Yue Minjun is a contemporary artist best known for his oil portraits portraying his own laughing figure. Born in the Heilongjian Province, Yue worked in the oil industry until the events of the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising encouraged him to join an artists’ colony outside of Beijing. He quickly earned recognition for his portraits of friends and fellow artists; in addition, his paintings of his own smiling visage, often cloned on numerous figures, gained critical acclaim and led to international exhibitions of his work.
Yue is frequently associated with the Chinese movement “Cynical Realism,” but he rejects the label. Influenced by both western and Chinese art history, Yue’s laughing self-portraits often contain surrealist imagery or references to famous paintings; his Tiananmen Square-inspired Execution, which was highest grossing work of Chinese contemporary art in 2007, is compared to Goya’s masterpiece The Third of May, 1808. Yue also works in sculpture, watercolor, and print.