World-renowned Chinese artist Zhang Xiaogang is recognised for his characteristically formal and stoic family portraits. Growing up during the Cultural Revolution, Zhang’s childhood memories are both dark and unexpectedly sentimental. During the 70s, Zhang was sent to the rural countryside to be ‘re-educated’ alongside thousands of other teenagers.
While the hard labour and separation from his family was taxing, Zhang’s cherished memories of the friends he made in the beautiful fields of China too influenced his artistic sense. The idea of collectivism, shared memories, interaction yet isolation is a powerful constant in Zhang’s work today, which reflects not only his own experience but also the experience of China as a whole. Playing on the metaphor of a big family, Zhang underlines the collective identity shared by the many generations of people in China and their sense of duty, envy, love and hope towards their ‘siblings’. However, in this world of unity and familial similarity, one cannot escape the pervasive sense of suffering, alienation, fantasy and sadness.
Born in Kunming in 1958, Zhang graduated from the Sichuan Fine Arts Insitute in 1982 and returned 25 years later as a professor. Zhang’s work is part of many international public and private collections, including the Guggenheim Museum of Art, U.S.A.; SFMOMA, USA; Shanghai Art Museum, China; Shenzhen Art Museum, China; Fukuoka Museum of Art, Japan; Okinawa Museum of Art, Japan; National Gallery of Australia, Australia; Saint-denis Art Museum, Paris, France; Coutt's Art Foundation, England; and National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea. Zhang’s work has been featured in notable exhibitions worldwide, including the National Art Museum of China in Beijing, China; Beijing International Art Museum in Beijing, China; Shanghai Art Museum in Shanghai, China; Taipei Fine Arts Museum in Taipei, Taiwan; The Art Centre of Tokyo in Japan; Museum of Contemporary Art in Marseilles, France; Kunstlerhaus in Vienna, Austria; SFMOMA, USA; Prague Art Museum in Prague, Czech Republic; Kunstmuseum in Bern, Switzerland; Barcelona Contemporary Art Museum in Barcelona, Spain; Groningen Museum in Groningen, The Netherlands; National Art Museum of Cuba in Havana, Cuba; Sichuan Art Museum in Chengdu, China; and Kunstmuseum in Bonn, Germany. The artist currently lives and works in Beijing, China.