China's James Franco: Contemporary Artist Yue Minjun Adds Acting to his Oeuvre

China's James Franco: Contemporary Artist Yue Minjun Adds Acting to his Oeuvre
Chinese contemporary art star Yue Minjun has taken a leaf out of James Franco's book (metaphorically, not out of his actual book of short stories, "Palo Alto") by trying his hand at lowbrow-TV-cameo-as-performance-art. Yue has landed a role in the China Central Television soap opera "Color Me Love," which follows the adventures of Beijing fashion editor Wang Xiaofei and her painter boyfriend, Luan Yihong. Wang's fictional home is located in the artists's district of Songzhuang, on the outskirts of the capital, which is home to thousands of aspiring artists along with some established heavyweights like Fang Lijun, Lin Tianmiao, and Wang Gongxin.

As well as appearing in the soap, Yue reportedly served as the model for the character of the artist Luan. In addition, one of Yue’s works — worth around  ¥1.5 million (or $225,754) — is a key component of the mise-en-scène of the program, adorning the office of Wang's editor-in-chief, played by Joan Chen. The painting is so valuable that the director carries it home with him every night.

48-year-old Yue is a prominent member of China’s Cynical Realist movement and his guffawing self-portraits are some of the the most iconic images to have emerged from China in recent years. Rather alarmingly, the key actors in "Color Me Love" have been directed to act in the style of Yue's paintings by adopting wide grins and sardonic expressions.

The soap cashes in on a Chinese fascination with the rags-to-riches stories forming the foundation of China's contemporary art scene, and makes full use of the locations afforded by the capital's museums, galleries, and studios. Yue is, incidentally, not the only artist to get involved with the show. Painter Qi Zhilong (a Kalup Linzy to Yue's Franco?), who is known for his highly successful portraits of Red Guard girls, has also lent works to the show.