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INDEX ARTIST: Zhang Xiaogang 张晓刚












ARTIST: ZHANG XIAOGANG 张晓刚 Zhang was born in 1958 in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, in Southwestern China. Zhang’s parents were government officials and he was the third of four sons. Zhang was eight in 1966 when the Cultural Revolution began. After returning home from the countryside, Zhang enrolled at the newly-reopened Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts. After graduation, Zhang returned home, unable to secure a teaching post. He did some casual work in construction while he waited for a job assignment from the government, instead securing a job in Yunnan as art designer for a dance troupe. During this time, Zhang read philosophy, particularly the works of the French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. He also admits to being quite depressed. According to art critic Karen Smith’s book Nine Lives: The Birth of Avant-garde Art in New China, Zhang was troubled by relationship problems and, in 1984, was hospitalized for heavy drinking. His ward was next to the hospital's mortuary and this two-month hospital stay had a profound impact on Zhang's art. For much of the following decade, many of his works were exploration of themes of life and death. In 1984, he began to draw sketches for The Ghost Between Black and White series, depicting woodpiles for cremation, bones, death personified, and those condemned to hell. Subsequent works were equally dark--full of ghosts, sharp knives, amputated limbs, corpses and figures in deep thought or unconsciousness. Images of Buddha and Jesus sometimes appeared as well. *Zhang Xiaogang, "Kunming," Oil on paper mounted on board, 1987 During China’s 8th Five-Year Plan (1991-1995), Zhang and a few artists formed an art group called “Neo Figurative–Southwest Art Research Group," otherwise known as The Sichuan School. The Sichuan School is characterized by its adherents’ interest in an intuitive and moody blend of mysticism, surrealism, folk art and psychology. Zhang described the art of Sichuan province as “very different from the art [of] the politically charged atmosphere of the capital, Beijing [and]…far more surrealist and subtly psychological than its northern counterpart.” He in fact cites the early twentieth-century, Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte as a major influence on his work less for any visual resemblances than for the painter's poetic approach to reality: “[Magritte] taught me how to experience our heavy history from a certain distance," he observed. "And how to experience the capricious reality we have to face. I have learned, at the same time, how, using an 'internalized' language to describe our life, to show concern about the hearts that are often neglected and build an 'illusory kingdom' for our souls to rest in from time to time.” In 1989, he participated in the Chinese Avant-garde Art Exhibition at the National Art Museum of China. Many Chinese contemporary artists lost hope in the late 1980s and Zhang was one of them. His paintings, showing amputated arms and legs and corpses, revealed his anxiety. He said, “I see no hope. I want to find someone who feels the same

way as me. I think the society does not understand me or the people like me. I cannot find a place in the society and am miserable and depressed.” The Bloodline Series Zhang stopped painting in 1992 and traveled to Germany for three months, where he visited numerous art museums in Europe and familiarized himself with the work of some contemporary artists such as Gerhard Richter. He grew disenchanted with his emulation of Western painting styles, however, realizing the impossibility of achieving real satisfaction vis-à-vis painters of earlier eras because of his cultural disconnect from the now-deceased Western masters. When he returned to China in the second half of 1992, Zhang began to pursue a new style. At that same moment, an opportunity for him arose when Johnson Chang, the influential curator of Hong Kong Hanart TZ Gallery, travelled to Chongqing and bought 20 paintings from Zhang, who at that time was earning only USD 24 each month teaching at Sichuan Fine Arts Academy. Immediately after the sale, Chang began to represent Zhang. In the mid-1990s, Zhang discovered a box of family photographs in his mother’s house that would become the basis of his Bloodline series. The photos that served as Zhang’s inspiration were formal studio portraits: three-quarter-length shots of family members wearing severe, uniform-like, gender-homogenizing Zhongshan suits. Devoid of psychological affect, the subjects seemed more public than private to Zhang. They seemed to resemble every other Chinese family photo of the third quarter of the twentieth century and to symbolize the collectivization of private life.

Zhang Xiaogang, Bloodline: Big Family series Zhang began to paint his own interpretations of the photos in a palette derived from the stark grayscale of black-and-white photography. Zhang’s monumentally-scaled versions of the mundane photo-images of snapshots link him with the concerns of the concurrent Chinese Political Pop Art movement. The Bloodline series also tips its hat to Chinese folk painting. By realistically delineating the eyelids, sharp chins, and skin tones of Chinese physiognomy, Zhang creates a race of citizens who are visually and genetically linked to their ancestors. He contrasts the traditional, Confucian notion of a family bloodline and the

Communist-constructed bloodline linking every Chinese citizen during the Cultural Revolution. New Work Zhang’s newest series, Lost Memories and Memories, shares with Bloodline his concern for history and memory. In this case, he focuses on collective, rather than individual, amnesia. The works in this series proclaim the necessity of losing or abandoning memories in order to cope with the rapidly changing present. Zhang works in a former-warehouse studio on the outskirts of Beijing. Discussing his working habits with Barboza, Zhang explained that "much of the time…I simply lock myself up in my studio...about 2 o'clock, trying to concentrate. When I start painting I can't stop... [I like working] deep into the night, smoking Chinese Honghe cigarettes, drinking herbal tea and listening to the music of Buddha Café or Air's 'Talkie Walkie.'" As is the case with many top-echelon contemporary artists, the pressure to produce far exceeds the number of paintings he can produce: “I’m a slow painter. It takes about a month for me to finish one piece. To save time, I often work on a few pieces at the same time. Some of the works have taken me over two years.” As a Sotheby’s catalogue note for its Estella Collection sale observed: “In terms of sheer iconic value, no single other series of contemporary Chinese paintings possesses the power of Zhang Xiaogang's signature Bloodline: The Big Family.…Drawing on compositional conventions taken from early twentiethcentury photographic portraiture, and pictorially imbued with the visual language of a fading socialist tradition, these hallmark images have become nothing less than visual shorthand for the entire category known as ‘Chinese contemporary art’." This look makes Zhang’s work instantly identifiable. Some commentators dismiss such signature styles as the art-equivalent of advertising “brands,” while others regard Zhang's output as the moving materialization and visualization of the late twentieth-century, Chinese psyche. Another example of his technique is the work below from The Sanya Collection using traditional Chinese materials like brush, ink and xuan paper.

Auctions The first auction sale of a work by Zhang took place in 1994 at China Guardian at 25,300 RMB (4.000$)). Since then, more than 200 of his paintings have sold at auction. March 2006 marked the beginning of an exponential rise in prices for his canvases. In 2006, Big Family (1995) sold for $760,000 at Sotheby’s in New York, marking the first time a contemporary Chinese artwork had sold for over 1 million RMB. By 2008, a Sotheby’s sale in Hong Kong in April of that year, Zhang’s work set yet another record when his Bloodline: The Big Family No. 3 went for HK $47,367,500 (US $6,061,619), the highest price ever paid for a painting by a living Asian artist. That, before, in April 2011 at Sotheby’s his earlier work Forever lasting love reached 9.000.000$.

Price analysis from our database

Prices of Zhang Xiaogang depends a lot on the year of creation, therefore works before or around 2000 are much more valued than recent works. In any case, the tendency remains growing and prices recovered well since the bottom of 2009, doubling his price since then. According to our index do not expect to pay less than 700.000 - 1.500.000$ for a bloodline series of normal size, depending on the year of creation. (Excluded buyer’s premium). As appointed above, the 9.000.000$ paid remain a record for a contemporary Chinese artist.

Most of the text has been copied from: %99%93%E5%88%9A




2011 ends with the last auction in Hong Kong in November by Christies and Sotheby 's, as well as those of Beijing, for the Chinese auction houses. While the market has been dominated by modern and traditional Chinese art, paying $42M for a ink work, contemporary artists have returned to pre-crisis prices seen before 2008. They confirm themselves with mixed results, but with a big appetite for historical works of these artists. Towards the end of November the crisis of sovereign debt has increased and this was reflected in a decrease in the propensity of collectors to buy. Even with this the prices are at a high level and they continue their revaluation over time. In fact, for 100eu invested in 2006, after five years it represents a value of 1.600eu. While still the same 100eu invested in the stock exchanges in Europe or the United States would be worth 80eu in Europe and 120 in the U.S.


Gilberto Zorio

The term "Arte Povera" indicates an artistic movement that developed itself between Rome and Turin, which recognizes its roots in the second half of the 60's. Germano Celant, the theorist who has closely followed the group's artistic expressions giving birth to the term "poor art" explains his philosophy with a few words; he says that the "Arte Povera" is manifested primarily "to reduce to the minimum terms, impoverishing signs, to reduce them to their archetypes". This is why artists prefer the so-called poor materials such as earth, wood, iron, rags, plastics, industrial waste, water or light. In the context of the artistic research of those years focused on new conceptual trend, the current of "Arte Povera" is inserted seamlessly but with different proposals. Using traditional materials, natural and often organic manifests an intention to take possession of the primary values eliminating the superfluous and facilitating conceptually different interpretations of the traditional way to analyze a work of art. The user can understand and appreciate art poor only if they understand the underlying idea, the emphasis of the main elements and, above all, the desire to establish a continuous dialogue between subject, viewer and the environment. Not surprisingly, the most representative artists of this movement prefer to produce facilities, sometimes very impressive, and not just the surface of a canvas or a wood board. The installation and performance in the same way are inserted naturally in the environment and maintain a spontaneous conversation with everything around them. The intention is to step back into the primordial experiences, minimizing the pictorial aspects, discarding the colorist and technical approach to achieve a backwards natural vitalism which does not want to impose in any way. The climate is generally obtained is cold, neutral and aseptic. Within this current it is possible to Michelangelo Pistoletto

highlight two fundamental guidelines which concern the artists playing with different languages in the "Arte Povera" context. A group of artists directed their research to the primary flow of life, focusing on the goal of capturing the space, matter and real life example is the work of Michelangelo Pistoletto. The other group prefers to see the work as a reduction, elimination of redundancy for the essence of matter having a point of contact at some point with the principles of Minimal Art of the United States, and in the case of Mario Merz. The historical and political scenario at that time was full of contradictions and tensions: it was the era of student and worker revolts that were claiming social equality. The "Arte Povera" falls outside of all this wanting to capture the entire flow of primordial life, the truest, the only certainty which is not refutable. The works are often not considered as finished works, but as processes they are true in the transformation of the materials involved in the same work, which contaminate one another and change their lives with their changing environment. The idea that emerges is that of an actual living organism that changes over time. The charm of this art is revealed in their cryptic meanings in material involving the presence of which is familiar to us all at the same time they are assembled in a mysterious but simple. They are authentic works by materials and reserved in his conversation with the viewer. It is an art that makes poverty a wealth accessible to all. Were making part of Germano Celant group called "Arte Povera" Giovanni Anselmo, Alighiero Boetti, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Luciano Fabro, Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, Marisa Merz, Giulio Paolmi, Pino Pascali, Giuseppe Penone, Michelangelo Pistoletto Emilio Puni and Gilberto Zorio. One of the most popular, however, in most contemporary art fairs in Italy is Mario Merz native of Turin: contaminated by the poetics of the informal art after his first attempts he starts his artistic experimentation with the use of neon lights. The light and its radiation have a special fascination on the artist who elaborates its concept and the light form. Merz doesn’t limit his art to the use of "minimal" linear fluorescent tubes, he always prefers to emphasize the spiral form for its vitality and force which is simple but lively and active at the same time. It also works on the assessment of pure aesthetic forms, composing works with the figures of the Fibonacci series that are composed by the sum of the two previous figures. During the twenty years of his career the artist shows his absolute fidelity to a few selected topics: in addition to the Fibonacci series, Merz became known for his igloo building. These structures are very simple, primitive, but with proven strength and a soft and basic shapes. Merz builds his igloos with different materials such as plaster, wax, clay, glass and iron structures and presents them as if they were boxes containing the treasures of the past culture and a future full of vitality. Another important significant personality for the group is that of Michelangelo Pistoletto. In 1978 he wrote a text entitled "The division and multiplication of the mirror" in which he declared: "If art is the mirror of life I am the mirrors maker." This is without doubt the statement that best represents their concept of art as part of real life, able to expose, to express some aspects of nature and little seen of life itself. His works are polished Mario Merz

stainless steel plates to get the mirror on which the artist applies images: the viewer recognizes him and his environment. Pistoletto involves physically the viewers in his works who are watching how a direct communication between the art work and life is established, a concept in line with the more general vital principle of "Arte Povera". Speaking of his mirrors Pistoletto says, "The result cannot be a hypothesis. The result is true�. From Turin comes another name, Gilberto Zorio, who makes the energy the protagonist of his work. Choose simple shapes such as canoes or stars, something that became his landmark, recognizing it as a projection of a definite image of the cosmos: a basic form that incorporates many mysteries. Zorio often creates installations, also of considerable size, to underscore the importance of the link with the environment by strengthening its energy through the dimensions. The search of Zorio also includes fluorescence with a chemical reaction up to very sophisticated levels creating a contrast between the beauty of the archetype and technological development. Giuseppe Penone, however, plays an anthropomorphic patient work of documentation, from his own skin and fingerprints to carefully measure the nodes of the tree trunks or other plant phenomena, forcing the viewer to think deeply about the aesthetic forms familiar but little observedIn addition to the artists discussed above, to the "Arte Povera" belong other important personalities such as Pier Paolo Calzolari, Giovanni Anselmo, Luciano Fabro, Giulio Paolini and Giu lio Paolini

Alighiero Boetti.

Calzolari, choose to make use of ephemeral materials subject to rapid change in time, like ice, black smoke from the candles, fire, sand, leaf snuff, wax, salt, lead, grease, or water pans. He builds poor facilities on the border between the work, installation and performance. His art is full of references to poetry, silences and sounds into complex structures in line with the philosophy of "Arte Povera" which interacts with the environment becoming part of it. Giovanni Anselmo, having left the painting in 1964, combines organic materials with non-organic, preferring those from the agricultural world: so that the wood and animal skin is composed in a single work such as granite and salad. He is an artist who works hard on the concept of opposites by choosing to marry entirely different materials and concepts without any forced union in a way that it appears that those unions have occurred naturally, well-proportioned and up to a shapely fusion. Anselmo also has used photography to establish repeatable creative actions and projections to emphasize real or conceptual details. Luciano Fabro active in the group since 1967 began in the group of Celant to propose works composed of glass, mirrors and metal. Then he turns his reflection to the intention to communicate, through poor materials, even more complex concepts and so he develops a series of works in this approach. With the series Italy (since 1968) described the peninsula through different materials (bronze, glass, leather, gold, etc...) With ironic allusion to the political and economic situation in the country with Hangers series (1976-82 ), which exploits the expressive possibilities of the fabric panels hanging from the walls, while the series Ephemeral (1985-89) consists of compositions of geometric elements in motion all done in marble and metal. The

relationship between space, the viewer and a work of art is always at the center of artistic research. Alighiero Boetti is best known for its embroidery. The surface is divided into sections on those the artist plays with letters, exchanging and combining colors. The choice of material, fabric, craft tastes and bright colors highlight the brightness of the game thread and lay down the lyrics. About Giulio Paolini the speech is more complex. Is an artist who expresses certain lines in common with the poetry of "Arte Povera" but the meaning of the works push towards the opposite concept. He avoids the use of traditional artistic media, in line with other "poveristas" but, especially since the 80's, enriches its expression including literary and mythological references: the iconographic repertoire extends to portray cosmic images. Paolini reflects on the role of art, the artist's function and how to perceive the viewer. The representation becomes a research field in itself, capable of sending messages such as Real Art. Overall, then, the artists of this Giu sep p e Penone movement have been able to use basic materials, poor but to get to concepts and ideas much richer.


Biographical notes about Juan say: His work is based on working with very complex concepts from very simple and primitive tools such as the drawing, the act of running and his own voice. Juan Zamora is an artist trained at the University Complutense of Madrid, the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo de Santander, the AKI in the Netherlands and in the European University of Madrid (where he currently works as a professor of art, design and architecture) and in ISCP center of New York.

The World of Zamora is inhabited by little monsters with a naïf aspect drown with simple strokes and spots of colors. Most of them are quietly display on the paper. They are the main character of scene which is in deep contract with their apparent innocence: they fight, they touch each other genitals, and they menstruate…Here and there other characters move in small screens y projections. Zamora doesn’t use technology with a surprising aim. He wants his creatures to keep their “drawing” dimension: is that way he projects them over notebooks, looking for the illusion that a casual note come to life unexpected. Zamora provokes us to imagine why his creatures are so bizarre and to walk through his world with the head in the clouds.

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artantide magazine no1 march 2012  
artantide magazine no1 march 2012  

magazine about contemporary art, espanish, international and especialized in Chinese contemporary art.