“I want to make art part of our life and to bring art to people’s lives, so they can live more happily and more beautifully.”

Born Shijiazhuang, Hebei, 1968

As well as being an artist, Yan Jun runs a successful graphic-design business. Always on the lookout for the next cool thing, he is also a devoted traditionalist, a connoisseur of Chinese tea and a longtime collector of porcelain, wood carvings and jade seals. “My occupation as a designer as well as my collecting have enabled me to immerse myself deeply in traditional culture and to redevelop and recreate its heritage,” he says. “To learn from the past and seek to advance into the future, to connect the past with the present—this has been my motivation.” Yan Jun sees art as an endless dialogue “between tradition and novelty, oriental and Western, ancient and contemporary”. That dialogue both generates and is powered by conflict and contradiction. All these themes are joined in Dialogue (2006), a set of 18th-century-style furniture made of discarded radiators and water pipes. For Yan Jun, these surprisingly elegant pieces embody the balance between contradictions that is the essence of Taoism. The union of cold iron and domestic warmth, industrialised mass production and aristocratic taste, metal and wood “in some sense embodies the Oriental personality”, he says: “quiet, calm and imperturbable on the outside, but full of passion within.”

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