Introduction of the exhibition and the project:

“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 exhibition Rêverie as a solo exhibition of YAN Lei, one of the important Chinese contemporary artists, organized by Red Brick Art Museum from April 25th to July 15th, 2015. The VIP preview will be held on April 25th. And the exhibition will open for public from April 26th, 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: 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.

The new exhibition that YAN Lei has conceived for Red Brick Art Museum consists of several parts, and uses very simply the name of “Rêverie” as its title. On entering the central gallery, the viewer will first see a large installation Rêverie (2015), a double-level machine which is an approximate replica of the car production line that he discovered and loved in the Volkswagen factory in Kassel… Experimental oil paintings realized at the beginning of the creation of his company “Li Wu Li” 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. On the car doors phrases like “Fireworks N° 3”, “Two Panda Eating Bamboo” and “I choose this place, and now I place my heart here”… are engraved and popping up from behind as a kind of indication of the (imagined) painting covered by the industrial paint. 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 central gallery a series of 8 models of the Documenta-Halle, one of the main venues of Documenta in Kassel, Germany, 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. The contents of the paintings are all related to YAN Lei’s art-making and life experiences. 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. Peeping into the miniature world of what YAN Lei calls Unlimited Art, they will probably become more depressed than the artist. Or, with a bit of luck, their own depression may be temporarily relieved… 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 (2002-2015). These colorful and brilliant concentric circles, creating a vertiginous and illusionist effect, are a random mix and composition of colors from the hundreds in the spectrum following different kinds of logic and orders YAN Lei once commented that Color Wheels reveals the fact that the seemingly objective and true theory of color (as well as the whole value system of art) is in fact full of falseness and manipulation.

YAN Lei will fit out the side galleries with a site-specific re-installation of his seminal project created for Documenta 13, Limited Art Project(2012). During the 100 days the event lasted, every day he sent some paintings installed in the Documenta-Halle to the local Volkswagen factory to be covered with industrial paint. Then they were brought back to the exhibition. Another series of paintings consist of 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.



YAN Lei was born in Hebei Province, China in 1965, and graduated from the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts (now known as the China Academy of Art), in Hangzhou, in 1991. 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, Kwangju Biennale, Shanghai Biennial, Venice Biennale, etc. He has also had solo exhibitions in museums such as the Hong Kong Art Centre, the UCCA Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, and the Aspen Art Museum in Colorado in the United States. In 2002, YAN Lei was awarded ‘Best Artist’ by the C.C.A.A. (Chinese Contemporary Art Awards). He was invited to take part in Documenta in Kassel, Germany, in 2007 and 2012.

Red Brick Art Museum

The Red Brick Art Museum was founded by the entrepreneurs and collector couple, YAN Shijie and CAO Mei, and officially opened its doors on May 23, 2014. Located in No.1 International Art District in the northeast of Beijing, the Red Brick Art Museum was inspired by traditional Chinese gardens in its architectural design and conception of space. Embracing and cherishing nature. There are a auditorium, a restaurant, a cafe, a VIP club and studios for art residency program in the 10,000 square meters Chinese style garden, including 10,000 square meters of exhibition space. 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.

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HOU Hanru

April 25, 4 pm

April 25 – July 15

Red Brick Art Museum

Tang Contemporary Art

Red Brick Art Museum, Hegezhuang, Cuigezhuang Village, Chaoyang District, Beijing