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Mengfan Bai

Keep the Change 1900 II, 2022

Oil paint on canvas,  5 in diameter


Mengfan Bai's new body of work is inspired by the reflecting pool alongside the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC) - an artificial miniature of the Egyptian Nile River. Bai’s attention was drawn by an excessive amount of coins at the bottom of the pool tossed there by visitors from all over the world. These coins are not limited to American pennies and quarters but also coins from many different countries. Each coin in the pool has its own unique trajectory and these gather and intersect with this ancient remain exhibited in a museum.


In the context of the museum, the coins are no longer used for exchange or making payments, but they still circulate bizarrely: 


 I heard “keep the change” frequently. Maybe coins value too little, so people toss them without hesitation. But when it comes to making wishes, a coin immediately becomes a must. It is not only a unit of value, but it is also a symbolic treat for a hidden wish-realizing agent, a token given to the future.     - Mengfan Bai


In Keep the Change we see paintings depicting a juxtaposition between the contemporary objects like money and the construction and their historical references. As well as the painterly expressed dim highlights and obscure shadows, contrasting with the colorful mixture of metallic, glistening coins as in Asymmetrical fountain pools, 2022 painting. This contrast reinforces the juxtaposition of the old and the new.  


Mengfan Bai (b.1994, China) received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York, and her BFA in oil painting from the Sichuan Conservatory of Music, Chengdu, China. Her works have been shown widely in the world, including SPACE776 (New York & Seoul), Boers-Li Gallery (New York), carriage trade (New York), Volta Art Fair(Switzerland), OCAT Institute(Beijing), Chengdu Art Academy(Chengdu, China), etc. Mengfan lives and works in New York City. Her ultimate passion in art-making is to construct the pictorial world with a new aesthetic order, surpassing the constraint of time and space. 


Keep the Change 1900 II