Yan Pei-Ming

China, 1960

Widely considered to be one of the most important painters in contemporary art, Yan Pei-Ming is a Franco-Chinese artist known for his colossal portraits of culturally significant and contentious figures. Yan’s monumental canvases are unabashedly several meters in height, their spatial expanse suited to his generous yet economical brushstrokes that lend his paintings an expressive and sometimes abstract appearance akin to that of English painter Francis Bacon. Persistently monochromatic, with its subject tightly framed in a close-up truncated at the shoulders or waist, Yan’s images are unsettlingly journalistic as well as funereal, hinting at the degeneration or ignominy of socio-cultural fixtures and structures. His various subjects, ranging from world leaders and celebrities to sex workers and unidentified corpses, are rendered in the same painterly fashion; a democratising and perhaps rebellious reclamation of the portraiture tradition.

Born in 1960 in Shanghai, Yan grew up during the Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong, who was later to be a prominent subject of his paintings. In 1980 he left China to pursue an art education in Paris at the École des Beaux-Arts. Yan quickly became a key fixture in the international art circuit, exhibiting at the Venice Biennale; the Istanbul Biennial; the Seville Biennale, Spain; and the Biennale de Lyon, France. In 2009 his series of paintings reacting to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was acquired by the Louvre, Paris. Yan has been featured in solo exhibitions at esteemed institutions such as the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; the San Francisco Art Institute; Musée du Louvre, Paris; Musée d’art moderne, Saint-Étienne; Palais des Émirats, Abu Dhabi; Musées d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneva, Switzerland; Palazzo Strozzi, Florence and the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul. His work can be found in the collections of Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Collection Deutsche Bank, Frankfurt; Honolulu Museum of Art; National Gallery of Australia; and the Shanghai Art Museum. The artist lives and works in Dijon, France.

Image: Photo by Marie-Clérin ©Yan-Pei-Ming ADAGP Paris 2014