Li Yuan-chia died of cancer in 1994, aged 65. In 2001 the Camden Arts Centre in London held a solo exhibition, and in 2014 a major retrospective took place at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan, and in the same year a corresponding display at Tate Modern.

Curator biography
Diana Yeh is a Lecturer in Sociology, Culture and the Creative Industries at City, University of London and a Trustee of the LYC Foundation, together with Guy Brett and Bruce Haines.