Cynical Realism originated in China during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The movement gained traction as a critical response to the fraught socio-political environment surrounding the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Cynical Realist artwork does not always share a consistent visual style but is marked by ironic and satirical humor and the parody of socialist realist imagery.
The Chinese government’s negative response to the movement’s anti-government stance pushed many cynical realists to find markets outside of China.
Fang Lijun, Zeng Fanzhi, and Yue Minjun are among the most famous Cynical Realist artists.
Image: Yue Minjun, The Grassland Series Screenprint 1 (Sitting Man Laughing) (2008). 73.7 x 94 cm (29 x 37 in.)
Published by Pace Editions Inc./Ethan Cohen Fine Arts
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Richard Solomon and Ethan Cohen