In 2012 the Cartier Foundation held a retrospective of the work of painter Yue Minjun, the leading light of contemporary Chinese art. This winter, and for the first time in Paris, Galerie Templon is presenting a collection of the artist’s recent and previously unseen works with an exhibition of paintings and monumental sculptures.
Probably the most influential Chinese painter of his generation, Yue Minjun first came to public attention with his ambiguous paintings peopled with characters whose faces split wide open in disturbing smiles. The artist has adopted laughter as the central theme of his work: strategic laughter denouncing the absurdity of today’s world, laughter that can carry the weight of different meanings and that allows him to “hide his powerlessness” and caricature the standardisation of Chinese society.
Yue Minjun is the ubiquitous model who appears in all his paintings. His portrait is constantly reinterpreted, sometimes multiplied, in compositions made up of elements oscillating between the grotesque and the poetic. The new exhibition highlights the twin themes of vanity and self-portraiture.
Yue Minjun is the best known member of the group of young Chinese artists who formed the Cynical Realism movement when they broke away from Socialist Realism in the 1990s. At a time marked by the disillusionment springing from China’s espousal of market capitalism, these artists “went back to painting things that were authentic and credible”, as Yue Minjun puts it.
The new series of works on display at the gallery include the painter’s enigmatic creations, his bright pink portraits where he roars with laughing against a background of blue skies studded with pristine clouds. The artist makes use of cinematographic close-ups as well as a play of associated images where death is an inescapable presence. He also proposes improvisations that explore the history of Western and Eastern art by means of a variety of references, ranging from The Women of Algiers to Chinese mazes. The artist’s monumental sculptures, echoing the iconography of his paintings, will be on show for the very first time in France.
Born in 1962 in Daqing, Yue Minjun lives and works in Beijing. After attracting a lot of attention for his 1999 appearance at the Venice Biennale, he went on to exhibit his work at a wide range of international institutions, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1999, New York’s Queens Museum of Art in 2007 and the Beyeler Foundation in Basle in 2011. He has also been the subject of solo exhibitions at the He Xiangning Art Museum in Shenzhen in 2006, New York’s Queens Museum of Art in 2007 and Paris’ Cartier Foundation in 2012.