April 21, 2015 - Red Brick Art Museum - Yan Lei
April 21, 2015

Yan Lei

Yan Lei, Limited Art Project, 2012–15. Oil and acrylic on canvas, dimension variable. © Yan Lei.

Yan Lei

April 25–July 15, 2015

Preview: April 25, 4pm
Panel discussion: “How to be an artist without making artworks?”

Red Brick Art Museum
Cuigezhuang Village
Chaoyang District
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10–17h  


Curated by Hou Hanru, the Red Brick Art Museum will present the leading Chinese artist Yan Lei’s large-scale solo exhibition Rêverie

Yan Lei is one of the most idiosyncratic figures in the Chinese art scene today: he is always independent. But he also holds a truly global vision and is deeply concerned with some major problems of society. His work, using highly personal but ever-evolving and opening languages, deals with the specific questions of the art world in China. Central to Yan Lei’s artistic adventure is examining the power relationship, or conflicts and struggles, between the artist’s desire for freedom and the will of control of the institutional system, in a time of globalization when the confrontation of and wrestling between “local” and “global” have become a key influence on how art works are produced. Facing all kinds of unsolvable problems in this process of negotiation, he always comes up with radical but unexpectedly shrewd answers, tainted with self-mockery: somehow sarcastic and in the end critical.

In 2001, Yan Lei founded a company to realize and present his projects, which are essentially conveying his sense of illusion and, therefore, disillusion about art and life. He failed to obtain the permission from the commercial authorities to call his company “Fantasy.” Then, he turned to a foreign and exotic term, and successfully named his company “Li Wu Li,” which is a phonetic but pun-like translation of the French word “Rêverie.” Now, this seemingly simple name can mean both fantasy-disillusion and “profits bring more profits”…the dream has come true: art and business are now perfectly merged and have become one! 

Yan Lei insists that there is no difference between art and other real-life activities, in particular, commercial ones. He declares: “I think making art and doing other business are the same thing.” This not only brings about the elimination of the ego of the artist, the self, or the subjectivity, of the artist no longer counts. The best way to produce art is to appropriate an industrial model. He employs untrained painters to realise “his” paintings and even to decide on the subjects, quantity and ways of presenting “his” work, or asking them to cover representational images with monochrome paint…  He abandons the decision making for images, as a form of non-cooperation with the power system, while denying the nametag of “artist” as his identity. He resorts directly to the model of doing business as his model of “art production.” Therefore, art becomes truly unlimited, and inimitable, just like business itself. Yan Lei has coined a term to describe his activity: “UAP – Unlimited Art Project.” Under this banner, all the works are “limited” elements to continue to form this realm of the unlimited. 

Yan Lei
Yan Lei was born in Hebei Province, China in 1965. Yan is a singular and unconventional figure in the Chinese contemporary art world. Adopting an independent and distant attitude, he explores and unveils different issues, such as power relationship, competition or the closeness of values and prices, that exist in the art system, through various media ranging from painting, sculpture, installation to video and performance. His works often incorporate multiple and often contradictory values. This ambiguousness shows, on the one hand, the artist’s alertness to and reflection on the various problems in art making today, and on the other, the solitude that he has from being part of the system and his complex feelings confronted with vulgar reality.

Yan Lei has participated in a great numbers of international exhibitions, including Istanbul Biennial, Guangzhou Triennial, Sao Paulo Biennale, Gwangju Biennale, Shanghai Biennial, Venice Biennale, Documenta etc.

Red Brick Art Museum
Red Brick Art Museum opened its doors on May 2014 in Beijing, China. Through the organization of high-quality exhibitions and its involvement in collection, research, education, publication and public activities, the Red Brick Art Museum aims to promote the development of Chinese contemporary art and create an international platform of dialogues and exchange involving international contemporary artists. 

Yan Lei at Red Brick Art Museum
Red Brick Art Museum
Share - Yan Lei
  • Share
Click to subscribe to e-flux and be the first to receive the latest news on international exhibitions and all e-flux related announcements
Subscribe to e-flux
Be the first to receive the latest news on international exhibitions and all e-flux related announcements.
Subscribe to architecture
Explore the most recent content from e-flux architecture and urbanism
Subscribe to e-flux programs
Keep up-to-date on all upcoming talks, screenings, and exhibitions at e-flux in New York