Along with his mastery of Twitter and Instagram, Ai Weiwei has been able to capture headlines outside of China thanks to his willingness to challenge the Chinese government on issues such as censorship, subpar construction methods, and even his own arrest. He is less well-known outside of China, and it might be challenging to locate individuals who really like his work overseas, especially in the art community.
Other artists have taken a larger role in influencing contemporary art in China as Ai’s work has turned outward, focusing on the plight of refugees and the stateless around the world. This is partly due to their adept management of the conflicting demands of commercial galleries, international organizations, and government officials.
These are the select few artists who have had a significant impact on modern art in China during the last few decades and who still do. Although this age has undoubtedly been dominated by men, fellow female tech aficionados Miao Ying and Lu Yang are leaders among China’s generation of up-and-coming artists.
Even if Qiu Zhijie does sleep, it won’t be for very long. He created a sizable new piece for the Guggenheim Museum exhibition “Art and China after 1989” last year. He also oversaw the curating of the Chinese pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale and continued to serve as the director of the School of Experimental Art at Beijing’s prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA). He also played a key role in the establishment of China’s national contemporary art museum, The Power Station of Art (PSA), curating its first exhibition, the 2012 Shanghai Biennale, and giving the organization its English moniker, a play on MoMA PS1 in New York.
Writing the “Orchid Pavilion Preface” One Thousand Times (1990–1955) is an example of conceptual calligraphy in a body of work by Qiu that demonstrates his embracing of all facets of the art world. Another example of “Total Art” is the research of a Nanjing bridge that is notorious for suicides. Idea maps, one of the few formats with adequate space for the scope of his vision, have taken center stage in his profession.
Huang Yong Ping
Huang Yong Ping, the oldest artist on our list and the one who has lived the longest outside of China, is still a major force in Chinese contemporary art. After complaints that it was cruel to animals, his Theater of the World (1993), a reptile and insect battle royale that necessitates exhibitors replenishing the supply of live insects and reptiles, was taken down from a show at the Guggenheim—a bank-shot success given the work’s intention to depict brutality and chaos.
When colleges resumed operations during the Cultural Revolution, Huang was one of the first generations of art students to enroll at the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts. Huang made a copy of the Chinese version of Pierre Cabanne’s Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp (1971) to give to friends in Xiamen, Fujian Province, where he assisted in the founding of Xiamen Dada, a synthesis of Chan Buddhism and Marcel Duchamp’s concepts. Huang eventually relocated to France and represented the nation in the Venice Biennale in 1999 after being included in the grandiose “Magiciens de la Terre” show at Paris’s Centre Pompidou in 1989. He still fills a unique niche in Chinese art, often making social commentary with discarded materials and animal motifs.
Zhang Peili, director of OCAT Shanghai Museum, may be considered the founder of video art in China, while Yang Fudong is now its most prominent advocate. Zhang’s early, career-launching videos depict difficult, arduous performances, such as painstakingly re-gluing a broken mirror, whereas Yang’s lavish multi-channel works are devoid of narrative but have a cinematic appearance thanks to the use of a large crew and careful consideration for the sets, clothing, and styling.
Yang’s style recently has remained rooted in the cosmopolitan, hedonistic jazz period of Shanghai’s belle époque, which came before the Communist Revolution. The aesthetic of earlier pieces is more understated. The five-part black-and-white 35mm video series “Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest” (2003–2007) makes reference to the fabled Seven Sages, a group of Daoist intellectuals from the third century, as a reflection on the challenges of the current generation to define their responsibilities in contemporary China.
Zeng Fanzhi is one of the few modern Chinese painters to sell for as much at auction. Zeng is a part of the Beijing-based Cynical Realism movement, which emerged in the early 1990s. Like his contemporaries Yue Minjun, Zhang Xiaogang, and Fang Lijun, Zeng creates angst-ridden images that ironically and humorously confront social realities in China. Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning, and Max Beckmann are just a few of the painters whose passion is reflected in his work.
ShaperoModern noted that Zeng has consistently moved his technique in unexpected areas, shifting from his popular and well-known paintings of masked characters to Northern Wei, Song, and Yuan Dynasties-inspired landscapes that he obscures with dense black bracken. He has also experimented with expressionistic methods like multi-brush painting, in which he uses two hands to paint simultaneously: the first is controlled, while the second creates free-flowing strokes. His technique’s use of the unconscious is itself a satirical remark on China’s uneven, sometimes interrupted liberalization during the previous 20 years.
The great ironist of modern Chinese art questions everything, including his identity, his nation, and the whole art world. The 2005 mockumentary 8848-1.86, which is about grabbing Mount Everest’s summit and dragging it back to Shanghai, parodies the Realpolitik mindset of international governments.
As the CEO of the “art production firm” MadeIn, which he established in 2009, Xu subsumed his creative identity while creating works of art that glorified their commercialization. For example, he sells his lavishly textured “Under Heaven” paintings by the square meter and has shown many copies of his works side by side, shattering the usual idea that each piece is unique.
As part of his “Light Source” series from 2013 and his “Focus” installations, Xu also paints glaring camera flashes right onto exact reproductions of well-known artworks. He even spears cameras through the lens (2016). Recent fusions of many cultures may be dazzling on occasion, such as the European Thousand-Arms Classical Sculpture (2014), where rows of classical Western sculptures indicate multi-limbed Buddhist beings.
Now you are aware about the best Chinese artists who are embracing surrealism. Go ahead and figure out the best one out of them, and you will be able to appreciate amazing artwork with ease.