Recipients of the 2001 Chinese Contemporary Art Award, conceptual artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu are known for making controversial installations that use human fat, stuffed animal bodies, and machinery to offer satirical commentary about Chinese society.Read More
Born in Beijing and Heilongjiang, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu studied Oil Painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1994 and 1995. The pair has been working collaboratively in Beijing since the late 1990s and got married in 2000.
Sun Yuan and Peng Yu's large-scale installations tend to generate controversy for using human and animal material to contest political activity and moral boundaries.
Yuan and Yu's video installation Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other (2003) shown as part of the 2017 group exhibition Art and China After 1989: Theater of the World at the Guggenheim Museum generated much controversy for showing fighting dogs strapped to treadmills trying to attack one another.
The work was pulled from the exhibition, alongside two others, after the New York Times published a preview that caught the attention of animal-rights activists. A petition circulated accusing the museum of animal torture. The video remained in the exhibition, frozen on the video's title card to avoid further criticism.
Old Persons Home (2007), a parody of the U.N., showed 13 life-size sculptures of elderly world leaders on dynamoelectric wheelchairs, senile and toothless, set to randomly roll around the exhibition space at a slow pace, colliding into one another.
Just as horrifying and realistic, Angel (2008), a fibreglass sculpture of an angel with grotesque flesh-covered wings, sees the elderly creature splattered on the ground, with white hair and white tunic, wrinkles and moles visibly apparent.
Civilization Pillar (2001—2019), a tall yellow pillar made from human fat, paraffin wax, and petroleum jelly, serves as representation of human excess, referring to the unused food energy stored in the body, extracted through cosmetic procedures.
Commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum, Can't Help Myself (2016) sought to evoke the mechanical relationships between people and state, replicating the conditions of surveillance and warfare around border control.
The installation showed a stainless-steel robot in a white room, wiping away at a pool of blood-red liquid. Viewed from behind clear acrylic walls, it was programmed to contain the liquid to a certain area of the room. Mechanical arms frantically shove the liquid back in place once the machine's sensors detect the liquid has strayed too far, leaving red stains and splatters.
Sun Yuan and Peng Yu are the recipients of the 2001 Contemporary Chinese Art Award and the 2010 Credit Suisse Today Award.
Sun Yuan and Peng Yu have shown their work widely across Asia, Europe, North America, and the U.K.
Select solo exhibitions include Arario Gallery, Shanghai (2019); Galleria Continua, San Gimignano (2019, 2011); Galerie Perrotin, Paris (2013); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2012); Arario Gallery, Seoul (2011); Tang Contemporary Art, Beijing (2009); Osage, Hong Kong (2009); and F2 Gallery, Beijing (2005).
Select group exhibitions include May You Live in Interesting Times, 58th Venice Biennale (2019); K11 Museum, Shenyang (2018); Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao (2018); Guggenheim Museum, New York (2017); National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2017); 11th Shanghai Biennale (2016); Qatar Museums, Doha (2016); Yuz Museum, Shanghai (2015, 2014); National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (2013); National Museum of China, Beijing (2012); Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai (2012); and documenta 13, Kassel (2012).
The artists' website can be found here. Peng Yu's Instagram can be found here.
Elaine YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2021