Yue Minjun, ‘Smile-ism No. 12’, 2006, Rago

In Smile-ism No. 12, Yue Minjun paints his classic, laughing man who appears to be both oblivious and critical of his surrounding predicament with his maniacally large grin. The repetition of this subject across Minjun’s canvases evokes communist cultural control, while the figures personable laughter humanizes and begs for individuation. Yue Minjun has had his works exhibited with major internal galleries, such as The Saatchi Gallery and Pace Gallery, and his works have been repeatedly featured at major international art shows such as Art Basel and the New York Armory Show.

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About Yue Minjun

In his oil paintings, Yue Minjun often inserts himself in iconic moments in art history, painting exaggerated self-portrait figures in candy colors. The figures bear wide smiles with gaping mouths as they enact poses from the works of Caravaggio and other artists from the Western canon. Transforming himself into an icon, the artist has said, “was not meant as a self-portrait in its traditional sense, but something more like a movie star acting in different roles.” Surrealism was an early influence on Yue, who shot to the top of an explosive Chinese contemporary scene as a member of the Cynical Realist movement, his serious political criticism and social commentary hidden behind the mask of his smiling faces. In another series, Yue turned his practice on its head, recreating famous Western and Chinese socialist paintings as empty settings with their subjects removed.

Chinese, b. 1962, Heilongjiang Province, China, based in Beijing, China