Hon - Niki de Saint Phalle & Shen Yuan

Power Station of Art, Shanghai

July 28, 2018 to October 14, 2018


This summer saw a group exhibition “Hon - Niki de Saint Phalle & Shen Yuan” held at Power Station of Art in Shanghai. It paired the late French Artist Niki de Saint Phalle, and the still-active Chinese contemporary artist Shen Yuan. The name of the exhibition honours the work Niki created on 1966. “Hon”, in Swedish, means “She” in English. The theme of the exhibition was also surrounding with the topic of Women.



Shen Yuan was born on 1959 in a small city in Fujian and studied traditional Chinese painting at Zhejiang Academy of Art in early 1980s. After graduation, she practiced a lot of experimental arts which were trending at that time. Shen was also one of China’s first female artists to gain international recognition. She moved to France in the early 1990s. The sudden change of environment with the huge cultural and language differences triggered her to rethink her new identity. 


“It is the responsibility of an artist to endow new values upon things.” – Shen Yuan

In her creations, we see items of daily life, more obscure home items and items left scattered on the street. Chinese people born between the 60s-80s feel a strong connection these works. Combs, slippers, bicycles, mops and embroidery appear regularly in her art pieces. They reflect the experience of women during this period and act as an appreciation for them.

Classroom: inspired by children who were injured by firecrackers


These two great artists were both hugely successful in France. And both of them endeavoured to explore and present the world from the perspective of women. There is another recurring theme of these works though. In their personal lives, they both experienced strong transitions of identity. Niki moved from France to USA, while Shen migrated from China to France. Hence, their artworks often reveal their multi-cultural backgrounds. This seeps through their works at every stage.


Moreover, their works are critiques and reflections of the real, troubled world. It is also these similarities that made the conversation between these two great artists more interesting.


The overall message and main focus of the show though, whether made by Shen Yuan or Nicky, is women's right to speak out in society. Hon is delicate, sensitive and emotional. She becomes nervous and emotional from small things but also grows strong in great pain. This is the unique charm and strength of women.

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