top of page



b.1965  Hebei Province, China


The paintings of Beijing-based artist Yan Lei always begin with photographs, digitally reduced to a narrow color range to reveal their own artificiality. Yan Lei reconstructs and analyses images based on his everyday experiences, generally reflecting upon the relationship of the artist to an increasingly globalized art world.

Yan Lei's works explore the relationship between the artist, culture, and painting. According to the artist, "Painting, after all, is just a mindless re-presentation of an image you might see in a photograph., the process of making that painting has become superfluous." Yan Lei's images hold the viewer at arms length, dissolving into abstract monochromes as the viewer approaches them.


Yan Lei was born in 1965 in Hebei, China; he currently lives and works in Beijing. His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, among them, Art in Motion, MoCA Shanghai, China, 2006; CHINA NOW-Fascination of a Changing World, Sammlung Essl, Klostemeuburg, Vienna, Austria, 2006; Guangzhou Triennale, Guangdong Museum of Art, China, 2005; and China Then, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2003. In 2003, he was selected to participate in the 50th Venice Biennale, and in 2007 his work was in Documenta XII.




4.25 - 7.15, 2015

Red Brick Museum


Bilder, Die(Nie) Verschwinden

9.6 - 10.20, 2014




5.21 - 6.30, 2011


Press / News

Hans-Ulrich Obrist | Interview with Yan Lei

Hans-Ulrich Obrist (HUO): Are all these new works?


Yan Lei (YL): This one is new [points to painting]. The others are all old.


HUO: I was wondering about the different aspects of your work. On the one hand, there are the works we saw in Guangzhou like the painted series entitled “Targets” and then there are the more photographic paintings. What is the relationship between those two? Is it different series, is it the same research?


YL: It’s all about the possibilities of the painting system. I have a unified palette that I use in all my works that is very numerical. The color wheel paintings belong to an extended series. The color in the middle ramifies out according to a numerical algorithm and then the next color wheel painting begins with the last color that this has arrived ... ...

Philip Tinari | May I See Your Exhibition?

“Painting is a way of occupying space on museum walls.” Thus responded Yan Lei to a question—“What is painting?”—posed by Guan Yi to the ten artists participating in his collection show organized in conjunction with Beijing’s newest art fair early last month. That exhibition was staged in a nondescript gallery space belonging to the Danish Cultural Council, located on the ground floor of an upscale apartment complex called “Upper East Side,” down the street from where Yan Lei lives in northeast Beijing. One prominent wall was indeed occupied by eight works from the “Color Wheel” series that has become one of Yan Lei’s trademarks; the one-meter square canvases were hung correctly so that the discerning viewer could see how the color of the bull’s eye in one painting became the color of the background in the next.

... ...

Please reload


Success! We have received your inquiry, and we will reply ASAP.

bottom of page