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Chinese artist Yan Pei-Ming on defining himself as a European painter and celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with Hennessy

Ahead of Chinese New Year 2023, the contemporary artist talks to Lifestyle Asia about his partnership with Hennessy to create limited edition artwork and collectible boxes and bottles.

Widely celebrated for his dramatic and expressionist style, Paris-based Chinese artist Yan Pei-Ming works with rapid, theatrical brush strokes and tonal colour palettes to bring his subjects to life. Even if you’re not a fan, you will probably recognise his monumental-sized, black-and-white Mao Zedong portraits, which skyrocketed Yan to fame when they were first displayed at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. And although his most acclaimed pieces portray public figures such as Bruce Lee and Barack Obama, his art covers a wide range of subjects, from historical events such as the attack on World Trade Center in 2001, to reinterpretations of iconic works in art history.

Yan Pei-Ming

Born in Shanghai, China to a family of factory workers, Yan grew up during the Cultural Revolution and learned how to paint in propaganda classes at school. After graduation, he sought greener pastures abroad and emigrated to France.

“I studied at École des Beaux-Arts of Dijon for five years and decided to stay here after graduation,” says the artist.

Despite his childhood roots in China, much of Yan’s artistic style is an extension of traditional European painting and portraiture, picked up during his adult years. He also works exclusively with oil paints, which he refers to as a “western art technique”.

“I like oil painting because it is strong, expressive and has many variations. When I first moved abroad, I thought the French audience might not understand my Chinese painting style. Working with oil paints allowed me to blend smoothly into the western culture.”

Having spent all of his career in France, Yan inevitably defines himself as a European painter. In recent years, however, he has increasingly returned to his Chinese cultural heritage in his art, combining eastern elements with his signature western portraiture style.

The Great Race

With all of his achievements, it’s no wonder French company Hennessy took notice of Yan. This Chinese New Year 2023, the cognac producer invited the French-Chinese artist to create an art piece to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit.

Titled The Great Race, Yan’s work for Hennessy features all twelve animals from the zodiac calendar, referencing back to the theme of inclusion. Paying homage to the original story of the race to the Heavenly Gates, the artist highlights the strengths and qualities of each animal as they compete for their place in the harmonious eternal cycle. 

“Each of the twelve zodiac animals represents a new cycle of the year,” Yan explains his work. “There are five rabbits in The Great Race as I want to emphasise the Year of Rabbit. In comparison, the other animals are featured less – but I purposely added three Rats because that is my zodiac,” he adds cheekily.

The background of The Great Race is the same rich amber colour as the Hennessy eaux-de-vie. When choosing the colour scheme, Yan placed Hennessy’s cognac “under the sunny and cloudy light and observed the colour change”, eventually finding inspiration from its warm tones.

Entering the Year of the Rabbit, Hennessy’s focus is on inclusivity and diversity, celebrating different cultures and merging the lines between old and young, east and west — just like Yan himself and his art. The Great Race can be found on limited edition boxes and bottles for Hennessy X.O. and V.S.O.P, as well as a limited edition porcelain decanter for Hennessy Paradis.

Get your hands on the Yan Pei-Ming Lunar New Year Limited Edition X.O. Cognac and other products online.

Chinese artist Yan Pei-Ming on defining himself as a European painter and celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with Hennessy

Charmaine Ng


Charmaine enjoys eating steamed broccoli and knocking back cups of spearmint tea, all in the name of health. Covering art, beauty and music :)


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