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Chinese Apartment Art - from Gao Minglu Archive

This library guide is an overview of the exhibition, "Chinese Apartment Art: Primary Documents from Gao Minglu’s Archive, 1970s-90s."

Intro to Family Salon

An exhibition view of Family Salon section.


The origins of Family Salon Art may be traced back to the socio-political backdrop of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). During this politically tumultuous period, groups of artists distanced themselves from state mandated Social Realism in favor of more expressive and avant-garde forms. Groups, such as the No Name Painting Society, traveled to the rural outskirts of Beijing as well as Yuanmingyuan and Purple Bamboo Park to paint en plain air landscapes and still life pictures. Their philosophical “art for art’s sake” paintings rejected officially sanctioned Socialist Realism, the only approved artistic style during this time.

Following a short period of relaxed art regulation, the 1983 Anti-Spiritual Pollution campaign once again targeted Western modernism and abstract art. Artists working in these styles were forced to show exclusively within their own apartments to small audiences of close friends and other artists. Many group exhibitions took place in the apartments of foreign friends and diplomats, as their residences were deemed safer than the homes of Chinese artists. Family Salon Art became a vehicle of civilian cultural exchange as artists such as Zhang Wei and Li Shan hosted gatherings and small scale exhibitions attended by foreign diplomats, film directors, and other cultural figures. One of the most important cultural exchanges occurred in 1985 when American artist Robert Rauschenberg staged an influential solo exhibition at the National Art Museum of China. While in Beijing, he visited the “Seven Man Exhibition” held at Zhang Wei’s apartment.

By the mid-1980s, avant-garde art in China began to focus its attention on public space and Family Salon Art began to lose its appeal. While private space maintained an important function within the context of  contemporary art, by this time, it was no longer considered the primary mode of artistic creation and exhibition.  Artists adopted public modes of creation and presentation to address and challenge social issues within China’s changing socio-political landscape. Reproduction paintings included in this exhibition are hung in a manner similar to salon exhibitions staged in the 1980s as an attempt to recapture this sense of private space, crucial to the significance of early apartment art exhibitions in China.

Selected Artists' Photos

From front left: Li Wei, Su Peiyu
From back left: Liu Ning, Lv Jin, Zhu Haidong, Wei Jia, Dong Kehua, Guan Wei
Liberation Army Newspaper Courtyard, Beijing, 1970s
Image courtesy of Long Niannan

Qin Yufen
Ganjiakou, Beijing, 1982
Image courtesy of Zhu Jinshi

Zhu Jinshi and others
Outskirts of Beijing, 1974
Image courtesy of Zhu Jinshi

Zhu Jinshi and others
Outskirts of Beijing, 1974
Image courtesy of Zhu Jinshi

Franco Giovale’s mother, Franco Giovale, Zhang Wei, Li Shan
Xinming Hutong, Beijing, 1983
Image courtesy of Zhang Wei

Wang Luyan and Robert Rauschenberg at exhibition organized by He Moyue
Diplomats Residence Compound, Beijing, 1985
Image courtesy of Zhang Wei

Selected Art Works

Li Shan, Self-Portrait, 1977, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist

Zhang Wei, AC9, 1984, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist

Zhou Maiyou, Untitled, 1970s, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist

Peng Gang, Untitled, 1972, Oil on paper, Image courtesy of the artist

Peng Gang, Untitled, 1972, Oil on paper, Image courtesy of the artist

List of Exhibited Items

  1. Wang Luyan, Untitled, 1985, Ink on paper, Image courtesy of the artist
  2. Wang Luyan, Untitled, 1985, Ink on paper, Image courtesy of the artist
  3. Li Shan, Portrait of Zhang Wei, 1978, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  4. Li Shan, Self-Portrait, 1977, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  5. Zhang Wei, AC9, 1984, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  6. Qin Yufen, Sounds of Chan, 1986, Ink on paper, Image courtesy of the artist
  7. Zhu Jinshi, Two People, 1978, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  8. Zhu Jinshi, November 1985, 1985, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  9. Li Shan, Untitled, 1970s, Oil on paper, Image courtesy of the artist
  10. Zhou Maiyou, Untitled, 1970s, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  11. Zhou Maiyou, Untitled, 1970s, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  12. Zhu Jinshi, Untitled, 1982, Oil on paper, Image courtesy of the artist
  13. Zhu Jinshi, Tianchi, 1985, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  14. Liu Weixin, Untitled, 1972, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  15. Zhu Jinshi, Studying English, 1978, Oil on paper, Image courtesy of the artist
  16. Zhu Jinshi, Cancel the Image, 1982, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  17. Li Shan, Untitled, 1970s, Oil on paper, Image courtesy of the artist
  18. Zhou Maiyou, Untitled, 1970s, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  19. Zhou Maiyou, Untitled, 1970s, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  20. Zhou Maiyou, Untitled, 1970s, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  21. Peng Gang, Untitled, 1972, Oil on paper, Image courtesy of the artist
  22. Zhou Maiyou, Untitled, 1970s, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  23. Zhou Maiyou, Untitled, 1970s, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  24. Zhou Maiyou, Untitled, 1970s, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  25. Zhou Maiyou, Untitled, 1970s, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  26. Peng Gang, Untitled, 1972, Oil on paper, Image courtesy of the artist
  27. Zhu Jinshi, November 1985, 1985, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  28. Zhou Maiyou, Untitled, 1970s, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  29. Zhou Maiyou, Untitled, 1970s, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  30. Zhou Maiyou, Untitled, 1970s, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  31. Zhou Maiyou, Untitled, 1970s, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  32. Long Niannan, Work No. 2, 1970s, Color on PVC, Image courtesy of the artist
  33. Long Niannan, Work No. 3, 1970s, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  34. Song Hong, Yuanmingyuan at Dusk, 1980-1981, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist
  35. Song Hong, Girl Performing in a Drama, 1980-1981, Oil on panel, Image courtesy of the artist
  36. Song Hong, Girl, 1979-1980, Oil on panel, Image courtesy of the artist
  37. Long Niannan, Work No. 1, 1970s, Oil on canvas, Image courtesy of the artist