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Zhang Xiaogang (張曉剛 / 张晓刚) (born 1958) is a contemporary Chinese symbolist and surrealist painter. He has made a Bloodline series of paintings, which are often monochromatic, stylized portraits of Chinese people, usually with large, dark-pupiled eyes, posed in a stiff manner deliberately reminiscent of family portraits from the 1950s and 60s.


Life and career

Zhang was born in the city of Kunming in China's Yunnan province in 1958. He came of age during the 1960s and 70s political upheavals known as the Cultural Revolution, which exerted a certain influence on his painting. In 1982, he graduated from the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in the city of Chongqing in Sichuan province, then joined a young group of young avant-garde painters who came to prominence during the 1980s. Like Wang Guangyi, Xu Beihong and Wu Guanzhong, Zhang Xiaogang belongs to the best-selling contemporary Chinese artists and is a favorite of foreign collectors.[1]

On 21 March 2007, his work Bloodline: Three Comrades sold for $2,112,000 at Sotheby's in New York.[2]

He is represented by Chinese Contemporary in London and Beijing, Gallery Artside in Seoul, Jaski Art Gallery in Amsterdam and PaceWildenstein in New York.


Western painters including Richter,[3] Picasso and Dali are influences. Zhang said: "I read in a book once a few words by British experimental artist Eduardo Paolozzi, which were very influential for me: 'a person can very easily have the right idea, but choose the wrong means to express it. Or he can have the right means, but lack a clear idea.'" Zhang also cites his discovery of photos of his mother as a young, attractive woman as a key inspiration for the Bloodline series.


Referring to the Bloodline paintings, Zhang noted that old photographs "are a particular visual language" and says: "I am seeking to create an effect of 'false photographs' — to re-embellish already 'embellished' histories and lives." He said: "On the surface the faces in these portraits appear as calm as still water, but underneath there is great emotional turbulence. Within this state of conflict the propagation of obscure and ambiguous destinies is carried on from generation to generation."

Regarding the influences of China's political upheavals on his paintings, Zhang said, "For me, the Cultural Revolution is a psychological state, not a historical fact. It has a very strict connection with my childhood, and I think there are many things linking the psychology of the Chinese people today with the psychology of the Chinese people back then."

Regarding the portrait-like format of the works, he noted, "Posing for a photograph, people already display a certain formality. It is already something artificial. What I do is increase this artificiality and this sense of formalism."

Asked about the full title of the Bloodline series. Bloodline: the Big Family, Zhang said:

We all live 'in a big family'. The first lesson we have to learn is how to protect ourselves and keep our experiences locked up in an inner chamber away from the prying eyes of others, while at the same time living in harmony as a member of this big family. In this sense, the "family" is a unit for the continuity of life and an idealized mechanism for procreation. It embodies power, hope, life, envy, lies, duty and love. The 'family' becomes the standard model and the focus for the contradictions of life experiences. We interact and depend on each other for support and assurance.

The Bloodline paintings often feature small patches of color, which are open to a variety of interpretations.



Solo Exhibitions

  • 1989: Lost in the Dreams Gallery of the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, Chongqing, China
  • 1997: Bloodline: The Big Family-1997 Gallery of the Central Academy of Fine Arts
  • 1998: Bloodline: The Big Family-1998 Hanart Taibei Gallery, Taiwan
  • 1999: Les Camarades Gallery De France, Paris
  • 2000: "Zhang xiaogang 2000" Gallery of Max Potetch, New York
  • 2004: Hong Kong Arts Center, Hong Kong
  • 2007: Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere, Finland

Group Exhibitions

  • 1989: China Avant-Garde National Art Gallery, Beijing
  • 1991: "I Don't Want to Play Cards with Cezanne" and Other Works: Selections from the Chinese "New Wave" and "Avant-Garde" Art of the Eighties Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, California
  • 1992: The Guangzhou Biennial: Oil Paintings from the 90s Guangzhou, China, Documents of China Contemporary Art Show Travelling exhibition in Beijing, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Shenyang, Shanghai, Nanjing
  • 1993: China's New Art Post-1989, Hong Kong Art Center, Hongkong; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia; Marlborough Fine Art, London, Mao Goes pop Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, China's Experience Exhibition, Sichuan Art Gallery, Chengdu, China
  • 1994: Chinese Contemporary Art at São Paulo 22nd International Biennial of São Paulo, Brazil
  • 1995: 46th Venice Biennial Venice, China New Arts Vancouver Art Museum, Vancouver, Canada, Contemporary Chinese Art Exhibition, In the Absence of Ideology, Kampnagel Halle-K3, Hamburg, Germany
  • 1996–97: China! Zeitgenossische Malerei Bonn Art Museum, Bonn, Germany; Kuenstlerhaus, Vienna, Austria; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Reckoning With the Past: Contemporary Chinese Paintings, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Great Britain, The 2nd Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art Queensland Art Museum, Australia, 4 Points de Rencotre, China, 1996 Galerie de France, Paris, Reality: Present and future International Art Palace, Beijing, The First Academic Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Art, China National Art Gallery, Beijing and Hong Kong Art Center, Hong Kong
  • 1998: Helsinki Art Museum, Helsinki, Finland.
  • 2000: Kwangju Biennale 2000, Kwangju, Korea, A Hundred Years of Chinese Oil Painting, China National Art Gallery, Beijing
  • 2001: group exhibition, Artist Centre, Oslo, Norway
  • 2002: "Babel 2002" exhibition, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea.
  • 2008: "Bloodline exhibition", Saatchi Gallery, London
  • 2009: "The China Project:, G.O.M.A (Gallery of Modern Art), Brisbane BRISBANE ROCKS(sponsored by Tristan Ellul)

Prizes and awards

  • Bronze Prize at the 22nd São Paulo Biennial Exhibition in Brazil in 1994.
  • Document Prize at the First Academic Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Art held at the China National Museum of Fine Arts and Hong Kong Art Centre in 1996.
  • Prize for Contemporary New Asian Artists granted by the British Court's International Art Fund in Hong Kong.


  1. ^ International Collectors Flock to Beijing Auctions, ARTINFO, June 8, 2006,, retrieved 2008-04-22  
  2. ^ "Sotheby's - Auctions - Calendar - Contemporary Art Asia". Sotheby's. 2007-03-21. Retrieved 2007-03-21.  
  3. ^
  • Lovelace, Carey. "Zhang Xiaogang at Max Protetch." Art in America 89, no. 3 (March 2001): 132.
  • [1]
  • Thomson, Jonathan. "Zhang Xiaogang, History’s Public Face." Asian Art News 14, no. 3 (May/June, 2004): 44–49.
  • Gao Minglu. Inside Out: New Chinese Art (San Francisco: SFMoMA, 1998)
  • Healy, Anthony. Gentle Reminders. World Art (Australia) no. 3 (1996): 16–19, 5 illus. (Feature Article on Zhang Xiaogang)

External links


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