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  • Provenance

    Schoeni Art Gallery, Ltd., Hong Kong

  • Exhibited

    Berlin, Galerie Vierte Etage, 8+8-1, Selected Paintings by 15 Contemporary Artist, 1997

  • Literature

    Schoeni Art Gallery, Ltd., ed., 8+8-1, Selected Paintings by 15 Contemporary Artists, Hong Kong, 1997

  • Catalogue Essay

    “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 idealised 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.”
    - Zhang Xiaogang, quoted in Reckoning with the Past: Contemporary Chinese Painting, Chang Tsong-Zung (curator), Graeme Murray et al., Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, 1996, p.95.

    Zhang Xiaogang’s Bloodline Series: A Big Family is widely interpreted as illustrative of the pressures of collectivism in contemporary China. The series is formally based upon traditional photographic portraits of the family that became the frequent target of destruction during the Cultural Revolution. During this era, almost thirty million people were displaced all over China and often irrevocably separated from their families. Subsequently, the very idea of a studio family portrait existed only as a pipe dream for these shattered families.

    Zhang, who was born in Kunming and received international acclaim as one of the Sichuan school of avant-garde artists in the 1980s, was inspired to begin the Bloodline works after discovering an old photograph of his mother in her youth. In this series he recreates the family portrait as part tribute to, part indictment of contemporary Chinese society. The subjects are typically airbrushed to perfection that is a shade too bland, the gaze of their luminous eyes an iota too steady. The only unique marks in the portraits that hint at the individuals’ inner psyches and private histories are random patches of color and subtle physical characteristics such as a pair of glasses or a crossed eye. Running through all these portraits is the slight yet powerful “Bloodline,” symbolizing the burden of history that alternately shapes and stifles meaning in these cipher-like faces.

    The present lot is an exceptional example of Zhang’s single-person portraits from the late 1990s. The man’s inscrutable gaze and crisp traditional attire is offset by the mole above his mouth, a characteristic that is usually read to indicate a sensual appetite. The cotton-candy pink of the color patch on the man’s face is relatively limited and appears more widely in Zhang’s earlier work; Zhang’s overall palette more frequently employs bleached salmons and saffrons, as well as the occasional vibrant scarlet and yellow.

  • Artist Biography

    Zhang Xiaogang

    Chinese • 1958

    Relying on memory and inspired by family portraits from the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Zhang Xiaogang creates surreal, subtle artworks that explore the notion of identity in relation to the Chinese culture of collectivism. Using a muted, greyscale palette, Xiaogang repeatedly depicts a series of unnervingly similar figures, often dressed in identical Mao suits, to create an endless genealogy of imagined forebears and progenitors. Their somber, melancholy gazes are interrupted only by thin red bloodlines intimating familial links as well as occasional pale splotches of color resembling birthmarks.

    Xiaogang investigates how to express individual histories within the strict confines of a formula. His sitters, while appearing muted and compliant, are given physical exaggerations: oversized heads, tiny hands and long noses. These distortions imply stifled emotions and give a complex psychological dimension to the artist's work.

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Bloodline Series: No. 10

Oil on canvas.
15 3/4 x 11 7/8 in. (40 x 30.2 cm).
Signed and dated "Zhang Xiaogang [in Chinese], 1997" on the reverse.

$120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for $180,000

Contemporary Art Part I

16 Nov 2006, 7pm
New York