Yan Pei Ming

Yan Pei Ming
01.01.1960 (Shanghai, China)

Nationality: Chinese


Yan Pei-Ming was born in 1960 in Shanghai as the second of four children. He grew up during the Cultural Revolution and painted in his spare time. He applied for admission to the Shanghai Art & Design School, but was rejected because he had a stutter. In 1980 he left Shanghai for France where he enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and graduated in 1999. Since 1982 he lives and works in Dijon, France. 

His most famous paintings are “epic-sized” portraits of Mao Zedong, executed in black and white or red and white. He works with large brushes and his paintings are brought to life by the rapid brush strokes that structure the picture space. Next to Mao, his portraits of his father and of Bruce Lee also receive wide critical acclaim. His personalities are always presented in an uncertain setting with morally problematic titles such as, in reference to his own father, "the most respectful man," "the most hateful man," etc. In addition, his works are often politically incorrect: in the 1990s, he produced a large series of portraits of people from the bottom of society such as prisoners, prostitutes, and homeless children in a strangely glorifying fashion. Several years ago, a series of public debates over the morality of presenting the portraits of certain criminals and politicians in public were held in France on the occasion of the presentation of Ming’s paintings in the exhibition Force de l’Art, an event organized by the government.

Ming exhibited his work in the Venice Biennale in 2003 and at the Sevilla Biennale in 2006. The Honolulu Academy of Arts and the National Gallery of Australia are among the public collections holding works by Yan Pei-Ming. On February 12th, 2009 The Funeral of Mona Lisa went on display in The Louvre in the room next to the original Mona Lisa until May 18th, 2009. This speaks to Ming’s standing. This exhibition is no doubt Ming’s most spectacular provocative act. In the hall behind the Mona Lisa, the world-famous iconic painting that has been largely considered to be the summit of beauty and the main attraction of the most visited museum in the world, Ming installed a series of huge canvases consisting of a replica of the Mona Lisa in the center and portraits of Ming’s father and the artist himself in a state of death. The paintings—intense, disturbing, yet mysterious—create an absolutely sublime experience for the public, who are impressed and even shocked after appreciating the original Mona Lisa: is the artist seeking elevation to the rank of the greatest in history? Or is he simply suggesting an ultimate burial of the ideal of beauty itself?


2010 Children of Shanghai, Pavillon Francais, Expo Shanghai
2009 Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing China
2009 San Francisco Art Institute, CA, United States
2009 The Funeral of Mona Lisa, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
2007 Istanbul Biennale, Turkey
2006 Sevilla Biennale, Spain
2003 Venice Biennale, Italy
1995 Venice Biennale, Italy


Centre Georges Pompidou, France
Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hawaii
National Gallery of Australia
National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo 
Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany
Shanghai Art Museum

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