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Bloodline: Big Family No. 1
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About the item

As a breathtaking primogenitor within Zhang Xiaogang’s most iconic series of paintings, Bloodline: Big Family No. 1 is not simply a masterpiece of contemporary art, rather it embodies the concerns of an entire generation of groundbreaking artists who gave form to the complex construction of modern China’s identity. Through its penetrating subject matter, stilled and confronting composition, disquieted coloration and surreal graphic style, the enduring aesthetic resonance of this work has had a profound impact on the history of contemporary Chinese painting and the globalized cultural dialogue of which it has become a profound contingent.  Bloodline: Big Family No. 1 was first exhibited at the 22nd International Biennial of São Paulo in 1994 introducing Zhang Xiaogang’s fresh and enriching vision for the first time to the international art world. Following overwhelming critical acclaim, Zhang Xiaogang subsequently exhibited at the 1995 Venice Biennale - a crucible of the most intellectually fertile and visually stunning artworks being presently created. As the earliest painting of Zhang Xiaogang's ‘Big Family’ paintings from his most famous Bloodline series, the present work symbolizes not only one of the greatest achievements in the artist’s career but also a major milestone in the international reception of contemporary Chinese art. It is undeniable that the radically active political changes that the Chinese nation saw in the latter half of the Twentieth Century had a profound impact on its visual culture, no better exemplified than in the present work. As the result of an accelerated abandon of Communist economic infrastructure over the course of the 1980s, China’s  adoption of  an ‘open door policy’ regarding international trade and travel steadily exposed a generation of Chinese artists to new aesthetic idioms and artistic modes which they would come to engage with on a number of levels over the following decades.  Exemplified in Bloodline: Big Family No. 1 is a desire to reconcile the customs of Communist China – which itself had enacted a radical reassessment of Chinese tradition through the Cultural Revolution – with a rapidly changing cultural landscape reconfigured through the influx of capitalist practices.\nWith overbearing frontality we encounter three neutral figures, carefully composed to emulate a historical drama; a compositional reenactment of twentieth century portrait photography in the specific visual language of the earlier Communist tradition. By usurping the photographic medium’s claims to objectivity, Zhang Xaiogang reopens a chapter from the recent past and enlivens its discourse with painterly ambiguity. The cold stares of his protagonists do not coerce us into an emotional response or any reading of narrative. The grey vision appears to us as a flat relic of a familiar history, now emptied of its currency and rendered obsolete. Zhang Xiaogang fosters potent enigma in his peculiar coloring: the reddened face of the boy, the yellow face of the girl providing the only gestural and expressive elements within an otherwise sanitized depiction of family life. Colored in this way, almost as a retrospective comment on a found image with no definite source, these tonal hallmarks seem to intimate the subsequent fate of these figures, or perhaps issues and contentions within the family unit. As such, Zhang Xiaogang constructs an open-ended remedy for dealing with a recently exorcised cultural past; his relived uneasy nostalgia of an ideologically extreme period, now a bygone era, and the traumas it both enacted and left behind. Marked by their attire and chairman Mao pins, through his figures the artist looks back to the Cultural Revolution with no certain terms, taking back the claimed objectivity of a family photograph. The artist reformulates the presence of a rapidly disappearing yet still relatively recent chapter of memory. What bearing does this defunct mode of representation mean today? Who are his subjects now, how have their lives changed? Visually the artist articulates the inevitable generational gap between parents and their children growing up in the same country but seemingly different worlds.\nZhang Xiaogang’s painterly style evolved through many modes during the 1980s and 1990s, experimenting with Surrealism and trompe l'oeil which contributes to the remarkable aesthetic that he arrives at in the Bloodline series. Whilst Zhang Xiaogang draws on European artistic elements, his unique style makes crucial reference to the photographic portrait genre as well as the graphic style of Chinese propaganda posters both before and after the Cultural Revolution. Unlike the sickly sweet, joyful children of socialist art that had been a staple of China’s visual culture for decades, here the figures bring a timid solemnity, intensified by the radical palette that renders all grey except the off-tone hues of red and yellow -- the colors of the People's Republic. Thematically elided with peers Liu Wei and Fang Lijun, questions surrounding how to deal with a turbulent past, both thematically and aesthetically, find their most profound articulation in the present work. Whilst Zhang Xiaogang’s intense recognition by international institutions and the market are product of the artist’s global appeal, the continued referencing of this iconic series on magazine covers, subway murals, and even popular motion pictures within China attests to the great significance that they bear, positioning historic memory in contemporary visual culture.\nSigned in Chinese and Pinyin and dated 1994
US
NY, US
US

notes

Please note there is a guarantee and an irrevocable bid on this lot.

medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Zhang Xiaogang

condition

This work is in very good condition. There is evidence of rubbing and wear to the overturn edges likely due to contact with the frame and most noticeable along the top edge. There is a small ¼ inch liquid studio accretion located approximately 6 inches down from the top edge at left center. Under ultraviolet light there are several small areas of apparent restoration: one located 20-20 ¼ inches in from the left edge and 15 ½ inches down from the top edge; another diagonal linear area located 15 ¼-16 inches in from the left edge along the bottom; a third located 7-9 ½ inches from the bottom right corner along the lower edge; as well as two more minor spots, one located 10 ½-11 inches in from the lower right corner along the bottom edge, and another 3 ¼-3 ½ inches up from the bottom and 4 ½ inches in from the right edge. The canvas is framed in a wood frame painted black with a 1½ inch float. In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

dimensions

59 by 70 7/8 in. 150 by 180 cm.

exhibition

Brazil, São Paulo, 22nd International Biennial of São Paulo, October - December 1994, pp. 44-45 Amsterdam, Rothmans Amsterdam; and Zevenaar, Rothmans Zevenaar, Groei in de collectie Peter Stuyvesant, September - October 1997 Oostende, Belgium, PMMK Museum voor Moderne Kunst, René Magritte en de Hadendaagse Kunst, April - June 1998 Namur, Belgium, Maison de la Culture de la Province de Namur, Faces: entre portrait et anonymat, October - December 1999

literature

Exh. Cat., Hong Kong, Hanart TZ Gallery, Umbilical Cord of History: Paintings by Zhang Xiaogang, 2004, pp. 51 and 175 Yang Qianqian and Lü Peng, Eds., Chinese Contemporary Artists Volumes, Series II - Zhang Xiaogang, Beijing, 2007, pp. 66-67

provenance

Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong The BAT ArtVenture Collection (formerly known as the Peter Stuyvesant Collection), Europe Sotheby's, Hong Kong, October 4, 2008, Lot 11 Private Collection, Europe Sotheby's, Hong Kong, October 13, 2011, Lot 970 Acquired from the above by the present owner

signedDate

Signed in Chinese and Pinyin and dated 1994

creator_nationality_dates

B. 1958


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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