Yan Pei-Ming – In the Name of the Father
02.04 – 06.09.2021
A new exhibition devoted to the life and work of Yan Pei-Ming
In spring 2021, Musée Unterlinden in Colmar, France, will present a major exhibition devoted to Yan Pei-Ming, the contemporary artist known around the world for his monumental, often monochromatic canvasses, painted with vigorous, sweeping brushstrokes.
Resonating with the celebrated Isenheim Altarpiece, the masterwork of Musée Unterlinden’s collections, the show offers a fresh reading of the oeuvre of an artist whose work and wit dovetail with the themes of filiation, sacrifice and the sacred explored by Grünewald five centuries earlier. Titled Yan Pei-Ming – In the Name of the Father, the exhibition invites the visitor to follow the painter’s journey over four decades. It presents, quite exceptionally in France, a collection of more than fifty major paintings as well as a dozen drawings and watercolors from public institutions and private collections in Europe and China, and from the artist’s personal archive.
Through this project, Musée Unterlinden’s head curator Frédérique Goerig-Hergott offers visitors a completely new take on the work of Yan Pei-Ming.
A word from the curator
The exhibition at Musée Unterlinden has its origins in 2012 when I discovered the triptych Nom d’un chien ! Un jour parfait (For goodness’ sake! A perfect day, 2012) by Yan Pei-Ming at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes.
Its effulgence, frontality and verticality made the triptych, the artist’s first full-length self-portrait, stand out as the spectacular manifestation of a resurgence, an affirmation of self. This latest representation of Yan Pei-Ming, Christlike and monumental, resonated all the way across France, as if echoing, five centuries after Grünewald, the painted panels of The Isenheim Altarpiece (1512-1516), a masterwork in art history and MuséeUnterlinden.
I was never able to forget my encounter with that work, nor calm the urge to find out more about this internationally renowned artist, exhibited by the
Louvre in 2009, whom I believed I knew. In fact, despite the acclaim of the art world since the late 1980s, and a career interspersed with multiple major exhibitions, one question was left hanging: who is Yan Pei-Ming?
The museum’s intention is to raise the veil on Yan Pei-Ming, the essential artist of Chinese origin whose figurative and expressive work, sometimes taking the form of polyptychs, keys into themes of filiation, sacrifice and the sacred that feature in The Isenheim Altarpiece. And in so doing, to probe the identity of the painter, whose dual culture gives his work universal character.
This exhibition presents an unprecedented insight into an artistic career spanning four decades thanks to the fifty or so major paintings and a dozen graphic works sourced from public institutions and private collections. It takes a closer look at the way Yan Pei-Ming sees himself and his work, while evoking his stylistic development and his place in the history of art. Through his work, dominated by portraits and self-portraits, the exhibition explores the artist’s relationship to his origins, from Mao to his father, via representations of Buddha and his mother, without forgetting the International Landscapes and those of Shanghai.
The omnipresence of the father figure, and the quest for identity that underpins Yan Pei-Ming’s work, made the title of the exhibition an obvious choice: In the Name of the Father.
The visit concludes with a new work, specially created by the artist for the exhibition at Musée Unterlinden as a pendant to the Crucifixion in The Isenheim Altarpiece.
Head Curator, Musée Unterlinden
Curator of the exhibition