(B. 1962)
Idol Series
signed 'yue minjun' in Pinyin; signed in Chinese (on the reverse of each work); dated and inscribed '1996-004; 1996-010' (on the reverse, respectively)
two oil on canvas
each: 40 x 40 cm. (15 3/4 x 15 3/4 in.) (2)
Painted in 1996 (2)
Galerie Serieuze Zaken, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Acquired from the above by the present owner

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Lot Essay

[Self-Created Idols of the Post-Cultural Revolution Era in the 1990s]

As one of the forefront pioneers of the Cynical Realists group, Yue Minjun is best known for his signature motif of stylized self-portraits, with a gaping grin and eyes closed tight, demonstrating the disillusionment with reality evident to avant-garde painters of the post-1989 generation. Having experienced the immediate aftermath of the Tiananmen Incident and the demonstrative closing of the 1989 China/Avant-garde Exhibition, artists like Yue Minjun became preoccupied with depicting the ironies of contemporary societies with cynical detachment through stark, direct visual language emblematic of his times.

In his works, Yue Minjun turned himself into an 'idol' to satirize what he felt was an idolatrous society - one that is too easily influenced by images of mass production, whether they be propagandistic images from the communist era or the spectacles of mass media in a consumerist society. In fine examples of the Idol Series from 1996 (Lots 1298, 1369-1370), the figures allow themselves to be bent, strangled, embraced, manipulated and tortured by themselves. Wearing frozen smiles, Yue's hysterical figures seem to conceal their heavy burden under a facade of forced happiness and at the same time, reflect their helplessness and cynicism. Extending from the original concept in his seminal installation of 15 separate paintings Life, in which each contorted body represents individual ideograms of the Chinese written language, what remains most striking about each pose in these Idol paintings is the aura of submission, restriction and isolation inherent in the tight use of space within the square canvas. Each resembling fetishistic candid snapshots of celebrities, the multiplied images demonstrate the power instilled in mass reproduction and the derision of iconic power through promulgating his own image in great volume - to mock the faddishness of contemporary society.

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