Go to contents


‘I am 2nd grade artist because China is 2nd class country’

‘I am 2nd grade artist because China is 2nd class country’

Posted May. 15, 2014 06:34,   


“Only second grade artists can be produced in China. Therefore, I am also a second class artist who is working in China.”

Yue Minjun, a 52-year-old painter who draws paintings satirizing Chinese politics and society with unique painting technique called “sadness amid smiles,” told an interview with the Beijing News daily. Yue is holding his first exhibition in years at Nanjing Art Academy in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province.

“A first-grade artist can be produced only at a great first-class state,” Yue said. “A first-grade country is a state where common senses are relatively upheld in all different arenas including politics, economy and society.” He went on to say, “A first-class country is a state that also contributes to humanity and spearheads global trends,” adding, “A great artist can be produced only in such a country. (Is China such a country?) So, I am a second-grade artist (who is working in China),” as he used his own unique signature logic to make critical comments.

His piece “Execution” became the most expensive work by a contemporary painter ever, when it was sold for 2.93 million pounds (5.9 million U.S. dollars based on exchange rate of the time) at London’s Sotheby`s auction in 2007. Since 2004, his works have been priced at millions of dollars at international auction markets. The scene of execution against backdrop of red wall, which naturally reminds people of the Forbidden City in Beijing, satirizes the Tiananmen incident of June 1989. The smiling facial expressions of both people who are shooting and those who are being executed make the viewer feel gruesome.

Many of his art pieces adopting diverse techniques have been on display at the exhibition, but those pieces that are created under the theme "sadness amid smiles" especially stand out. In the painting “White Cloud in Blue Skies 2,” two people who are seemingly flying in the white cloud are smiling but they reveal skinny skeletons, only wearing panties. This work describes "empty mindedness of people in modern society."

Asked whether he draws paintings in part to make money given that he continuously paints by using the technique "sadness amid smiles," Yue said, “In China`s reform and opening up during the last 30 years, everything including ourselves has been commercialized,” in admitting that he draws such paintings, which sell well.