Minjun, Yue – Chinese Artist

Oil on canvas painting by Yue Minjun, from the Ninety-nine Idols Series - No. 99

p4A ItemID D9836230
Yue Minjun oil on canvas painting, Untitled, self depiction

p4A ItemID D9836229
Yue Minjun oil painting, Looking Straight, many figures of the same man in at T shirt all standing atop a gray brick wall or tower

p4A ItemID D9819664
Yue Minjun oil painting, Liu Chunhua - Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan, signed

p4A ItemID D9799721

Yue Minjun (Chinese, born 1962)

Yue Minjun is now well recognized as one of the representative artists of his generation. Born in the province of Heilongjiang, he studied in the oil painting department of Hebei Normal University in 1985. His art consists of versions of himself, smiling broadly into the gaping maw of contemporary society. Two rows of small, perfectly formed white teeth opening into the black abyss of his mouth, a broad pinkish face with eyes closed to the world in a mirthful fit, these are the repeated features of an artist seemingly obsessed with his own image.

Information courtesy of Sotheby’s, March 2008.

Now based in Shanghai, Yue Minjun studied painting outside of Beijing at the Oil Painting department of Hebei Normal University. He then moved to Beijing, where he began developing his highly recognized style in an artist’s community not long after the calamities of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989. Along with Fang Lijun, Yue was an early proponent of an approach characterized by critic Li Xianting as “cynical realism”; Yue’s toothy, uproariously laughing demeanor is precisely repeated throughout his work, whether he is copying Velazquez or examining the mores of the New China.

As an arbiter of China’s present, he communicates the ambiguity of its newly found wealth in works that seemingly celebrate himself, but to an absurd degree. In fact, the overall effect of his paintings is far from benign; the repetition of the exact same demeanor suggests a society given over to homogeneity and conformism. Indeed, a regular stylistic feature of Yue’s work during the 1990s, namely, groups of men standing shoulder to shoulder, mimics military men standing in a regimented formation to reveal the pressures of convention in a one-party state. Even though they can be read as critical of postmodern China, Yue’s laughing faces have an iconic prominence in Contemporary Chinese art – so much so, it is hard to remember the field without them. –Jonathan Goodman

Information courtesy of Sotheby’s, May 2008.

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