Zhang Xiaogang may be the most prominent contemporary Chinese artist. His works are exhibited and sold all over the world. Zhang, nowadays living in Beijing, was born in Kunming in 1958; he finished his education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sichuan in 1982. He is known as a symbolic surrealist and he is a member of the Avant-Garde movement. Art historians often point out that he is influenced by Picasso and Dali in particular.
Until 1992 Zhang Xiaogang’s art did not attract wide attention. In the eighties his work already showed repression and sadness with expressionist features. This is connected with his character and his living conditions. In 1993 he started to make ‘family portraits’. In these paintings he developed his concept of history and memories and his knowledge of repetition.
Zhang has a reserved and detached character. He hoped to live in a free atmosphere. When he opened a small pub, bought with the money he had made with his paintings, this immediately became a favourite hangout for young artists, musicians and authors included, in Chengdu.
Such a lifestyle originates from the West but Chinese intellectuals also had a tradition of drinking and discussing literature. Thus the small pub became the centre of the arts. Many young artists rented or bought a room near the pub in the district ‘Shaziyan’. They hoped to find a place of freedom in the constantly developing capitalist society.
Contrary the worldwide success of his ‘family paintings’ Zhang Xiaogang leads a quiet and simple life. Zhang became a well-known artist because of his special aura and style. According to Chinese critics Zhang Xiaogang is the symbol of an era that will never return.