Is Kelly Crow trying to suggest Zhang Xiaogang’s struggle to find a new artistic idea—which he says caused his two heart attacks—is emblematic of all of Chinese Contemporary Art?
Of his roughly 600 oil paintings, a third are part of “Bloodlines,” a series he began in the early 1990s inspired by the kind of quasi-patriotic family portraits that were popular throughout China during the Cultural Revolution. In Mr. Zhang’s versions, these clusters of men, women and children appear glassy-eyed and unsmiling—bound by blood but possibly little else. Mr. Zhang has become indelibly linked to this series, and he continues to paint these works on occasion, even though they serve to criticize China’s Mao era more than its current political situation. But there are signs that demand could be tapering off: Dealers say an early “Bloodline” from 1994 can sell for as much as $8 million, but his recent versions of couples have sold for around $1.5 million. Mr. Zhang said some of his stress has come from his attempts to find his next big idea.
Mr. Tek, a collector who has paid as much as $6.7 million for Mr. Zhang’s work, said, “Getting a Zhang Xiaogang is like buying a historic movement frozen in art—he’s classic. But he should slow down on the ‘Bloodlines’ because they’re not as relevant anymore.”
An Art Star’s Creative Crisis (Wall Street Journal)