Today Art Museum
Shixiang Sheng. What is it? Yue Minjun is one of China’s most internationally recognised artists. Since the late 1980s, his trademark motif has been that of faces eerily frozen in wild laughter. It is this motif which is used in the Shixiang Sheng sculptures outside the Today Art Museum. The expert opinion: ‘A maze of giant silver monochrome figures, all in a state of euphoric laughter. Walking amongst them, perhaps you will be the one to figure out “what’s so funny?”’James Elaine, founder, Telescope gallery. Time Out says: These laughing figures have a polarising effect on Beijingers. We’ve witnessed commuters’ mornings being brightened and young children bursting into tears at the site of such bombastic mirth. Today Art Museum, 32 Baiziwan Lu, Shuangjing, Chaoyang district 朝阳区百子湾路32号
A-maze-ing Laughter features the wide open-mouthed laughter, the signature trademark of Yue Minjun, who is one of the most prominent Chinese artists known to the world. The sculpture erected in Morton Park consists of fourteen bronze laughing figures. The caricature-like happy faces are the stylized self-portrait of the artist himself. The facial intensity, comic quality and oversized figures are intended to amaze you; while the arrangement of the figures, with identical expressions but distinct gestures, constitutes a maze-like structure that encourages exploration and fun. You are invited to walk through the figures and laugh out loud if you may.
Yue Minjun was born in 1962 and grew up during the Cultural Revolution. He belongs to the generation of artists whose creative impulses were first suppressed by the totalitarian political culture and then unleashed in the reform period of the 1980s. In the 1990s, Yue became known for his paintings of laughing figures and his involvement with the art movement known as Cynical Realism. This movement was an apparent reference to and subversion of the Social Realism that dominated the art scene at the peak of the Communist-Socialist mania and that largely reduced art to an ideological propaganda tool. Yue’s shrewd observation and unique paintings capture the symptoms of the Socialist culture of his time. The laughter is marked by eyes tightly shut, teeth bared, mouth out of proportion and wide open. The exaggeration is applied uniformly on all the figures depicted. Enigmatic and elusive as it seemed, the laughter was interpreted by many as an indication of state politics acting on everyday life, and therefore suggestive of a kind of mentality under tight social control.
The laughing figures have become one of the most recognizable representations of Chinese art. In recent years, the popularity of the laughing face has extended into popular culture. Commercial replicas of the laughing figures in different sizes and media have been made and have become must-haves for many to be in sync with contemporary China. The laughing figures have been growing in meaning over time. In the global context, the laughter has acquired a universal appeal since it has been showing and interacting with many different cultures. It is perceived as inviting playfulness and joy as well as provoking thoughts on social conditions. Yue often states that politics is rooted deeply in the cultural psyche and human nature, and therefore it is more meaningful for art to tackle the deeper roots that shape the politics. The maze is an important concept and recurrent theme in his latest works. For him, the structural interrelations of politics, religion and culture are like a maze, within which he as a player is trying to sort out the confusion. Another copy of A-maze-ing Laughter is installed in Today Museum in Beijing.
Yue Minjun (Chinese: 岳敏君; born 1962) is a contemporary Chinese artist based in Beijing, China. He is best known for oil paintings depicting himself in various settings, frozen in laughter. He has also reproduced this signature image in sculpture, watercolour and prints. While Yue is often classified as part of the Chinese "Cynical Realist" movement in art developed in China since 1989, Yue himself rejects this label, while at the same time "doesn't concern himself about what people call him."
A-maze-ing Laughter is the most beloved sculpture of the 2009-2011 Vancouver Biennale exhibition, captivating throngs of visitors and inspiring endless playful interaction. This artwork is a legacy of the Vancouver Biennale and was presented as a gift to the people of Vancouver thanks to a generous donation by Chip and Shannon Wilson. It has quickly become an iconic cultural beacon in the city and will continue to inspire and engage the imagination of future generations of residents and visitors from its home in Morton Park. A-maze-ing Laughter has been nominated in the Great Places in Canada Contest 2013. It is the only work of public art to receive a nomination in the country. In A-maze-ing Laughter Beijing-based artist Yue Minjun depicts his own iconic laughing image, with gaping grins and closed eyes in a state of hysterical laughter. These laughing figures are the signature trademark of the artist. They are not a conventional self-portrait because they tell us little about the person portrayed. The longer you look at the 14 cast bronze figures, the more the contradiction of the silent, frozen form of sculpture becomes obvious. “I’d like to extend my most sincere gratitude to the Vancouver Biennale and Wilson family, who helped me realize my dream to have my work, A-maze-ing Laughter, become a legacy public art work in Vancouver”, says artist Yue Minjun. “I appreciate your respect and passion for art. My intention when making this series of sculptures was to use art to touch the heart of each visitor and to have them enjoy what art brings to them. I feel honored and happy to have my work displayed in Vancouver. I seem to have seen your smiling faces in my heart”.