MASSIMODECARLO Yan Pei Ming 003 edit

Kung Hei Fat Choi

Yan Pei-Ming

25.03.2024 | 11.05.2024
Hong Kong

There are places that defy any sort of categorization: the makeshift sanctuaries that are home to hundreds, if not thousands of ceramic, glass or clay statues of the Buddha and other protective divinities, are among them. Deposited – never discarded – by their owners changing home or leaving town, the statues sit together in gardens, sometimes by the sea, their godly silhouettes mushrooming across their sanctuary’s slopes, gazing into the horizon.

Enchanted by the Buddhas’ benevolent, smiling gazes and the sense of suspended reality exuding from these modest havens, their sanctuaries gradually imposed themselves as the inevitable subjects of Yan Pei Ming’s new body of work.

Entitled Kung Hei Fat Choi which translates as “a well wish of prosperity”, this exhibition is his second solo in Hong Kong, marking a new chapter in the artist’s decades-long collaboration with the gallery.


Best known for his strikingly detailed portraits of iconic figures depicted in combinations of white and grey, red or blue, this is Yan Pei-Ming’s most spiritual body of work to date.

As static as statues may be, Yan Pei-Ming brings them to life: rendered in his dynamic brushstrokes, they become animated, living figures caught in moments of joy, or meditative bliss.

The sfumato effect that envelops their portraits, infusing them with a dream-like quality, is, in reality, a depiction of the smoke from insence sticks lit all around the statues, to honour their spirits. This is Yan Pei Ming’s subtle way of infiltrating the paintings with life.


Articulated as a constellation of individual portraits gravitating around one central, large-scale 2,5 by 4 meters painting, these predominantly cobalt blue works operate a subtle twist on portraiture: usually painting from pre-exiting images, Yan Pei-Ming found himself not only portraying sculptures as subjects, but also having to reproduce their painted faces onto his canvas. In a way, each of these paintings holds another painting within it.

Layering his personal history into the works’ narrative, Yan Pei-Ming addresses themes of staying and leaving, losing and finding, the afterlife, the individual and the universal: each painting embodies diverging truths. The statues, once cherished by families in their homes, were left behind for unknown reasons, and deposited in public sanctuaries in one final act of reverence. Gazing into the horizon, relentlessly protecting their owners, their power is not diminished, on the contrary, they go from being solitary, domestic spirits to a collective protective force, in open-air sanctuaries, for everyone to discover, or return to.

By painting these smiling, meditative gods against deep blue, smoky backdrops, Yan Pei-Ming extracts them once again from their context, but this time, transposing them into painting, allowing them to travel beyond land and sea, giving them his own version of a new home for eternity.

Yan Pei-Ming

Yan Pei-Ming was born in Shanghai in 1960; he lives and works between Dijon, Paris and Shanghai.

From the beginning of his career Pei-Ming has stood out for his interest in the human figure and portraiture. He gained international recognition for his expressive and monumental portraits of historical figures like Mao Zedong, the Buddha, the Pope, and Bruce Lee, while also exploring personal themes through self-portraits and depictions of his family.

The artist famously uses a long, mop-sized brush to create his iconic images, working rapidly with wet-into-wet oil paint, primarily on a two-toned monochrome colour palette in black and white or red and white.

Yan Pei-Ming's work is prominently featured in both private and public collections, including: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Heidi Horten Collection; S.M.A.K. Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent; Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou; Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai; Yuz Museum, Shanghai; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Collection Lambert en Avignon, Avignon; Fondation François Pinault, Paris; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain de Bourgogne, Dijon; Institut d’Art Contemporain, Villeurbanne; Le Consortium, Dijon; Les Abattoirs / FRAC Midi-Pyrénées, Toulouse; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rennes; Musée Paul Valéry, Sète; Collection Deutsche Bank, Frankfurt; Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Banca Popolare di Bergamo, Bergamo; Collezione Fondazione San Patrignano, Rimini; GAMeC - Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Bergamo; MAXXI - Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo, Roma; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Qatar Museums Authority, Doha; Sonje Museum of Contemporary Art, Kyongju; Wooyang Museum of Contemporary Art, Gyeongju; Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Málaga; Voorlinden Museum, Wassenaar; Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum, Abu Dhabi; Academy of Arts, Honolulu; Honolulu Museum of Arts, Honolulu; The Hawai’i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Honolulu; TIA Collection, Santa Fe.

Yan Pei-Ming’s work was included in The Lyon Biennale (1997, 2000); Venice Biennale, Venice (1995, 2003); the Sevilla Biennale, Sevilla (2006); the Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul (2007); The Bangkok Biennale (2018), among others.

Yan Pei Ming