Yue Minjun‘s painting of the crackdown on student protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square sold for $5,000 in 1994 and almost $7 million in May — a testimony to the surge in Chinese contemporary art prices.
Yue’s trademark laughing men and the somber, gray-hued figures in Zhang Xiaogang‘s paintings have become synonymous with the genre, mostly commentaries on post-Cultural Revolution China by artists now in their 30s and 40s.
In the updated version of her book “Nine Lives: The Birth of Avant-Garde Art” (Timezone 8 Ltd.), curator Karen Smith traces the lives and works of nine top Chinese contemporary artists — Zhang, Wang Guangyi, Geng Jianyi, Fang Lijun, Gu Dexin, Li Shan, Xu Bing, Zhang Peili and Wang Jianwei. The book’s first print run of 4,000 copies was released in 2006.
Smith, 43, writes for Bloomberg News on Chinese contemporary art. She spoke with me on the phone from her Beijing office.