Gallery 3

China born 1962

The dream of China:
Dragon robe 1997
polyvinyl chloride, fishing line

The Farber Collection, New York,
courtesy of China Avant-Garde Inc.

During the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, sumptuary laws strictly regulated court apparel. Exclusive to the emperor were robes decorated with nine dragons, and dragon robes have since come to symbolise political authority. Instead of silk, Wang Jin uses PVC plastic, an imperishable material, to suggest the perpetuation of old institutions in new guises. The embroidery is worked in fishing line.


ZHANG Xiaogang
China born 1958

Bloodline: Family portrait no. 2
1994 oil on canvas

Courtesy of Hanart T Z Gallery

The 'bloodline' of traditional Chinese families was an extended one, spanning a multitude of generations and relatives. The limit of one child per family, imposed in response to overpopulation, has reduced the extended family to a 'nuclear' one. Parental attention once spread amongst several children is now focused on the upbringing of just one, resulting in spoiled 'little emperors'. In this case the son seems literally to have drained the blood from his parents. However, Zhang's painting is not merely a critique of the one child policy, but an observation of the deep alienation and loss of individuality that has pervaded Chinese society since the time of Mao. Indeed, the now long out of fashion 'Mao suit' worn by the parents and the Mao badges worn by the father and son suggest that Zhang is commenting on the fundamental changes to Chinese society that have occurred as a result of the Cultural Revolution.

China born 1965

To raise the water level in a fishpond 1997
performance at Nanmofang fishpond, Beijing

Courtesy of Max Protetch Gallery, New York

Performed by Zhang Huan and local workers and fishermen, and photographed by Robyn Beck, this work reflects the growing concern with the effects of urbanisation and overpopulation in urban China.

'I invited approximately 40 workers from the outer provinces who had come to Beijing to work. Ranging
in age from 4 to 60, they included construction workers, fishermen, and movers.

Within the traditional Chinese view, fish symbolise sex, and water is the source of life, the source of all things, and the backdrop against which Chinese people in historical times pursued their goals. Their work in fact represents a kind of understanding toward the interpretation of water, that it is useless activity to try to raise the water level of a fishpond.'


WANG Guangyi
China born 1956

Mao Zedong no. 1 1988
oil on canvas

Private collection

This painting, which mocks the ubiquitous portrait of Chairman Mao, caused a sensation at Beijing's first exhibition of avant-garde art in 1989. The artist explained to the official censor that the grid, which imposes a precise, mathematical structure on the image, stands for rationalism. Wang Guangyi's working slogan in this phase of his career was 'purge humanist enthusiasm'. Political Pop artists such as Wang are ambivalent about the Mao portrait. Its omnipresence during the Cultural Revolution made it a symbol of an oppressive political system. However as the foremost icon of an entire Chinese generation, it obtained the power and popularity to which only the greatest art can aspire.


GENG Jianyi
China born 1962

The second situation
nos. 1-4 1987
oil on canvas

Collection of Uli and Rita Sigg, Switzerland

This work is painted in the 'grey humour' style adopted
by the members of Guangzhou's Pool Society in the mid-1980s. The artist creates a freeze-frame sequence of images of a friend's grimacing face. The distorted features fill the canvas and are presented without context, suggesting the self-imposed isolation of the artist. The main concern of the grey humour artists is the breakdown of conventional relationships of family and society. This is expressed in warped imagery, colourless palettes and in the clinical dissection of the every day.


Wenda GU
China born 1955
United States since 1987

United Nations series:
Temple of heaven 1998
screens of human hair, wooden chairs
and tables, video

Collection of the artist

When Wenda Gu began his United Nations series in 1993, he expected it to be completed early in the 21st century. By that time it was to include monuments to twenty-five different countries. Temple of heaven is the twelfth in the series. The human hair used to construct the screens in this installation was collected from over 325 barber shops around the world, including Poland, Italy, Netherlands, United States of America, Israel, Russia, Sweden, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Africa, Canada, Japan, Korea, France, and China.