Yu Youhan

1943-2023, Shanghai China


A key figure in the Chinese Political Pop movement, Yu Youhan is equallyknown as a majorfigure in the Shanghai Minimalist movement. Born in Shanghai in 1943, he graduated from the Central Institute of Technology in Beijing in 1970. Presently he teaches at the Shanghai Institute of Industrial Arts. His influence on Chinese avant-garde art has been felt since the mid-80s. Later he started to paint abstract works. With his famous Circles series starting in 1983, he adopted the circle as the best form to articulate his concept. The circle as an abstract form results from the idea of "grasping things as a whole". He tried to use the relationship between dots and lines to illustrate the flow and changes within the matter of the universe. With the Taoist diagrams-like dots and lines as the form of abstraction, it demonstrates the deeply implanted Chinese culture in the works. This masterful rendering of the bright folksy patterns and his whimsical compositional approach create an unique style. 


1943    Born in Shanghai, China
1973    Graduated from the Central Academy of Art & Design, Beijing, China
1973-2003    Taught at the Shanghai Institute of Industrial Arts, China
1985    After visited Zao Wou-ki exhibition in Hangzhou and an abstract art exhibition organized by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in China, he began painting abstract art. For ten years, he devoted himself to the "Circle" series of abstract paintings and became one of the leading figures in the '85 Art Movement in China
Early 1990s    Shifted towards Pop Art and created vividly colored paintings with Mao Zedong as the subject, featuring vibrant flowers. Through these artworks, he expressed his personal perspectives on China's cultural history over the past half-century
2000s   Began to create "Mount Yimeng" series of landscape and figure paintings, using photographs taken in the Mount Yimeng area. This series represents a return to the simplicity, freshness, and freedom of everyday life
2012    For the first time in his illustrious career, he took up the challenge of extending his artistic expression to lithography
2023    Passed away in Shanghai, at the age of 80


  • Yu Youhan: The Representational and the Abstract, Long Museum, Shanghai, China
  • Yu Youhan, Gallery Sonne, Berlin, Germany
  • Yu Youhan, Maison de la Chine, Paris, France 



  • Embark.Hang: Central Art Museum Opening Exhibition, Central Art Museum, Hangzhou, China

  • Delight in the Invisible: Abstract Narrative of Momentary, Ming Yuan Art Museum, Shanghai, China


  • M+ Sigg Collection: From Revolution to Globalisation, Sigg Galleries, M+, Hong Kong


  • Waves and Echoes: A Process of Re-contemporarization in Chinese Art Circa 1987 Revisited, Inside-out Art Museum, Beijing, China


  • Crisscrossing East and West: The Remarking of Ink Art in Contemporary East Asia, MOCA Yinchuan, Ningxia, China
  • Made in Popland, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea
  • Reshaping History: Chinart from 2000-2009, Special Documenta, China National Convention Center, Beijing, China
  • San Sheng Wan Wu, Opening Program of Zendai Contemporary Art Exhibition Hall, Shanghai, China
  • Out of Shanghai, Museum Gegenstandsfreier Kunst, Otterndorf, Germany
  • Shanghai History in Making from 1979 Till 2009, Shanghai, China
  • Warm Up, Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, China
  • Yi Pai: Century Thinking, A Contemporary Art Exhibition, Today Art Museum, Beijing, China
  • Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass, USA
  • Five Years of Duolun: Chinese Contemporary Art Retrospective Exhibition, Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai, China
  • 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
  • 85 New Wave, The Birth of Chinese Contemporary Art, Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (UCCA), Beijing, China
  • Strategy on Paper, Works on Paper Invitational Exhibition, Square Gallery of Contemporary Art, Nanjing, China
  • Mahjong, Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection, Kunstmuseum Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • Study Practice, Shanghai Gallery of Art, Shanghai, China
  • Chine, le corps partout? (China, the body everywhere?), Museum of Contemporary Art, Marseilles, France
  • Paris-Pekin, Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition, Espace Pierre Cardin, Paris, France
  • Shanghai Star, Casula Art Centre, Sydney, Australia  
  • Futuro, Chinese Contemporary Art, Contemporary Art Centre, Macau
  • 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
  • Reckoning with the Past, Contemporary Chinese Painting, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, UK
  • Change - Chinese Contemporary Art, Konsthallen Goetaplatsen, Goeteborg, Sweden
  • Des Pais del Centre, Avantguardes Artistiques Xineses, Santa Monica Art Centre, Barcelona, Spain
  • 22nd International Biennial of Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • 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; Kunsthall, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Brandts Klaederfabrik, Odense, Denmark; Hildesheim Art Gallery, Germany; Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, UK
  • China's New Art, Post-1989, Hong Kong Arts Centre; City Hall, Hong Kong
  • Materials, Beijing; Nanjing; Chongqing, China
  • China/Avant-Garde Art Exhibition, National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China
  • Today, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, China
  • First Shanghai Concave-Convex Exhibition, Xuhui Cultural Centre, Shanghai, China
  • Inauguration Exhibition of the Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, China

Denver Museum of Arts, Denver, USA
Queensland Art Gallery, Australia
Zabludowicz Collection, London, UK
Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, China
Ullen's collection, Beijing, China
M+ Museum, Hong Kong
Yuz Foundation, Jakarta, Indonesia
Sylvain & Dominique Levy DSL collection