Riding Electric Rivers to Global Dreams
How Huang Yuxing became a International star painting neon landscapes
Huang Yuxing spent three years painting it; Seven Treasure Pines, an epic seven-panel landscape was sold on December 1, 2021 at Christie’s Hong Kong for the equivalent of $8,348,007. The 22-foot wide suite of landscape paintings sold for twenty three times its estimate and seven times the previous record for a work by Huang. The work was the culmination of many years of study and refinement and epitomizes his signature style of abstracted landscapes. His market grew in a similar fashion, fostered by consistent support by galleries, collectors, and institutions.
Huang Yuxing, Seven Treasure Pines, 2019
Born in 1975 in Beijing, Huang studied mural painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts.
In 2008, Huang began to introduce the electric colors that characterize his most-celebrated works. Glowing greens, bright pinks, and otherworldly purples play against subtle moments of muted blues and browns to create landscapes that are bright but not garish. There is a balance between the brightness and shadow.
Huang’s distinctive palette wasn’t the only attribute to emerge around 2008. Straddling the line between landscape and abstraction, Huang plucked additional forms—bubbles, rivers, pines, and geodes—that he infused with his immediately recognizable color palette. The result is a clear delineation of subject matter within his body of work.
Prior to this breakthrough, Huang was hardly an overlooked artist. Eight of Huang’s earlier works had been sold at Asian auction houses. But they were all examples from before he settled upon abstract landscapes.
Huang’s new style was followed by a number of gallery exhibitions. In 2010, Red Bridge Gallery and Star Gallery held shows of Huang’s drawings in Beijing. In 2012, Huang had another solo presentation, this time at the Beijing Commune.
The same year Huang’s work was sparking interest abroad. The artist had his first solo exhibition in Paris at Galerie Paul Frèches. The following year, the gallery held a second solo show. European interest wasn’t the only factor in his growing reputation.
In 2015, Huang had two institutional shows in China. Shanghai’s Minsheng Modern Art Museum showed the progression of Huang’s style by presenting works from 2005 to 2015. At the Yuz Museum, also in Shanghai, Huang inaugurated the museum’s Project Room, where he spent eight months creating site-specific artwork. The large-scale piece, executed without sketches or preliminary studies, depicts bubbles that evoke “blood, water drops, emulsions, metals, and synthetic chemicals” for some. To Huang, the bubbles are inspired by rivers and eddies.
The same year as these exhibitions, the first of Huang’s mature-style works came to auction. marking the beginning of his soon-to-be exponential market growth. Poly Auction offered River, 2013 with a modest estimate that was the equivalent to $40,000. The work sold for more than double its estimate at $93,000. A few months later, similarly impressive sales took place.
In the period between 2016 and 2019, Huang followed these secondary market successes with a slew of primary market solo shows, first throughout Asia where Perrotin presented Huang’s work in Hong Kong, and Whitestone had presentations of his work in Taipei and then Tokyo. In 2019, König London presented Huang Yuxing: Essence of Landscape.
By 2019 and 2020, Huang had established himself firmly at home with appearances in group exhibitions at the Hall No.6 Powerlong Museum and The West Bund Museum both in Shanghai. In the following year, in Brussels in the summer of 2021, Almine Rech presented Huang Yuxing Heaps of Brocade and Ash 锦灰堆.
As Huang’s reputation was expanding around the world, his prices were also tracking higher. In 2016, a work broke $140,000 at Poly Auction; the next year, it broke $150,000 at Christie’s. Two years later, Huang’s paintings started to sell for more than $250,000. In 2020, things escalated quickly. In July, Enlightening from 2016 sold for more $1.1 million. Six months later, another work sold for $568,000. That dynamic, a price below the new record but above the previous high is a confirmation price that shows buyers consider the new price levels defensible. Huang would not have to wait long for another work to make the $1.1 million mark which is what eventually set up the $8 million sale for Seven Treasure Pines.
As Huang’s market rises upon a broadening global collector base, the distinct bodies of work have begun to find their own market levels. Some find themselves drawn to bubbles, others pines, and so on. The upcoming fall auctions may provide the data needed to indicate which aspects of Huang’s practice most excite collectors.