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Zhang Xiaogang (B. 1958)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Property from a Private Collection, Luxembourg
Zhang Xiaogang (B. 1958)

A Big Family Series no. 16

Zhang Xiaogang (B. 1958)
A Big Family Series no. 16
signed and dated in Chinese and English 'Zhang Xiaogang 1998' (lower right)
oil on canvas
78¾ x 98½ in. (200 x 250 cm.)
Painted in 1998.
Galerie de France, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Paris, Galerie de France, Zhang Xiaogang: Les Camarades, November-December 1999, p. 9 (illustrated in color).
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Lot Essay

Generally speaking, I am used to observing and experiencing the realities of our place and our history with some "distance". In this space formed of distance, I feel that the imagination of art has come to have its own places of sojourn. Perhaps this is entirely the construction of my own personality and temperament. I often subconsciously want to stand behind this reality and experience those things we call "mysterious." When people are engaged in deep thought, for example, this is to me a most charming moment.
-- Zhang Xiaogang

Zhang's A Big Family No. 16 derives from the series he began in 1993 and powerfully embodies the meanings of that series. The "big family" concept expresses Zhang's awareness of classic perceptions towards Chinese people, and through these standardized family portraits, the artist reexamines the symbolic meanings of portraits and the situations they represent. Zhang's concepts about painting and old photographs hint at the meaning of this series: "Painting will no longer be an expression of a pre-formed 'painting identity,' but a visual method of entering into and communicating concepts, in which the artist uses his personal viewpoint to reflect deep thought and feeling about contemporary life, culture, and people. What perhaps is most moving in these rigid, full-family portraits, is not just the sense of historical background but the way their 'decorativeness' is so standardized. Such an aesthetic preference is traditionally connected with Chinese folk culture: the obfuscation of individuality and a completely neutralized concept of "poetic" beauty. Family portraits should be private symbols by nature, yet have become standardized and injected with ideology. We do indeed live in a very 'big family.' And in this 'family,' we are forced to deal with all kinds of 'blood' relationships: familial, social, and cultural. Given our shared 'heredity,' collectivism has taken deep root in our consciousness and developed into a psychological complex that we can't shake."

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