Just announced: Special exhibition by Yu Hong during 2024 Venice Biennale, organised by the Guggenheim Museum's Asian Art Initiative
30 January 2024
The Asian Art Initiative of the Guggenheim Museum, New York, announces the first major exhibition in Europe of contemporary artist Yu Hong. Yu Hong: Another One Bites the Dust will take place in the Chiesetta della Misericordia, Cannaregio, Venice, concurrently with the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, April 20–November 24, 2024. The presentation is curated by Dr. Alexandra Munroe, Senior Curator at Large, Global Arts, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation.
Yu Hong: Another One Bites the Dust Yu Hong borrows images of people, mostly women and children, in writhing poses expressing mental anguish or imminent physical danger, both real and fantastical, from the internet and social media. Set against a gold ground and shaped as large tondos or arched panels, the figures presented in Another One Bites the Dust confront and upend the epic themes of sacred art while not shying away from the role of painting to portray the sorrows of the human condition.
The title of the exhibition references the 1980 ballad of the same name by the popular rock band Queen. The lyrics highlight the everyday and eternal human struggles of death, defeat, and despair. The phrase is originally from the King James Bible and is used by Lu Xun, the early-modern progressive whose writings inscribe Chinese reality as “the tragic recurrence of past experiences.” Yu Hong’s narratives in Another One Bites the Dust describe details of everyday lives yet each scene is tinged with existential terror; images of the feet of cadavers recur throughout the cycle. Through her lushly painted but dark compositions, Yu Hong considers the massive social changes that China’s globalization and speed of transformation have wrought, and the precarity of meaning in the face of calamitous disruption.
Yu Hong is one of the most vigorous and important realist painters of her generation. She won early critical acclaim as a member of China’s New Generation artists, famous for illustrating the psychological displacement of individuals in the throes of rapid change; she is one of the group’s few female artists. Yu Hong was trained in the socialist realism style dominant in Chinese art academies in the 1980s and her work expresses its productive critical legacy. A voracious appropriator, she has consistently drawn from European painting, as well as from the complex lineages of modern and contemporary art, including conceptualism, in China. She is recognized for her large-scale works and multipart series that interpret the raw and often absurd conditions of contemporary life, through the position of the female Chinese body. More recently, as seen in the featured nine-meter-long painting, The Ship of Fools (2021), Yu Hong engages with surreal scenes of ecological ruin, mass migration, and human and animal despair, extending the implications of her epic narratives from a nation to the planet.
Yu Hong’s work has been presented in Venice before. In 1993 Yu Hong was included in the exhibition section Passage to the East, curated by Achille Bonito Oliva with Helena Kontova, at the Giardini Di Castello in the 45th Venice Biennale, and in 1997 she was featured in the group presentation in the China Pavilion at the 47th Venice Biennale.
Yu Hong: Another One Bites the Dust is a program of the Guggenheim’s Asian Art Initiative that is supported by the museum’s Asian Art Circle. It will be accompanied by a major publication published by the Asian Art Initiative of the Guggenheim Museum, New York with essays by Dr. Alexandra Munroe and Dr. Loredana Grazzana, Curator, Pio Monte della Misericordia, Naples; a conversation between Yu Hong and Kenyan-British artist Michael Armitage; and a text by American composer Nico Muhly, whose immersive soundscape composed for the exhibition will premiere at the venue on June 2 and run through the end of the exhibition. Further exhibition and public program details will be released later in 2024.
Naomi Beckwith, Deputy Director and David and Jennifer Stockman Chief Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, said: “The Guggenheim is thrilled that the Asian Art Initiative is presenting Yu Hong: Another One Bites the Dust as a special, off-site program, demonstrating our commitment to expand the contextual histories and discourses of our time through sustained engagement with artists from Asia. We are grateful to the Asian Art Circle for its leadership in the realization of this curatorial project.”
Dr. Alexandra Munroe, Senior Curator at Large, Global Arts, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, remarks: “I have always envisioned staging a show of Yu Hong’s work in Italy, where the power of her art can engage and contest with the humanist themes of the Italian Baroque, itself a historical source of the socialist realism styles that shaped the artist’s foundation. The cycle of paintings in Yu Hong: Another One Bites the Dust depicts both the personal and planetary trauma of societies in the throes of globalization, wars, and climate crises, and should further establish the artist as one of the most ambitious and accomplished realist painters of her generation.”
Yu Hong: Another One Bites the Dust at the Chiesetta della Misericordia of Art Events is supported by Lisson Gallery, and the Leadership Committee of Yu Hong: Another One Bites the Dust, with special thanks to the Simian Foundation.
Yu Hong, Make a Wish, 2023 Acrylic on canvas, 340 x 140 cm © Yu Hong, Courtesy Lisson Gallery