Cynical realism describes the work of a group of Beijing artists who painted the psychological fallout felt by the population in response to China’s rapid growth and ambiguous political ideology

The term was coined by the art critic Li Xianting in 1992. 

Cynical realism was humorous and satirical in tone, and adopted the style of social realist painting (the only officially sanctioned artistic style at the time), but the content is far from idealistic. 

Paintings by Yue Minjun depict bright pink heads grinning manically against crystal blue skies, their heightened colour palette suggestive of the disquiet the artist feels in the wake of the student riots of 1989.

Other artists associated with cynical realism include: Fang Lijun, Liu Wei, Zhang Xiaogang and Wang Jinsong.