I think making art and doing other business are the same thing.
The truth only exists in your mind. There is no truth in reality.
– Yan Lei
The Red Brick Art Museum presents, between April 25 and July 15, the leading Chinese artist Yan Lei’s large-scale solo exhibition Rêverie, curated by Hou Hanru, the internationally renowned curator and current MAXXI artistic director.
Yan Lei is one of the most idiosyncratic figures in the Chinese art scene today. 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 yet critical answers, tainted with self-mockery.
In 2001, he founded a company to realize and present his projects. Having failed to obtain the permission from the commercial authorities to call his company “Fantasy“, 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”. Yan Lei declares: “I think making art and doing other business are the same thing”. Thus, the best way to produce art is to appropriate an industrial model. He employs untrained painters to realize “his” paintings and even to decide on the subjects, quantity and ways of presenting “his” work. He abandons the decision-making for images, as a form of non-cooperation with the power system, and resorts directly to the model of doing business as his model of “art production”. 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.
The new exhibition, entitled “Rêverie”, that Yan Lei has conceived for Red Brick Art Museum consists of several parts and includes various media ranging from painting and installation to sound. On entering the central gallery, the viewer will first see a large installation Rêverie (2015), a replica of a car production line: Oil paintings are hung from the overhead chain conveyors of a car production line while painted car parts are installed on the walls as if they were real paintings. This gesture further reverses the convention of painting production and exhibition, and, hence, turns the aesthetic hierarchy between art and real life upside-down. On the other side of the gallery a series of 8 models of the Documenta-Halle is installed that the audience can enter from underneath. Inside each model, it looks like a small exhibition, with miniature paintings hung on the walls. Titled XANAX (2015), the name of the strongest medication made for depression, these models are installed to “meet” the desire of the voyeuristic gazes of the public, of peeping into the miniature world of what Yan Lei calls Unlimited Art. In a corner of the gallery another emblematic work will be displayed – one that Yan Lei started to develop as an extension of painting as a technique in 2002: the Color Wheels series. Yan Lei will fit out the side galleries with a site-specific re-installation of his seminal project created for Documenta 13, Limited Art Work (2012) and other paintings with images that he (and his employees) “encountered” and selected from mass media and other resources. These images are mounted to form multi-layered image walls, overwhelmingly overlooking the flow of people underneath…
The business licenses (2001 and 2013) of Yan Lei’s company “Li Wu Li” as part of the artist’s working method are also included in the show at the invitation of the curator. Bottles of red wine labeled “Rêverie” (2015) are placed in the gallery as an artwork, but can also be consumed on the spot, conforming to Yan Lei’s perception of art and commercial business. There is also a sound piece designed by the sound artist Chen Dili, based on the recordings made on the site of the installation of the overhead chain conveyors.
About the exhibition
Curator: Hou Hanru
Duration: 2015.4.25 – 2015.7.15
Opening: 2015.4.25 16:00
Venue: Red Brick Art Museum
Address: Hegezhuang, Cuigezhuang Village, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Organizer: Red Brick Art Museum
Courtesy of the artist and Red Brick Art Museum, photo by Chen Peihua, for further information please visit www.redbrickartmuseum.org.