Yue Minjun - Photo of the artist in a gallery space - Image via pinterestcom

Yue Minjun /   Yue Minjun

China 1962

Sculpture, Painting

Yue Minjun
Yue Minjun
August 5, 2016
Andreja Velimirović is a passionate content writer with a knack for art and old movies. Majoring in art history, he is an expert on avant-garde modern movements and medieval church fresco decorations. Feel free to contact him via his Linkedin profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreja-velimirovi%C4%87-74068a68/

Widely considered to be one of the most humoristic and unique artists that emerged from China in recent decades, Yue Minjun is a Beijing-based painter and sculptor that uses the same motif in every single piece he creates – his own face, usually pink and frozen in a state of hysterical laughter. His self-illustrations are arranged in various settings, some ironically usual and some far from ordinary – like a scene placed amidst a Jurassic period with two Juis laughing their hearts off beside a BMW, or a bunch of giggling Minjuns shooting another bunch of Minjuns who also have wide smiles on their faces. This artist primarily works in oil but has been also recorded using prints and watercolors, as well as the aforementioned sculptures, always maintaining his laughing face leitmotif.

Of all the chinese paintings, no chinese painting can smile more
Yue Minjun – Sky, 1997 – Image via forbes.com

The Course of His Career

Minjun was born during the year of 1962, in a town of Daqing, a city in the west of Heilongjiang province of China. For the majority of his life, Yui’s father worked in the oil fields of northeast China, so naturally his son also spent many working days alongside him. However, Yue departed the world of the oil industry in order to begin his studies in art during the year of 1983 when he entered the halls of Hebei Normal University. Although he was a good student, Minjun did not truly manage to find his own style despite tirelessly trying to do so. However, this all changed in 1989 as he visited the China / Avant-Garde show in Beijing, an exhibition centered around paintings of Geng Jianyi – in them, the artist depicted his own laughing face and turned that into the main motif of the works. Inspired by such a concept, Minjun decided he would use the same idea, but due to the political state of China at the time, he was forced to move to a colony outside Beijing in 1990. There, Yue had all the time and space to slowly develop his visuals – the signature style that made him famous came to be from Minjun’s depictions of his bohemian friends also present in the colony. He quickly earned recognition of art pundits for his portraits, whilst the paintings of his own smiling visage, often cloned on numerous figures, gained him incredible critical acclaim and led to numerous international exhibitions of his work. Interestingly enough, Yue’s style did not stop evolving after he became famous – instead, it kept on rapidly developing without playing it safe, constantly presenting the audiences with new concepts and settings, whilst maintaining a very dynamic relationship with the viewers. Minjun did so by continuously adapting his work to current political and social circumstances of his nation, as well the situations from the rest of the world on some occasions.

Yue Minjun’s art always managed to keep up with the fast pace of modern societies, which in return made his exhibitions a constant interest for the viewers

The terms of Chinese self smile is a site to see for all people
Yue Minjun – The Execution, 1995 – Image via forbes.com

Yue Minjun’s Prints, Paintings and Sculptures

Yue Minjun and his artworks have often been classified as a part of the famous Chinese movement that started out in the year of 1989 – the Cynical Realism. Although many of the aspects this movement holds dear can indeed be found in the compositions of this artist, Minjun uncompromisingly rejects this label and insists that his art is a unique moment in history, unclassifiable to any registered style. However, Yue has also stated that he does not really concern himself about what people call him, so it’s reasonable to assume he does not find the Cynical Realism connection an unrealistic one, but rather a not perfectly fitting one. As was said before, Yue Minjun’s style never stopped evolving and adapting ever since it was formed during the years of 1989 and 1990 – instead, it made a habit out of reflecting current situations mostly surrounding the nation of China. Yue often challenged these social and cultural conventions by incorporating objects and even political issues in a radical and abstract manner, placing his smiling image in the midst of the composition. Using the exaggerated expressiveness of cartooning and the stylistic rendering of graphic illustration, Yue depicts his cloned doppelgangers as contorted and grotesque, all scalded pink skin and maniacal toothy cackles. These unique figures are a clear denotation of violence and vulnerability in most of his images, as Minjun uses them as both antagonists and anti-heroes, depending on the pieces circumstances. Although his themes are always somehow indicating the state of China and his laughing face motif was adopted from a fellow painter of the same country, Yue also bases many of his compositions on well known European masterpieces. By doing so, Minjun subverts the grandiose aura of art history at the world level, relying on his aesthetics with a strong pop note – another western influence – to do the job.

The terms of Chinese self smile is a site to see for all chinese people
Yue Minjun – A-maze-ing Laughter in Vancouver – Image via wikipedia.org

Standing out Amidst Most Famous Chinese Artists

Although China has presented us with some incredible artists in recent decades, Minjun truly manages to stand out from such as impressive crowd – mostly due to his sense of humor which is unrivaled, but also his instinct for depicting the right social moments and clever ways of incorporating them. Yue’s printed and sculpted artworks are a unique reflection of true nature of reality, humoristically parading as an endless cynical guffaw. Even though he mostly concentrates on Eastern issues, Yue’s works are also quite relatable to Westerners, which in return makes him extremely interesting for all the world’s art scenes and markets.

The artist is represented by PACE GALLERY Beijing, PACE GALLERY Hong Kong, PACE GALLERY London, PACE GALLERY Menlo Park and WENG CONTEMPORARY.

Yue Minjun lives and works in Beijing, China.

Featured image: Yue Minjun – Photo of the artist – Image via pinterest.com
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearExhibition Title Gallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2015Yue Minjun - The NightingaleBRANDTS, OdenseSolo
2015AsiaTime - 1st Asia Biennial and 5th Guangzhou Triennial Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, GuangdongGroup
2015Face To FaceEthan Cohen Fine Arts, New York City, NYGroup
2015Exhibition of Today Art Museum’s collectionsToday Art Museum, BeijingGroup
2015Harmonie und UmbruchMARTa Herford, HerfordGroup
2014West Says East SaysUnited Art Museum Wuhan, Wuhan, HubeiGroup
2014Einblicke in die Sammlung WemhönerSammlung Wemhöner, BerlinGroup
2013Yue Minjun L’Ombre du fou rire, Paris, France Solo
2012Yue Minjun Galleri S.E, Bergen NorwaySolo
2011The Road Pace Gallery, Beijing, ChinaSolo
2011The Archeological Discovery in AD3009 ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, DenmarkSolo
2010The Spirit Scenes from Time Past: Yue Minjun Solo Exhibition of Paintings Series Shanghai Gallery of Art, Shanghai, ChinaSolo
2010Reshaping History Chin Art from 2000 to 2009 China National Convention Center, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2009COLOSSAL - KUNST FAKT FIKTION Museum und Park Varusschlacht im Osnabrücker Land, GermanyGroup
2009China in Transition: George Legrady und aktuelle chinesische Malerei Stiftung Ahlers Pro Arte und Stiftung Kestner Pro Arte, Hannover, GermanyGroup
2008The Revolution Continues: New Chinese Art Saatchi Gallery, London, EnglandGroup
2008Loss of Control, Crossing the boundaries to art from Félicien Rops to the present Museum für zeitgenössische Kunst und Design, Herford, GermanyGroup
2008Facing China Stadtgalerie Schwaz, Austria, Kunstraum Innsbruck, Austria Akureyri Art Museum, IcelandGroup
2008Translocalmotion 7th Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2008Facing Reality-Selection of Chinese Contemporary Art National Art Museum of China, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2007China-Facing RealityMuseum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation, Vienna, AustriaGroup
2007Post Martial Law vs Post ’89: The Contemporary Art in Taiwan and China Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, TaiwanGroup
2007Yue Minjun and the Symbolic Smile Queens Museum, New York, USA Solo
2007Yue Minjun: Looking for Art Beijing Commune, Beijing, ChinaSolo
2007Yue Minjun: I Love Laughing Asia Society, New York, USASolo
2007Red Hot! Asian Art from the Chaney Family Collection Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USAGroup
2007The Year of the Golden Pig: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork, IrelandGroup
2007UntitledMax Protetch Gallery, New York, USAGroup
2007China now - Kunst in Zeiten des UmbruchsSammlung Essl - Kunsthaus, Klosterneuburg, AustriaGroup
2006Yue Minjun: Manipulation Series Enrico Navarra Gallery, Paris, FranceSolo
2006Xianfeng! Chinese avant-garde Museum Beelden aan Zee, Scheveningen, The NetherlandsGroup
2006Without Boundary Pyo Gallery Seoul, Pyo Gallery Beijing, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2006The Reproduction of Idols: Yue Minjun, 2004-2006 He Xiang Ning Art Museum, Shenzhen, ChinaSolo
2006Looking for Terrorists Beijing Commune, Beijing, China Solo
2006Radar: Selections from the Collection of Vicky and Kent Logan Denver Art Museum, Denver, USAGroup
2006Shu: Reinventing Book in Contemporary Chinese Art China Institute Gallery, New York, USAGroup
2006China Now Sammlung Essl Privatstiftung, Klosterneuburg, AustriaGroup
2006Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection Hamburger Kunsthalle, GermanyGroup
2005Beautiful Cynicism Arario Beijing, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2005Sky of Fate: Invited Exhibition of Chinese Paintings 2005 Shenzhen Art Museum, Shenzhen, ChinaGroup
2005Plato and his seven spiritsBJ Century Overseas Chinese City, Shenzhen, ChinaGroup
2005OCT Contemporary Art Terminal of He Xiangning Art Museum, ChinaGroup
2005Open 2005: International Exhibition of Sculptures and Installations, Lido, Venice, ItalyGroup
2005XIANFENG: Chinese Avant-garde Sculpture Museum Beelden Aan Zee, Hague,Scheveningen, The NetherlandsGroup
2005Mahjong: Sigg Collection of Modern Chinese Art Museum of Fine Arts, Bern, SwitzerlandGroup
2005Dress Up in Art: Theme Exhibition on Traditional Chinese Operas Today Art Museum, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2005Post Auratic Self Portrayal of Yue Min Jun CP Foundation, Jakarta, IndonesiaSolo
2005No U-Turn: China Contemporary Art TNUR Guando Museum of Art, TaiwanGroup
2005Conceptual Art: Exhibit of Contemporary Paintings from China Shenzhen Art Museum, Guangdong, ChinaGroup
2005Figur , Skulptur, Sammlung Essl Kunsthaus, Klosterneuburg, AustriaGroup
2004Dreaming of the Dragon’s Nation: Contemporary Art Exhibition from China Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, IrelandGroup
2004Shanghai 5 Biennale: Techniques of the visible Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2004Guangju Biennale 2004: A Grain of Dust A Drop of Water, Gwangju, South KoreaGroup
2004Art on the Beach: Sculptures Enrico Navarra Gallery, Ramatuelle, FranceGroup
200420 Years of Hanart TZ Gallery Hong Kong Art Center, Hong Kong, ChinaGroup
2004China, the Body Everywhere? Maseille Museum of Contemporary Art, Maseille, FranceGroup
2004Yue Min Jun: Sculptures & PaintingsSchoeni Art Gallery, Hong Kong, ChinaSolo
2004Twenty-Four Living Artist in China Alexander Ochs Galleries Berlin, White Space Gallery, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2004Stone Face BANG Chinas first group printing exhibition, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2004Duolun Museum of Modern Art Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2004Contemporary Lithography Group Exhibition L.A. Gallery Beijing, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2003Yue Min Jun: Beijing Ironicals Prüss & Ochs Gallery, Berlin, Germany Solo
2003Yue Min Jun Meile Gallery, Lucerne, SwitzerlandSolo
2003From China with ArtIndonesia National Gallery, Jakarta, IndonesiaGroup
2003The Rest of the World Neuffer Am Park, Pirmasens, GermanyGroup
2003Newe Kunsthalle Mannheim 2, Kunsthalle Mannheim, GermanyGroup
2003CP Open Biennale 2003 Indonesia National Gallery, Jakarta, IndonesiaGroup
2003People and People: Chinese Modern and Contemporary Art Collections of GDMA Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, ChinaGroup
2003Living Conditions: Selections from the GDMA Collection of Contemporary Chinese ArtGuangzhou, ChinaGroup
2003Der Rest Der Welt Alexander Ochs Galleries, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2002Conceptual Images: 2002 Chinese Contemporary Oil Painting Shenzen Art Museum, Shenzhen, ChinaGroup
2002Six Contemporary Chinese Artists Reykjavik Art Museum at Kjarvalstadir, Reykjavik, IcelandGroup
2002Things We Believe Alexander Ochs Galleries, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2002Spring Group Exhibition Art Beatus, Vancouver, CanadaGroup
2002Golden Harvest: Chinese Contemporary Exhibition Croatia National Art Museum, Zagreb, CroatiaGroup
2002The First Guangzhou Triennial Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, ChinaGroup
2002Inaugural Exhibition: Contemporary Terracotta Warriors The Esplanade, SingaporeGroup
2002Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition: Red Land, China Gwangju Art Museum, Gwangju, South KoreaGroup
2002Korea and Chinese Painting 2002: New Expression Seoul Culture & Art Center, Seoul, South KoreaGroup
2002Chinese Contemporary Art Rekjavik Art Museum, Rekjavik, IcelandGroup
2002A Point in Time-Changsha Beauty Art Museum, Changsha, ChinaGroup
2002Soaking In Silly Laughter: One of Art Singapore 2002 Soobin Art Gallery, SingaporeSolo
2002Yue Min Jun: Handling One World Art Center, Beijing, ChinaSolo
2001Ornament and Abstraction Foundation Beyeler, Riehen, SwitzerlandGroup
2001Hotpot: Chinese Contemporary Art Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, NorwayGroup
2001Towards a New lmage: Twenty Years of Contemporary Chinese Painting National Art Museum, Beijing; Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai; Sichuan Art Museum, Chendu; Group
2001Song ZhuangStadtische Galerie im Buntentor Bremen & Kunstverein Ludwigshafen, GermanyGroup
2001Chinese Mythology Yidian Gallery, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2001New Works Courtyard Gallery, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2001C'est Moi C'est Nous Galerie de France, Paris, FranceGroup
2001Passe - Murailles Musee de Picardie, Amiens, FranceGroup
2001Millennium Portrait of China Bremen City Gallery, Bremen, GermanyGroup
2001New Image: 20 Years of Chinese Contemporary Painting touring major Chinese art museumsGroup
2001Take Part Galerie Urs Meile, Lucerne, SwitzerlandGroup
2001Art Beatus Gallery, Vancouver, CanadaGroup
2001Transparence-Opacite?, Association for Cultural Achievement through the Visual Arts London, England; Aosta, Italy; Aix-en-Provence, La Villette, Paris, France; Group
2000Red Ocean Chinese Contemporary, London, EnglandSolo
2000Shanghai Art Fair 2000Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2000Art Cologne Cologne, GermanyGroup
2000FuturoContemporary Art Centre of Macau, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2000The Dutch Gasunie Groningen, The NetherlandsGroup
2000Between... Chengdu Upriver Residence Kunming Upriver Club, ChinaGroup
2000Portraits of Chinese Contemporaries Culture Centre of Francois Mitterrand, FranceGroup
2000Our Friends Bauhaus University Art Gallery, Weimar, GermanyGroup
1999Transparence opacité? 14 Chinese Contemporary Artists, France, ItalyGroup
19991999 Open Channels: The First Collecting Exhibition of Dongyu Museum of Fine Arts Dongyu Museum, Shenyang, ChinaGroup
1999New Modernism for a New Millennium: Works by Contemporary Asian Artists from the Logan Collection Linn Gallery, San Francisco, USAGroup
1999d'APERTutto Venice Biennale, Venice, ItalyGroup
1998The Grand Tour Chinese Contemporary, London, EnglandGroup
19985000 + 10 Chinese Contemporary, London, EnglandGroup
1998The First Exhibition of Upriver Gallery Collection He Xiangning Art Gallery, Shenzhen, ChinaGroup
1998It's Me! A Profile of Chinese Contemporary Art in the 90s Forbidden City & Tai Miao, Beijing, ChinaGroup
1998Beijing Prediction: Contemporary Art of China Beijing, ChinaGroup
19988+8-1, Selected Paintings by Fifteen Contemporary Artist Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong KongGroup
1997China Now Tokyo, Japan; Basel, SwitzerlandGroup
1997Quotation Marks: Chinese Contemporary Paintings Singapore Art Museum, SingaporeGroup
1997CHINA! Kunstmuseum Bonn Germany; traveled to Vienna, Austria; Berlin, Germany; SingaporeGroup
1996Elevenses: The Avant Garde Taikoo Palace, Hong KongGroup
1996Inaugural Exhibition II Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong KongGroup
1995Images of Women II Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong KongGroup
1995New Trends '95 Convention and Exhibition Centre, Hong KongGroup
1995The History of Chinese Oil Painting: From Realism to Post-modernism Galerie Theoremes, Brussels, BelgiumGroup
19955+5: Voices from Russia and China Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong KongGroup
1995Visions of China: Contemporary Chinese Painting by Chinese Masters Pacific City Club, Bangkok, ThailandGroup
1995The Magnificent Duo: Recent Works by Yue Minjun and Yang Shaobin Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong KongGroup
1995The Beijing 3: A Three Man Show by Zhang Gong Yue Minjun and Yang Shaobin, Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong KongGroup
19948+8, Contemporary Russian and Chinese Avant Garde Exhibition Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong KongGroup
1994New Trends '94. Convention and Exhibition Centre, Hong KongGroup
1994Faces Behind the Bamboo Curtain: Works by Yue Minjun and Yang Shaobin Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong KongGroup
1994Art Asia '94 Convention and Exhibition Centre, Hong KongGroup
1992Yuanmingyuan Artists Exhibition Yuanmingyuan, Beijing, ChinaGroup
1991Contemporary Modern Art Exhibition Friendship Hotel, Beijing, ChinaGroup
1987'S' Art Exhibition Hebei Museum, Hebei, ChinaGroup
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