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Pace Galleries

Yue Minjun

The Road

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About Yue Minjun

Yue Minjun (b. 1962, Heilongjiang, China) has been quoted as saying, “I always found laughter irresistible.” Best known for his oil paintings depicting himself with his trademark smile, Yue is a leading figure in the Chinese contemporary art scene. He has exhibited widely and is recognized as one of the breakout stars of his generation. In his earlier work, surrealism had an especially strong influence on him. His self-portraits from the 1990s were the first to depict his easy, automatic smile, but the figures’ warmth masked underlying emotions. Yue has also been continuing his Landscape with No One series in which he removes figures from historical Chinese socialist paintings and well-known Western paintings. He states, “Those typical socialist paintings in China looked very realistic but were indeed surreal. They served for heroic fantasies, and the images of great people or the heroes in the paintings could well justify the fabricated scenes.”

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Press Release

  • Yue Minjun: The Road

    The Pace Gallery, Beijing is pleased to present an exhibition of Yue Minjun's recent works in cooperation with Robb Report. The exhibition, entitled The Road, is the leading Chinese contemporary artist's first solo exhibition in the Pace Gallery, Beijing. The exhibition will open on June 11 and remain on view through July 16th. Accompanying the exhibition will be a catalogue with an interview between Yue Minjun and Leng Lin, the curator of this exhibition and the president of The Pace Gallery, Beijing.

    More than two decades into his artistic career, Yue is still smiling at the world as he sees it. Yue Minjun's attitude toward reality has always been unique, and through his creation, he has been continually exploring the relationship between art and reality. His trademark “Smile” symbol, the playful, mocking hallmark of the artist's cynical realist style, conceals within it a spirit that's sometimes stubborn and fragile. By mocking his subject's nihility, he stands apart from - and in judgment of - it in a unique way. Despite the world changing around him, Yue's distinctive style hasn't changed much. So should our understanding of his work change? If the object of the “Smile” has changed, should there be some shift in the feel of the "Smile" itself? Or could it be that nothing changed at all?.

    In his newest exhibition, Yue's work takes on Christian forms. The strength of Western culture has pushed more than a few Chinese people into an existence stripped of its cultural core, making them into nomads, wandering in the space between two cultures. By altering the semantic relationships between the people and space in the original works, the works seem almost to dissolve away, neatly avoiding the contradictions and embarrassment inherent to any collision between two cultures. As the curator Leng Lin stated, “Confronted with something you don't completely understand, a smile can mean rejection, or confusion. But it can also mean inclusion and acceptance.”.

    About Yue Minjun Yue Minjun (b. 1962, Heilongjiang, China) has been quoted as saying, “I always found laughter irresistible.” Best known for his oil paintings depicting himself with his trademark smile, Yue is a leading figure in the Chinese contemporary art scene. He has exhibited widely and is recognized as one of the breakout stars of his generation. In 2007, Yue Minjun was selected Timemagazine's "Person of the Year". The artist currently lives and works in Beijing. Yue's father worked in the oil fields of northeast China, and he himself worked in China's oil industry, before beginning studies in art in 1983. In 1989, he was inspired by a painting by Geng Jianyi in the China / Avant Garde show in Beijing, which depicted Geng's own laughing face. Disillusioned with politics by the Tiananmen Square uprising of the same year, he moved to an artist's colony outside Beijing in 1990. His signature style developed out of portraits of his bohemian friends from the artists’ village.

    In his earlier work, surrealism had an especially strong influence on him. His self-portraits from the 1990s were the first to depict his easy, automatic smile, but the figures warmth masked underlying emotions. The smile became a mask as the paintings’ complexities were played out in the figures’ arrangements or poses. His work became further influenced by western art history as he began arranging his figures in poses or settings reminiscent of the masterpieces. Yue has also been continuing his Landscape with No One series in which he removes figures from historical Chinese socialist paintings and well-known western paintings. “Typical socialist paintings in China looked very realistic but were indeed surreal. They served for heroic fantasies, and the images of great people or the heroes in the paintings could well justify the fabricated scenes.”.

    Yue Minjun has shown internationally including The Archeological Discovery in AD3009 at ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus; Half-life of a Dream: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Logan Collection at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; solo museum exhibition Yue Minjun and the Symbolic Smile (2007 - 2008) at Queens Museum of Art, Queens, New York;The Reproduction of Idols: Yue Minjun Works, 2004-2006 (2006) at the He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen, China. He has also been included in the 2008 and 2004 Shanghai Biennales, and the 48th Venice Biennale, Open Boundary, Venice (1999). Currently, The Pace Gallery, Beijing is presenting the artist’s solo exhibition Yue Minjun: The Road, featuring his latest works..

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Catalogues

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YUE MINJUN: THE ROAD

Leng Lin

2011. Pace Beijing. Paperback

29 pages: 9 color illustrations;16 ½ x 11¼ inches

9781935410225