30 Artists, 30 Years — Wang Guangyi

30 Artists, 30 Years — Wang Guangyi

Interviewed by Isabelle Caussé, Art Curator, Bagri Family Collection.

IC: You once said that “contemporary art has a globalised background but that it has been explained using a western set of rules [which] has created a huge dilemma for both Chinese and Asian artists”. Would you say this is changing?

Wang Guangyi: Yes, I believe that this is slowly changing with the deepening of communication, as well as our own research theory and sorting endeavours. It requires many people’s efforts at all levels. For example, many scholars of different countries and disciplines, such as philosophers and anthropologists, are deeply involved in the seminar associated with my exhibition Wang Guangyi – Research on Popular Anthropology, 2019, XUNWAY Art Space, Tongji University, Shanghai and the National Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan. Their resulting discussions and their mapping out from this seminar, will continuously expand the depth and breadth of art, especially categorisations and classifications.  Conducive to further research and through the rearrangement of artworks, in a sense, they will be re-writing history.

IC: What are the main influences in your work now? Do you feel it has become more China or Asia engrained? Any specific work that might have found its source in the ancient history of Asian art?

Popular Study on Anthropology – Veil of Ignorance, 2018

WG: What influences my work is only our history and my personal experience, and of course, the current external context. I think the influence of China and Asia is really changing, which benefits many factors, such as economic influence. Asian / Chinese ancient art works are rarely directly and completely reflected in my works. The influence of Chinese / Asian ancient art history on my creation is often hidden behind. For example, some of my paintings will have the technique of Wu Lou Hen (“leakage marks”) in traditional Chinese painting. These things exist in our hearts like “film negatives”. At some time, they are activated by “contingency”, and they will emerge. These negatives affect our life today. And the thickness of time and memory carried by these “film (negatives)” will affect the way we view the world.

IC:  Last year your work was hung in the London offices of the Bagri Foundation whose aim is to promote the arts and culture of Asia. They are works of 2002-3 which we found full of energy and a great reminder of our aims. Looking at our programme how would you wish they inspire us further? 

WG: I think it is a good programme. It provides a bridge of possibilities between different cultural disciplines which I encourage. My works, from Comparison between Chinese and American Humidity/Temperature of 1990 to Research on Popular Anthropology which I have been working on for the past two years, do span the multi-disciplinary attributes of art itself in a sense. For example, the latter is undoubtedly related to anthropology, a subject that I have been paying close attention to in my recent work. Of course, in the name of art and pseudoscience, I suggest and expand the polysemy – the many meanings – of anthropology.

Great Criticism – Coca-Cola, 1990-1993, oil on canvas


Wang Guangyi was born in Harbin, China in 1957 and lives and works in Beijing, China. He graduated from the China Academy of Fine Arts (formerly the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts), Hangzhou, China in 1984. In the 1980s, he attended and organised North Art Group, and in the 1990s, he created the Great Criticism series which has had wide influence in the international art world.

Selected group exhibitions include China Avant-garde (1989), 45th Venice Biennale (1993), 22ed Sao Paulo Art Biennial (1994), Aperto 95, Avant-gardes Artistiques Xinesses in Santa Monica Center d’Art (1995), Begegnungen mit China in Ludwig Forum Fur International Kunst (1996), Magie der Zahl-In der Kunst des 20 Jahrhunderts in Staatsgalerie (1997), Alors, La Chine? in Pompidou Art Center, China, the Body Everywhere? In MAC Marseille (2004) Reshaping History in China International Exhibition Center (2010), Art Changsha in Hunan (2015), Busan Biennale (2016), “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World”, in Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York/Bilbao, US.

Selected Solo Exhibitions include Cold War Aesthetics – Wang Guangyi in Louise Blouin Institute of Louise Blouin Foundation (UK), Things-In-Itself: Utopia, Pop and Personal Theology in Today Art Museum (China), Visual Polity: Another Wang Guangyi in OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (China), Wang Guangyi, Viaggio in Museo di Villa Rufolo (Italy), Wang Guangyi – Relics of Believers MAC contemporary Art Museum (Spain), Image Correction – Wang Guangyi Museum of Contemporary Art (Singapore); Poetry and Philosophy – Exhibition of The Art of Zhang Xiaogang and Wang Guangyi, Prague City Gallery (Prague, Czech); Wang Guangyi: Research on Popular Anthropology, XUNWAY Art Space, Tongji University, Shanghai, China; National Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan, Armenia.

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