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Living and Dying – Tomorrow is Coming

Living and Dying – Tomorrow is Coming
signed in Chinese (lower left); signed, titled, inscribed in Chinese, and inscribed ‘80 x 100 cm’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
99 x 79 cm. (39 x 31 in.)
Painted in 1989
Mountain Art Foundation, Taiwan (acquired directly from the artist)
Private collection
Anon. sale, Poly Auction Hong Kong, 31 March 2019, lot 152
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner
Painter, vol. 11, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, Changsha, China, 1990, (illustrated, p. 4).
"Thoughts on the other side of Zhang Xiaogang's Eternity", Oriental Art Classics, Issue 9, Henan Academy of Arts, Zhengzhou, China, 2008 (illustrated, p. 48).
Zhang Xiaogang: Disquieting Memories, Phaidon Press Limited, London, UK, 2015 (illustrated, plate 24, p. 51).
Zhang Xiaogang: Works, Documents and Researches 1981-2014 I, Sichuan Fine Arts Publishing House, Chengdu, China, 2016 (illustrated, plate 83, p. 145).
Chengdu, China, Sichuan Art Museum, Celebrating the 40th year Establishment of People's Republic of China-Art Works of Sichuan, August 1989.
Beijing, China, Sino-Foreign Boyi Gallery, A Retrospective of The Sichuan School From 1976-2006: Rural Modernity to Urban Utopia, 30 June-30 July 2007.

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Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡)

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Lot Essay

Musing on the individual and on mankind as a whole—their past, present, and future, and their ultimate fate—has always been the central theme of Zhang Xiaogang's work. This season, Christie's presents a 1989 work, Living and Dying—Tomorrow is Coming. Completed just one year after his famous large-scale triptych, La Vie Continue—Love, it displays the classic, mysterious style that so typified the work of his "far shore period" in the 1980s. While it exudes a surreal atmosphere similar to the work of de Chirico or Magritte, Zhang's colours and shapes clearly also suggest the primitive wildness of the early Chinese Huaxia tribal civilization. Symbols scattered far and near in Zhang's wilderness construct a kind of grand, cyclical narrative space. The painting's yellow-skinned protagonist stands proudly erect, while a figure in the middle ground, sitting on a carpet decorated with the traditional totemic patterns of Zhang Xiaogang's native Yunnan, falls into the deep memories of sleep. Bones in the background echo the themes of life, death, and reincarnation. Another figure, flying a kite in the distance, seems somehow psychically connected with the sky, as if looking toward the future. The entire work projects the mythical air of a timeless legend that wants to connect to both the future and the ancient world.

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