Mushroom Cloud

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Beijing (acquired directly from the artist)
    Private Collection, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Literature

    Yue Minjun: Soaking in Silly Laughter, exh. cat., Soobin Art Gallery, Singapore, 2002, pp. 10-11 (illustrated)
    Reproduction Icons: Yue Minjun Works, 2004-2006, exh. cat., He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen, 2006, p. 27 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    A caricature could express so much more humanity, and having decided that this would be my ultimate subject, why not create a caricature of myself to convey the stories I wanted to relate to.” – Yue Minjun

    Depicted in his seminal realist style and vibrant colour palette, Yue Minjun’s Mushroom Cloud presents the viewer with a battalion of grinning frozen-faced clones, set against a billowing, explosive background. Painted in 2002, the present work is an epitome of Yue’s celebrated aesthetic, comprised of the artist’s laughing characters that are immediately humorous and instantly recognisable. With connotations of the laughing Buddha, this work presents nine identical bright pink faces of the artist himself – each with smart rows of tiny white teeth and framed by a smooth, neat crop of black hair. The incorrigible, open-mouthed laugh that features on each self-portrait has become one of the foremost icons of contemporary Chinese art and in many ways, a symbol of the shifting sensibilities of an entire generation.

    Born in 1962 in Heilongjiang, China’s northernmost province, Yue belongs to a generation who grew up during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) under the guise that “we will triumph only when we march to the same tune”. Art from this period was subjugated to politics, and the “red, bright, and luminescent” compositions had to serve socialism and the people – often advocating the greatness of labourers or heroes. In the post-cultural revolution era that followed, China underwent rapid transformation, particularly when economic change in the 1990s began to exert an irrevocable force on the lives of Chinese people. In response to the psychological implications of China’s rapid development, urbanisation, and opening to the West – a new art movement emerged: ‘Cynical Realism’, of which Yue is considered as one of the defining protagonists. In combining unique pictorial and historical references of China’s evolution, Yue and his contemporaries – including Wang Guangyi, Fang Lijun and Zhang Xiaogang - were ultimately responsible for driving art practices in the country towards its prominent secondary phase. In deliberately employing the defining characteristics of ‘Social Realism’ propaganda art in his body of work, as seen in the red-toned faces in the present painting, Yue transforms them into a satirical commentary on how the nation sugar-coated reality. In doing so, the artist’s distinctive iconography and implicit political commentary offer a further ironic parody of contemporary Chinese society.

    Whilst the act of grinning is typically indicative of a joyful atmosphere, Yue’s iconic laughing visages are rendered in an almost jaw-breaking hysteria, with white teeth bared and eyes tightly shut. Mushroom Cloud is a particularly captivating piece from Yue’s oeuvre due to the artist’s use of repetition, as the artist lines up his faces in a way that resembles a military formation, even alluding to terracotta warrior sculptures. As the row is composed at the bottom of the canvas pane, the viewer’s eyes are thus drawn to look behind their heads at the background, featuring a mushroom cloud set against a bright blue sky. Bearing an allusion to the explosion of China’s first atomic bomb in 1964, which marked the country’s entrance into the ranks of global nuclear powers, Yue juxtaposes the underlying sense of peril with lighthearted laughter. The sense of absurdity that this contrast evokes contributes to what is a dynamic example of the artist’s psychologically complex paintings.

    Sleek in its execution, Yue’s composition of the present work masterfully balances the ornate and intelligent, imaginative and realistic, as well as the disordered and the considerably composed. In combining appropriated elements from propaganda posters with the simple and visually direct language of contemporary advertising, Yue succeeds in discarding traditional aesthetics in favour of a new style that derives from our contemporary cultural context. As the connotations in Mushroom Cloud merge to convey the vast enormity of China, ranging from the country's rich history to its vibrant culture and individual strives – the arresting composition undoubtedly confirms Yue’s position as one of China’s most progressive voices.

    With his recognisable signature motifs, Yue’s work has garnered international acclaim, with solo exhibitions in key galleries and museums throughout his career. Widely collected, Yue’s work has also found a place in the permanent collections of institutions including the Guang Dong Art Museum in China, the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, the Francois Mitterrand Cultural Center in France and the Busan Museum of Art in Korea, amongst others. Considered to be amongst the handful of contemporary Chinese giants, Yue has left an influential mark as a leading painter of his generation and era.

  • Catalogue Essay

    「誇張的形象可以表達更多的人性,並且決定這將是我的終極主題後,為什麼不創建自己的誇張形象來傳達我想講述的故事。」–岳敏君

    以其開創性的現實主義風格和鮮明的色調描繪,岳敏君的《蘑菇雲》向觀者展示了在一個濃煙滾滾、爆炸的背景前,一群咧嘴笑到臉都僵硬的複製人。創作於2002年,本件作品是岳敏君著名風格的典型之作,其中包括藝術家所創作的極具幽默感與辨識度之開懷大笑人物。帶著彌勒佛笑臉迎人的涵義,本作品展現了九張一模一樣、鮮豔粉紅色的臉孔,也就是藝術家本人——每一張臉上都有著一排整齊、細小的潔白牙齒,以及光滑齊整的黑髮所構成。每張自畫像上的這個招牌式咧嘴大笑特徵已經成為中國當代藝術最重要的標誌之一,並在許多層面上,成為了整整一代人情感變遷的象徵。

    1962年出生在中國最北面的黑龍江省,岳敏君屬於成長於「文化大革命」(1966年至1976年)期間宣揚「同一步調,方能勝利」的一代人。那一時期的藝術受制於政治,而僅展現以「紅、光、亮」為題材的藝術,目的在於服務社會主義和人民——時常宣揚勞動者或烈士的偉大。在文化大革命後的時代,尤其是1990年代經濟上的變化開始對中國人民的生活施加不可逆轉的力量時,中國經歷了快速的轉型。為了回應中國快速的發展、城市化和對西方開放給人們所帶來的心理影響——出現了一種新的藝術風潮:「玩世現實主義」,而岳敏君被認為是其中起著定義性作用的領軍人物之一。通過結合中國的演變體現在繪畫上和歷史上的獨特典故,岳敏君與他的同時代藝術家——包括王廣義、方力鈞和張曉剛——起著最終推動中國的藝術實踐邁向其重要之下一階段的作用。從本件畫作中紅色調的臉孔中可以看出,他在作品中故意使用「社會現實主義」政治宣傳藝術的主要特徵,並將其轉變為對國家糖衣包裝現實的諷刺性批評。通過此舉,藝術家獨特的肖像和隱含的政治評論,對當代中國社會做出的進一步的諷刺諧擬。

    咧嘴大笑,一般來說意味著歡樂的氣氛,但岳敏君標誌性的笑臉,被描繪成牙齒白亮、雙眼緊閉,下巴近乎裂開的歇斯底里。《蘑菇雲》是岳敏君作品中尤為引人入勝的一件,這歸因於藝術家對重複手法的使用。藝術家將他的臉孔以軍事陣列一般的形式排列,甚至暗示著兵馬俑。由於一整排的臉都位於畫布的底端,觀者的目光被吸引至他們頭部後方的背景,展示著蔚藍天空背景前的一朵蘑菇雲。讓人聯想起中國在1964年第一次試爆原子彈,標誌著中國進入了全球核武器大國的行列。岳敏君將原子彈潛在的嚴重後果與輕鬆的嘻笑並置在同一畫面。這一對比所引起的荒謬感,顯著證明了藝術家的繪畫所具有的心理上的複雜性。

    畫面豔麗純淨,岳敏君在本件作品的構圖上巧妙地達到了華麗與機智、想像與現實,以及雜亂無章與整齊有序之間的平衡。通過結合從宣傳海報中挪用的元素與當代廣告中簡單且直觀的語言,岳敏君成功地摒棄了傳統美學,取而代之的是一種源自我們當代文化語境的新風格。隨著《蘑菇雲》中的內涵融合在一起,去傳遞中國的龐大廣袤,從國家的悠久歷史到其生機勃勃的文化,以及個人的汲汲營營——這件動人的畫作無疑證實了岳敏君作為中國最先進的聲音之一的地位。

    憑藉其高度識別的標誌性圖案,岳敏君的作品獲得了國際性的讚譽,他的整個職業生涯中在許多重要的畫廊和美術館舉辦過個展。岳敏君的作品被廣泛收藏,包括中國的廣東美術館、舊金山現代藝術博物館、法國弗朗索瓦·密特朗文化中心和韓國釜山藝術博物館,以及其他機構的永久性館藏中都擁有一席之地。被認為是當代中國的藝術巨匠中之一位,岳敏君作為他這一代人和這一時代的傑出畫家,留下了他具有影響力的印記。

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Ж21

Property of an Important American Collector

Mushroom Cloud

2002
signed and dated 'yue minjun 2002' lower right
acrylic on canvas
300 x 220 cm. (118 1/8 x 86 5/8 in.)
Painted in 2002.

Estimate
HK$3,000,000 - 5,000,000 
€348,000-580,000
$385,000-641,000

Place Advance Bid
Contact Specialist
Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 24 November 2019