Artworks by Yu Youhan

Facing the Future by Yu Youhan

50 x 60 cm

Mao’s Birthday by Yu Youhan

120 x 80 cm

The Waving Mao by Yu Youhan

173 x 153 cm
Acrylic on Canvas

Yu Youhan


Yu Youhan (1943 Shanghai) is a key figure in the Political Pop movement. His influence on Chinese avant-garde art has been felt since the mid-1980s when he was a major figure in the Shanghai Minimalist movement. He began his Mao series in 1989. The series consists of portrait-like depictions of Mao’s everyday life.

Yu Youhan is widely considered the father of abstract painting and Political Pop in China. A longtime teacher of art in Shanghai, Yu has no wish to pursue an interdisciplinary or international practice, as many artists of his generation do. In this conversation, he talks about his life during the Cultural Revolution and the impact those experiences have had on his art. In the 1980s he began an ongoing series of circle paintings relating to the Dao concept of the universe. His Pop-style paintings from the late 1980s have a decorative aspect derived from folk art, and his figurative paintings represent both the history of China and his own personal history.

But in Yu’s colored, floral-strewn portraits, Mao’s principles of “art for the purpose of political instruction” and “art for the pleasure of the masses, ” set forth in his Yan’an talks on literature and art are given a new twist. Yu Youhan’s images use foksy patterns and a whimsical composition like approach to art. He started his new “Yimengshan” and “Traditional Garden” series in recent years. Here, Yu reveals how intertwined personal and national histories can be. Perhaps it is fair to say that Yu’s work comes out of a single conviction: namely, that art should reflect societal change.

Solo Exhibitions:
2016 YU YOUHAN 1973-1988, Long Museum(West Bund), Shanghai
2013 YU Youhan: Yībān, YU Youhan’s First Solo Exhibition in Beijing, Yuan Space, Beijing
2012 YU Youhan: Home, Bi-Cities: Solo Exhibitions of Chinese New Painting, Tian Ren He Yi Art Center, Hangzhou
2011 Yu Youhan’s Paintings, ShanghART H-Space, Shanghai
2008 Yu Youhan: New Abstract Paintings, Shanghai Art Fair-Outstanding Artists Section, Shanghai
2004 Yu Youhan, Landscape of Yi Meng Shan, ShanghART H-Space, Shanghai
1999 Ah! Us, ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai
1998 Yu Youhan, Gallery Sonne, Berlin, Germany
1996 Yu Youhan, Maison de la Chine, Paris, France

Group Exhibitions:
2016 Holzwege, 20th Anniversary Exhibition, ShanghART on West Bund, Shanghai
Abstraction and Beyond: A Research-Based Tour Exhibition of Chinese Art, Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai
The World is Yours, as well as Ours, White Cube, London, U.K.
Geomancy-ink changing–Misreading and Regeneration of Chinese Ink, Alioth Art Center, Shanghai
New Capital, Huang Yu Collection Exhibition, Museum of Contemporary Art Chengdu, Chengdu
Too Loud A Solitude, Stalkers of Chinese Contemporary Art, Hive Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing
2015 City Vision, 2015 Shanghai Artists’ Works Exhibition, Cloud Art Center, Shanghai
Elixir, Biennale Italia-China 2015, Turin, Italy
Garden Splendors, Chinese Cotemporary Art Invitational Exhibition, Suzhou Jinji Lake Art Museum
2014 Just as Money is the Paper, the Gallery is the Room, Osage Gallery, Shanghai
Broken. Stand, The New Painting to Order, Long Museum, Shanghai
Hans van Dijk: 5000 Names, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), Beijing; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Original Home, JIA Pingwa Culture and Art Center, Xi’an, Shanxi
Re-View, Opening Exhibition of Long Museum West Bund, Long Museum (West Bund), Shanghai
A Fragment in the Course of Time, Landscape of Chinese Ink Art in 1980s, Himalayas Art Museum, Shanghai
5 Plus, ShanghART Beijing, Beijing
Starlight, ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai
2013 Shanghai/Paris, Modern Art of China, China Art Museum, Shanghai
Clutch, ShanghART H-Space, Shanghai
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, Us and Institution, Us as Institution, Times Museum, Guangzhou
Foundational Work II, ShanghART H-Space, Shanghai
The 55th Venice Biennale Parallel Exhibition, Independent Chinese Art Exhibition: Voice of the Unseen, Venice, Italy
The Early Abstract Art in Shanghai, A Retrospective of Art History, Shanghai Baoshan International Folk Arts Exposition, Shanghai
Four Quarters-3553, Exhibition Cycle of Chinese Contemporary Artists, HOW Art Museum, Wenzhou Branch, Wenzhou
Art 500, Halcyon Gallery, Shanghai
Re-Reading, ShanghART Singapore, Singapore
Shanghai, Nanjing, Chengdu, Fujian: Four Chinese Contemporary Artists, Yuehu Gallery, Shanghai
Continental Divide, 10 Chinese Artists at Home and Abroad,
Foundational Work, ShanghART H-Space, Shanghai
2012 Cultural Shanghai- A Return Oriented Towards the Future, 2012 Shanghai Gallery Alliance, Shanghai
2×Helbling in Shanghai, IG Halle, Kunst(zeug)haus, Rapperswil, Switzerland
Face, Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai
2010 Made in Popland, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea
Landscape in Transition, Yuzi Paradise International Art Symposium, Yuehu Gallery, Shanghai
Reshaping History: Chinart from 2000-2009, Special Documenta, China National Convention Center, Beijing
San Sheng Wan Wu, Opening Exhibition, Zendai Contemporary Art Exhibition Hall, Shanghai
2009 Santa’s Workshop Shanghai, Selected works, toys and artists’ editions, James Cohan Gallery, Shanghai
Out of Shanghai, Museum gegenstandsfreier Kunst, Otterndorf, Germany
Shanghai History in Making from 1979 Till 2009, Shanghai
Warm Up, Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai
On Paper, Group Show of ShanghART Artists, ShanghART, Shanghai
Yi Pai: Century Thinking, A Contemporary Art Exhibition, Today Art Museum, Beijing
The China Project—Three Decades: The Contemporary Chinese Collection, Queensland Art Gallery, Australia
Another Scene, Artists’ Projects, Concepts and Ideas, ShanghART H-Space, Shanghai
Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass, U.S.A.
2008 Five Years of Duolun, Chinese Contemporary Art Retrospective Exhibition, Duolun Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai
Cheng Xiang, Opening Exhibition of Shanghai Eye Level Gallery, Eye Level Gallery, Shanghai
Speed of the Flows, Invited Artists Exhibition of Nominated Contemporary Artworks, Yuandian Gallery, Shanghai
Writing on the Wall, Chinese New Realism and Avant-Garde in the Eighties and Nineties, The Groninger Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands
Red Aside, Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection, The Joan Miró Foundation, Barcelona, Spain
2007 85 New Wave, The Birth of Chinese Contemporary Art, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), Beijing
Strategy on Paper, Works on Paper Invitational Exhibition, Sifang Art Museum, Nanjing
2006 Witness, Blue Dreamland Gallery, Chengdu
2006 Shanghai Abstract Art Exhibition, Mingyuan Art Center, Shanghai
2005 Mahjong, Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection, Kunstmuseum Bern, Bern, Switzerland
Study Practice, Shanghai Gallery of Art, Shanghai
2004 Dreaming of the Dragon’s Nation, Contemporary Art from China, IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art), Dublin, Ireland
Chine, le corps partout? (China, the body everywhere?), Museum of Contemporary Art, Marseilles, France
2003 Prayer Beads and Brush Strokes, Beijing Tokyo Art Projects, Dashanzi, Beijing
2002 Paris-Pekin, Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition, Espace Pierre Cardin, Paris, France
2001 Made by Chinese #3. Chinese Pop, Galerie Navarra, Paris, France
Shanghai Star, Casula Art Centre, Sydney, Australia
2000 Futuro, Chinese Contemporary Art, Contemporary Art Centre, Macau
1997 15 Contemporary Chinese Artists, National Art Association, Portugal
Faces and Bodies of the Middle Kingdom, Chinese Art of the 1990′, Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech; OTSO Gallery, Espoo, Finland
1996 Reckoning with the Past, Contemporary Chinese Painting, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, U.K.
1995 Change – Chinese Contemporary Art, Konsthallen Goetaplatsen, Goeteborg, Sveden
Des Pais del Centre, Avantguardes Artistiques Xineses, Santa Monica Art Centre, Barcelona, Spain
1994 22nd International Biennial of Sao Paulo, Brazil
1993 45th International Art Exhibition Venice Biennale – Cardinal Points of the Arts, Venice, Italy
The First Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia
Mao Goes Pop, China Post ’89, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Victoria National Gallery, Melbourne, Australia
China Avant-garde, Touring Exhibition, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Hildesheim Art Gallery, Germany; Kunsthall Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Brandts Klaederfabrik, Odense, Denmark; Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, U.K.
China’s New Art, Post-1989, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong
1991 Materials, Beijing; Nanjing; Chongqing
1989 China/Avant-Garde Art Exhibition, National Art Museum of China, Beijing
1988 Exhibition of Today’s Art, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai
Today, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai
1986 First Shanghai Concave-Convex Exhibition, Xuhui Cultural Centre, Shanghai
Inauguration Exhibition of the Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai