Zhang Xiaogang - New Now Hong Kong Friday, March 29, 2024 | Phillips

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  • “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."
     — Zhang Xiaogang

    With his renowned Bloodline series standing as a subtle articulation of lineage and introspection, Zhang Xiaogang is recognised as a chronicler of Chinese identity in many ways. The current work is a seminal piece from the Bloodline series, encapsulating the intensity of Chinese familial ties through a lens of profound symbolism and masterful execution.


    Bloodline Series No. 28 is a canvas where the chiaroscuro of memory and heritage converge. Zhang’s proficient use of a muted colour palette set against a monochromatic backdrop, brings forth a composition reminiscent of the photographic aesthetics of the past era. The child figure’s face, illuminated with a subtle glow and sense of serenity, is able to transcend time and belies a deeper narrative.


    The distinct red ‘bloodlines’ — a signature feature in Zhang’s portraiture — emerge as a key visual element, trailing from the child’s face and hinting at the unseen bonds and the destined paths. This chromatic symbolism echoes the Chinese axiom, ‘血濃於水’ (‘blood is thicker than water’) and serves as a visceral reminder of the power of kinship and familial ties. Notably, the recurring motif of bloodlines in Zhang Xiaogang’s paintings recall the Surrealist works of Frida Kahlo, serving as tangible links between the characters to their past.



    Frida Kahlo, The Two Fridas, 1939, Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, Mexico. Artwork: © 2024 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


    Zhang’s artistic journey is marked by a continuous exploration with his own cultural heritage. His youth, overshadowed by the Cultural Revolution’s turbulence, set the stage for his later explorations into the collective and personal realms of Chinese society. The artistic progression of the ’85 New Wave’ movement propelled Zhang and his contemporaries to reconstruct their artistic heritage, leading to the genesis of a modern Chinese narrative in art.


    Influenced by his European visits and the encounter with Gerhard Richter's oeuvre with photographs, Zhang's gaze turned inwards—towards the rich but often overlooked history encapsulated in family photographs. These images, repositories of tradition, family tie and aesthetics, became the catalyst for his Bloodline series. Through his art, Zhang sought to re-envision these relics of the past, transforming them into a dialogue of remembrance and re-embellishment, a process of reconstructing and refining cultural memory.


    The depicted child is both a joyful and poignant figure, all emotions lying underneath an expression as calm as water. It serves as a beacon of generational aspirations, embodying the silent hopes and quiet struggles of its forebears. At the same time, it represents the advent of new beginnings, the potential of untold stories yet to unfold.


    In essence, Zhang Xiaogang's Bloodline Series No. 28 is a resonant meditation on the intricate relationship between the self and the collective saga. With each brush stroke, Zhang constructs a visual story that is as much a reflection on the past as it is a contemplation of the future. It is much of a work that invites us to ponder the depths of our own lineage, the silent stories etched in our visages, and the indelible connections that define our shared heritage.


    1993 marked the beginning of Zhang Xiaogang’s Bloodline series, which earned the artist critical acclaim within the international collecting community. In June 1994, four paintings of the series were exhibited at the São Paulo Biennale, winning him a bronze medal. The following year, 13 large Big Family paintings were exhibited at the Venice Biennale, marking the beginning of Zhang’s distinguished and prolific career. His works are cemented in permanent collections of global institutions, including HOW Art Museum, Shanghai; Long Museum, Shanghai; M+ Sigg Collection, Hong Kong; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum, Japan; and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, amongst others.

    • Provenance

      Schoeni Gallery, Hong Kong
      New York, Sotheby's, 20 September 2006, lot 155
      Hong Kong, Christie's, 27 May 2018, lot 179
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Hong Kong, Schoeni Art Gallery, 8+8-1 Selected Paintings by 15 Contemporary Artists, 19 June-12 July 1997

Property of an Important Asian Collection


Bloodline Series No. 28

signed and dated 'Zhang Xiaogang [in Chinese] 1997' on the reverse; further numbered '28' on the overlap
oil on canvas
40.5 x 30 cm. (15 7/8 x 11 3/4 in.)
Painted in 1997.

Full Cataloguing

HK$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for HK$1,016,000

Contact Specialist

Angela Tian
Associate Specialist, Head of New Now Sale
20th Century & Contemporary Art, Hong Kong
+852 2318 2058

New Now

Hong Kong Auction 29 March 2024