October 20 - December 10, 2012
Vernissage: Saturday, October 20, 18:00 - 20:00
Yue Minjun is a contemporary Chinese artist based in Beijing, China. He is best known for oil paintings depicting himself in various settings, frozen in laughter. He has also reproduced this signature image in sculpture, watercolor and prints. While Yue is often classified as part of the Chinese "Cynical Realist" movement in art developed in China since 1989, Yue himself rejects this label, while at the same time "doesn't concern himself about what people call him". To help understand where Cynical Realism Movement comes from it is helpful to understand that he was born in 1962 to the Mao's People's Republic of China, a dismal one party state struggling to escape the problems of underdevelopment via the brutality of forced industrialization -- a reality yue would have faced directly, as his father worked in the oil fields of northeast China.
“A smile doesn’t necessarily mean happiness; it could be something else.” Yue Minjun once said this in an interview with The New York Times. Jaw-breaking smiles with pearl white teeth are laughing from his iconic paintings. As part of our idol worshipping culture, Yue presents himself as Marilyn Monroe, as an astronaut, as a princess and as Noah in Noah’s ark. This fall Yue Minjun’s poker face visits galleri s.e. We are both proud and humble to present one of the world’s leading contemporary artists.
Yue’s motives have turned into cultural icons from today’s China. Painting with an easily recognisable signature and a quick stylistic development, Yue responds to contemporary culture. Yue Minjun was educated at the department for oil painting at Hebei Normal University. Oil on canvas is still one of his preferred expressions, though he also works in other media. Yue is often coined as one of the cynical realists in Chinese art. This is, however, a label he himself rejects.
In the exhibition a
t galleri s.e we will both meet Yue’s characteristic smiles as well as new works where Yue flirts with traditional Chinese art and with art history. An interesting new collage, which criticises our consumerist culture, will also be part of the exhibition.
The Chinese art market of today is the world’s biggest after passing the American art market in 2010. The last 15 years have been adventurous for the Chinese art world. Auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s have experienced impressive results. Yue’s painting “Execution” (1995) made a historic record for Chinese art back in 2007, when sold at Sotheby’s for 5,9 million USD.
Yue Minjun grew up between the Chinese Cultural Revolution and today’s consumerist reality. His artistic expression could be described as inspired by political posters from the Mao era just as much as they are inspired by today’s billboards. This duality captures Yue’s idiosyncratic power. In a pleasing and quite humoristic way his pop art aesthetics captures the spirit of our time. The manic smiles makes the beholder smile too, the colors are vibrant and stimulating, the motives often comic. Then, suddenly, we are left with a sense of uncertainty. Do we see a smile, or is it more of a cry? And why do his subjects close their eyes? Are we ourselves closing our eyes in confrontation with the less pleasant? There is no doubt that cultural and societal values are being questioned. Thus, Yue Minjun’s laughs leave us with a sound sense of discomfort.