Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s Fallen Angel Sculpture Goes Viral

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Angel (2008).

The Internet is freaking out over a a fiberglass angel sculpture by artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu—complete with flesh-covered wings, white hair, and frighteningly realistic skin that features details like wrinkles, sunspots, and peach fuzz.

Angelwhich was originally created in 2008, was previously on view at Saatchi Gallery in London. Last week it was installed in Beijing, and has since sparked a series of Internet rumors.

A headline for the website Entertainment Express reads: “SHOCKING! A Fallen Angel With No Feathers Discovered,” while ZonNews published “BREAKING NEWS: Real Life Fallen Angel Has Fallen From The Sky In London.” Other websites have claimed the sculpture was “found” in Texas.

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Angel (2008).

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Angel (2008).

Yesterday, a Snopes page dedicated to the topic emerged, establishing once and for all (we hope), that the sculpture is just that—a man-made installation. And while we like to think most people didn’t need to fact-check the creature isn’t real, the Internet abounds with stories such as invisible art, or the $90,000 4Chan conspiracy.

Some viewers have also expressed discomfort and even disgust at how simultaneously life-like and surreal the sculpture looks, dubbing the angel “too realistic.”  (Sorry, Ron Mueck.)

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Angel (2008).

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Angel (2008).

But given that Yuan and Yu have made headlines in the past for using highly controversial materials like human fat tissue, live animals, and baby cadavers to create their artwork, we think Angel is actually pretty tame, especially when one considers Maurizio Cattelan’s La Nona Ora [The Ninth Hour] (1999), a lifelike sculpture of Pope John Paul II, felled by a meteor, which sold for $886,000 at Christie’s New York in 2001.

The Chinese duo are also known for their 2007 installation Old Persons Home, which involved 13 life-size sculptures placed in dynamoelectric wheel chairs, used like “slow-motion bumper cars,” as Karen Smith writes in the essay on the envelope-pushing artists, titled “Now We Are All Here…”

In 2013, the duo showed I Am Here (2006) at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, consisting of a figure peeping through a hole in the wall.

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Photo: Courtesy Hammer Museum.

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, I Am Here (2006).
Photo: Courtesy Hammer Museum.

Their work has been previously shown at Saatchi Gallery, as well as at Zentrum Paul Klee in Switzerland, the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands, the Poznana National Museum in Poland, and the Kunstverein Nuertingen in Germany.


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