Portrait of a young woman, 1996
Oil on canvas, signed and dated 1996 lower right
40 x 30 cm
Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong-Kong (bears the stamp of this one on the frame)
Private collection, Europe
ZHANG XIAOGANG (1958)
Born in 1958 in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China, Zhang Xiaogang graduated from the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in 1982. Influenced by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Millet, he is recognized as one of the great figures of Chinese contemporary painting with committed paintings that question identity, otherness and memory.
In 1989, he had his first solo exhibition in China, at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts.
Zhang Xiaogang later made a name for himself on the international scene at the 1995 Venice Biennale, where he exhibited the first portraits of his now famous Bloodline Big Family series. These works show stylized characters connected by a red thread, whose poses are reminiscent of the Chinese tradition of family portraits of the Cultural Revolution, and the compositions of European surrealism. The artist often resorts to areas of bright colour, almost schizophrenically contrasting with the greyish monochrome hues of his paintings, as if to signify the deep generational and ideological fractures within Chinese society. These were soon considered the manifesto of a whole generation of Chinese artists and hailed as "portraits of the modern Chinese soul".
In 1999, he had his first solo exhibition abroad, in Paris, at the Galerie de France Les Camarades. Zhang subsequently organized solo exhibitions all over the world.
In 2008, he became the most sought-after Chinese contemporary artist of the moment thanks to a triptych from the Ullens collection sold for more than 10m$: Forever lasting Love (1988).
THE BLOODLINE SERIES
In 1993, Zhang Xiaogang began the Bloodline series, which includes some of the most emblematic images of Chinese contemporary art. It was marked by the discovery of family photographs - considered lost because many albums were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. It is these images that inspired his paintings.
Through these portraits, he wanted to make the public feel the modern Chinese soul by focusing on a personal narrative and collective memory.
From 1996 onwards, the works in this series reached a mastery of rendering which, after the early 2000s, will no longer have this emotional intensity.