Yan Pei-Ming - Contemporary Art London Thursday, June 21, 2007 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galleria Massimo de Carlo, Milan

  • Exhibited

    New York, Stefan Stux Gallery, Chinese Relativity, December 21, 2006 - January
    6, 2007

  • Catalogue Essay

    The Shanghai-born French painter is renowned for his massive, lyrical portraits. Yan was born in 1960 and landed the rather enviable job of being an official painter during the Cultural Revolution. In this period the young artist produced several large-scale portraits of Mao, which clearly influenced the subject and scale of his mature works. He was rejected from the Shanghai Art Academy for a mild medical condition, and moved to Dijon in 1980 to enroll in its Beaux-Arts academy. He has lived in France ever since.

    Yan’s subjects can be loosely divided into two categories: the first is that of larger-than-life historical figures such as Mao, Bruce Lee, and the Buddha. Yan’s portraits of these figures are literal exercises in historical imagination. Each viewer sees a different Mao; at no point does the subject trump the artist’s technique, which compels us to focus on the process rather than the idea of painting. The second category comprises a series of nameless figures, the artist’s “Invisible Man.” In these portraits the sitter’s anonymity powerfully contrasts with the titanic gestural power of a face ten feet high.

    In contrast to the artist’s celebrated portraits of male historical icons, the subject of the present lot is a fascinating departure. Yan depicts a prostitute in Frankfurt, poised in a state of undress and looking back at the viewer over her shoulder. Executed in Yan’s signature thick, corporeal strokes, the portrait assumes an intriguing identity within the artist’s oeuvre. It is one of Yan’s few works that portrays the sitter’s entire physique; Yan’s works typically show only the sitter’s head, except where the body is an indelible part of the person’s identity, as in the case of Bruce Lee. More remarkably, the German prostitute is one of Yan’s rare female sitters. Does the artist intend to imbue her with the same expressionistic power that he confers upon his portraits of the “Invisible Man”—thereby rendering her an iconic albeit nameless symbol, in which her power is derived from her sexual persona? Or does she fall into a third category of her own, neither nameless nor heroic, generating her source of fascination such that, in Paglia’s words, “in the moment there is imagination, there is myth?”


Eros Center Prostitueé de Francfort

Oil on canvas.
98 1/2 x 98 1/2 in. (250.2 x 250.2 cm).
Signed, titled and dated “Eros Center Prostitueé de Francfort 2005 Yan Pei-Ming [in English and Chinese]” on the reverse.

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £311,200

Contemporary Art

22 June 2007, 4pm & 5pm