Zhang Hongtu Papers

Zhang Hongtu picDate Range: 19742011
Survey Conducted: Fri, 2011-08-05
Creator: Zhang, Hongtu (1943-)

History: Born in China’s Kansu Province in 1943, Zhang Hongtu studied at the Central Institute of Arts and Crafts in Beijing. The Chinese Civil War and the Cultural Revolution presented many difficult challenges to Zhang, not only because of his family’s Muslim background, but also because of shifting perceptions of artists and intellectuals. His schooling was cut short, and he was assigned to do farm work in the countryside. A few years later, he was assigned to make jewelry to be sold to Westerners. Throughout this period, Zhang continued making art. After participating in a group exhibition sometimes called the “Contemporaries Group,” Zhang moved to the United States in 1982, his wife and son joining him a few years later. He studied at the Art Students League in New York City and later became an artist-in-residence at the Asian American Arts Centre.

His personal observations and experiences during the Cultural Revolution contributed to a growing sense of disappointment and dissolution with Chairman Mao and his policies. It took some time and practice, however, before Zhang felt comfortable producing work that gave direct expression of his thoughts. His Material Mao series began after Zhang painted Chairman Mao onto a Quaker Oats box as a commentary about political iconography and ubiquity. Invited to contribute to a large exhibit in the U.S. Senate’s Russell Rotunda following the Tiananmen Square events, Zhang created his famed Last Banquet painting, which recreated Da Vinci’s Last Supper with Mao’s face superimposed onto all of the original figures. The exhibition was ironically canceled due to U.S. government censorship of Zhang’s work along with others in the show.

Zhang went on to deconstruct cultural icons across contents and contexts. More recently, he has turned his focus on the established “classics” in Western and Asian art. Of his series of paintings of Chinese “classics” re-done using easily-recognizable impressionistic styles, the New York Times wrote, “The paintings are skillfully executed and psychologically astute. With telling, often subtle matches, of artist, image and style. They stir up provocative ideas about culture-based aesthetics, often viewed as hopelessly in conflict.” His work has been exhibited widely and can be found in several permanent collections, including China’s National Museum of Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Bronx Museum, the World Bank, and Adam’s House of Harvard University.

Sources: Cotter, Holland. “Art in Review: Zhang Hongtu.” New York Times. April 29, 2005. Accessed February 5, 2015. http://nyti.ms/1AvUOsb.

Lee, Robert. “Zhang Hongtu.” The Village Voice, Spring, 1998.

The Saatchi Gallery. “Zhang Hongtu.” Accessed February 5, 2015. http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/artists/zhang_hongtu.htm.

Zhang, Hongtu. Conversation with Daniel Kim. Private Residence, Queens, New York, August 5, 2011.

Summary: The largest portion of the collection consists of approximately 80 rolls of paper and paper-based artwork, ranging in size from 10” x 12” to 36” x 60.” The next largest portions are books containing references to Zhang or his work (6.0 linear feet) and 5.0 linear feet of materials produced during the creative process.

The remaining volumes consist of different materials including: personal journals starting from 1974 (1.0 linear feet); press clippings collected during and after the “June 4th Massacre” (0.2 linear feet); drafts and finished publications related to the artist collective EPOXY (0.1 linear feet); materials related to the artist Ling Ling aka Billy Harlem, a close friend who was murdered (0.1 linear feet); reviews in English and Chinese (1.0 linear feet); and a variety of computer files of unknown quantity.

Total Size: 13.4 linear feet
APA-related Size: 13.4 linear feet
Languages of materials: English and Chinese
Arrangement: other
Location: Private residence
Bibliographic Control: inventory
Conditions Governing Access: The collection is currently inaccessible to the public.

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