Gao Zhen, born 1956, and Gao Qiang, born 1962, in Jinan, China, are an internationally renowned collaborative artist duo based in Beijing, whose practice incorporates performance, sculpture, painting, photography and installation. Their work is held in the permanent collections of Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, China National Museum, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Princeton University Art Museum, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Saatchi Gallery. etc.
Selected Solo Exhibitions:
“The Gao Brothers: Grandeur and Catharsis”,Walsh Gallery,Chicago, USA.
“The Gao Brothers: Grandeur and Catharsis”,Kemper Museum Of Contemporary Art,Kansas City, USA
“The Gao Brothers”, Gallery Adrian David, Knokke-zoute ( Kustlaan 335), Belgium
“The Gao Brothers”, Duncan Miller Gallery, Los Angeles, USA.
“Portrait: Gao Brothers'Painting Exhibition”,China Art Archives & Warehouse, Beijin.
“Sense of Space. Galerie Art Műr”, Montreal, Canada
“ Some Space for Humanity: Gao Brothers Photography Exhibition”, Iaf Gallery, Shanghai
“The Gao Brothers”,Vallois Gallery, Paris, France
“The Utopia of Construction”, Gao Brothers Center For Contemporary Art,Beijing,China.
“The Gao Brothers”, Albert Benamou Gallery, Paris. France.
“The Gao Brothers”, Limn Gallery, San Francisco.USA.
“The Utopia of 20 Minutes Embrace”, Brandenburg Gate, Berlin. Germany.
“Another World: Gao Brothers Photography Exhibition”, Arles Photo Festival,France.
“The Gao Brothers”, Boxart Gallery, Verona, Italy.
“The High Place: Gao Brothers Photography and Sculpture Exhibition”, Beijing New Art Projects,Beijing. China.
“The Miserable Prostitutes: Gao Brothers’ Painting and Sculpture Exhibition”,Gao Brothers Center For Contemporary Art,Beijing, China.
“From China with Love: Gao Brothers Photography and Sculpture Exhibition”, Walsh Gallery, Chicago,USA.
“Miss Mao: Gao Brothers Sculpture and Photography Exhibition”,Krampf/Pei Gallery,New York.
“One and Together: Gao Brothers Photography Exhibition”,Moscow House of Photography - Gallery on Solyanka,Moscow.
“The passage of Time: Gao Brothers Photography Exhibition”,La Galerie Guislain Etats d’ Art, Paris
“The Utopia of Hugging”, London, Nottingham, Marseilles
“Trope of Body: Gao Brothers Photography Exhibition”,Beijing New Art Projects,Beijing
“One Abandoned Building’s Visual Story—Gao Brothers
Photography Exhibition”,Beijing New Art Projects
“A Dinner With The Homeless People”, performance, Jinan, China
"Embrace: Gao Brothers' New Works", Courtyard Gallery, Beijing,China
"Fuse: Gao Brothers' Photography", Eastlink Gallery, Shanghai, China
"The End of Mankind: GaoBrothers' Installations, Jinan Painting Institute, China
Selected Group Exhibitions:
‘Drapeau rouge / Red Flag, Contemporary Chinese Art in Montreal Collections’, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Canada
‘Verboten, Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG’, Zurich, Switzerland
‘Pino Pascali. Return to Venice ’/ Apulia Contemporary Art, Palazzo Michiel dal Brusŕ, Venice, Italy
‘Middle East, Middle Kingdom’, Etemad Gallery,Dubai,United Arab Emirates
‘In God We Trust Contemporary Chinese Art’, Bard College,New York, USA
‘Daegu Photo Biennale’, Daegu Culture and Art Center,Daegu, Korea ‘Intramoenia Extra Art_MIRAGES’, ALFONSO’S CASTLE OF BRINDISI,Italy ‘RESHAPING HISTORY: China Art from 2000 to 2009’,National Conference Center,Beijing, China ‘State of the Dao: Chinese Contemporary Art’, Lehman College Art Gallery,New York, USA ‘Hotbed:Shandong Contemporary Art’, Sunshine International Museum,Beijing, China
“Vancouer Biennale,Vancouver’, Canada
“ACTION—CAMERA, Beijing Performance Photography, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery’, Vancouver, B.C. Canada
“Madre Coraggio la mostra di Achille Bonito Oliva al Ravello Festival’,Italy
“Made In China’, the Museum of New Art (MONA),Detroit, USA
“THE VERY CONDITION’, Wall Art Museum, Beijing.
“CONTACT Photo Festival’, Drake Hotel,Toronto, Canada.
“Between the Sexes’,Paris Beijing Photo Gallery, Beijin
“Xun Dao: Searching for Spirituality in Contemporary Chinese Art’, Frederieke Taylor Gallery,New York.
“Mahjong, Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection’, The Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, USA
“The 2008 Fotofest 12th International Photography Biennial’, Houston.
“China…Forward: China Contemporary Art’, TSUM, Moscow.
“Ah!We:Chinese Contemporary Art 1978-2008’,China National Theater, Beijing, China
“Chinese Aroma-Huantie Times Chinese Art Invitation Exhibition’, Huan Tie Times Art,Beijing
“ Made in Beijing: China Contemporary Art’, Modern Art Museum of Hongik University, Seoul, Korea.
“ China Under Construction: Contemporary Art from the People’s Republic’,Beborah Colton Gallery, Houston,USA.
“The Exhibition Of Chinese Contemporary Social Art”,The State Tretyakov Museum,Moscow,Russia.
“The Photographs of the Performance in China”, Ying Art Center,Beijing, China
“Dragon’s Evolution”,China Square,New York
“Breathe: Shandong Contemporary Art Exhibition”,Shandong Museum,Jinan
“Ten Chinese Avant-garde Photographers ”, Asia Art Center,Beijing.
“Photography of Gao Brothers,Matteo Basile and Raimondo Galeano”,IL PONTE CONTEMPORANEA,Rome
“MissMao”, Black Projects,London
“Between Art and Architecture”,798 Avant Gallery, New York.USA
“Beijing-Soldiers at the Gates”, Factory 798 Dashanzi Art District ,Beijing
“The First Annual Exhibition Of Chinese Contemporary Art”, China Century Altar,Beijing,China.
“My Space, Your Space”, Walsh Gallery, Chicago,USA.
“Brothers”,Xin Dong Chen Space For Contemporary Art,Beijing
“Ruins”,Inova Art Center,Peckschool of Art,University of Wisconsion,Milwaukee,USA
“Field OF VIision:Beijing”, Beijing New Art Projects,Beijing
“Post Electronic Image”, MUSTBE Contemporary Art Center,Beijing
"5×7 Frame Decide the Attitude" Exhibition in Pingyao International photography Festival,Pingyao,China
“Photographing China”,The circumvallation site of Ming Dynasty, Beijing
"Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China",Santa Barbara Museum of Art,USA
“The Second Reality:Photographs From China”,Piazza of Berlaymont building,European Commission.Brussels, Belgium
“Field OF VIision:Extremes”,The Institute For New Media,Frankfurt,Germany
“The Gesture. Visual Library in progress”, Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, Greece
“Tian An Men - Tian An Men – Gate to Heaven”, Foam Photography Museum,Amsterdam, Netherlands
“A UTOPIA OF THE VISIBLE: 13 Outstanding Art Photographers In China”, Beijing New Art Projects, 798 Art District, Beijing, China
“Placed in China”, Walsh Gallery,Chicago,USA.
“The Flower in th Ruin:Contemporary Image Exhibition”,Niu Fang Depot,Macau
“Unlimit: Gao Brothers,Huang Yan & Zhang Tiemei’s Computerized Photography”, Beijing New Art Projects, 798 Art District, Beijing, China
"The City in 360 Degrees: French and Chinese Photographers in China”, ,Beijing New Art Projects, 798 Art District, Beijing, China
"China Avant-Garde:Contemporary Chinese Art", ARENA, Santa Monica, USA
"Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China", Victoria and Albert Museum London,UK
"China Avant-Garde:Contemporary Chinese Art", ARENA, Santa Monica, USA
"Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China", Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, USA
"Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China",Museum of
Contemporary Art Chicago, The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, USA
“Start To Fly: He Xiangning Art Museum OCAT Contemporary art Collection", He Xiangning Art Museum,Shenzhen,China
"Vehicle and Mirror Image", Beijing New Art Projects", Beijing,China
“Forge The Fable”, MUST BE CONTEMPORARY ART CENTER,Beijing,China
"SCRATCH-OR China-Singapore Digital Image Art Exhibition",Beijing New Art Projects, 798 Art District, Beijing, China
“2005 Pingyao International Photograpy Exhibition”,Pingyao,China
"Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China", International Center of Photography and Asia Society, New York
"Tiananmen", Chinese Eyes Gallery, Paris
"Design the marble – 40 international artists in Carrara", Carrara, Italy
"The 2nd International Photo Festival of Rome". L' Officina, Rome, Italy
"Chinese Art Today", China Century Altar,Beijing
“SOHO Contemporary Art Exhibition”, SOHO Street, Beijing
“Bare Androgyny - A group show of Contemporary Art”, 798 Art Community, Beijing
"The First Triennial Of Chinese Arts". Guangzhou Art Museum. China
"Limits of Bodies", Shangrila, Beijing
“2002 Pingyao International Photograpy Exhibition”,Pingyao,China
"The 5th Los Angeles International Biennale", Bergamot Station Arts Center, LA, USA
"The First Tirana Biennale", National Gallery & Chinese Pavilion, Albania
"Nice International Photography Festival: Chinese Album", the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice, France
"Mao Y'a Pas Photo", the Espace d' Art Contemporain of La Rochelle, Paris
"Rotate 360 - Chinese Plan Art Exhibition", Paragold Int'I Art Centre, Shanghai
"China Avant-garde Artists Documents”, Fukuoka Art Museum, Japan
"Portraits, Figures, Couples and Groups from the MCAF collection", BIZART, Shanghai, China
"Family? ContemporaryArt Project", Yuexing International Furniture Center, Shanghai
"Man and Animal", performance show, Beijing
"The 2nd Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Sculpture", Shenzhen, China
"The Documentary Exhibition of World Chinese Installation Art", Hongkong Art Commune
The Picture and Writing Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Artists,.Gallery of Nanjing Teachers University.
"Out Of Control," Design Art Museum, Beijing
“The Documentary Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Art”, Chengdu.
”International Fax Art Exhibition”, Shanghai.
"Guangzhou Biennale", Guangzhou, China
"China Avant-Garde", China National Art Museum, Beijing, China
“Shandong Modern Art Exhibition”, Jinan, China
“Gao Brothers – Walsh Gallery,Chicago.2007
“Gao Brothers - 1985-2005”, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House,2006.
“Gao Brothers -Miss Mao”, Krampf/Pei Gallery,New York.2006
“Gao Brothers – One And Together”,Moscow House of Photography,Moscow.
“Gao Brothers - The Passage Of Time”,Paris,2006
“Gao Brothers”, The CourtYard Gallery Of Beijing,2001.
“Critical: The Great Crucifix Series & Other Works - Dialogue, Critical Discourse and Study on Gao Brothers’ Art”, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House Of China,1996.
“Conceptual Art: Deconstruction and Reconstruction”, Zhang Xiaoling, Jilin Fine Arts Publishing House of China, 1999
“Pop Art: Disruption and Continuity”, Sun Jin, Jilin Fine Arts Publishing House of China, 1999
“A History of China Modern Art 1979-1989”, Lu Peng and Yi Dan, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House of China, 1992
“90s Art China 1990-1999” Lu Peng, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House of China,2000
Review in “World Fine Arts”, April, 1998,China
Review in “that’s Beijing”, June 07, 2005,China
Review in “The New York Times”,October 29,2000,USA
Review in “The New York Times”,June 11, 2004, USA
Review in “The Los Angeles Times”May 20, 2005
Review in “NY Arts”,Vol.10 no 5/6 May/June 2005,USA
Review in “Matador”, ORIENTE nº 10-I 2005,Spain
Review in “Zoom”,September-October,2005,Italy
Review in “Chicago Sun-Times”,February 10,2006,USA
Review in “Photonet” July 2006,Korea
Review in “Triangulere” No.6, 2006,France
Two Lives for One Utopia. The Art of the Gao Brothers
by Beatrice Benedetti
Beat writer Norman Mailer was convinced that “the final purpose of art
[was] to intensify, even, if necessary, to exacerbate, the moral consciousness
of people”. At the time he was saying these things, Mailer was setting
up the Greenwich
Village newspaper and starting his own battle against totalitarian, repressed,
repressive and neurotic American society. By doing so, he became a spokesman
for the hippie revolt, of which he created both the philosophy and the mythology.
The Gao Brothers’ most famous performance, The Utopia of a 20 Minute Embrace, appeals to the spectator through its pacifist energy, which revives the original ideals of the flower children. The only difference between them and the Europeans of the late Sixties lies in the fact that the Gao Brothers joined the student revolt twenty years later. At the time of Tiananmen Square – literally, the “gate of heavenly peace” – the Gao Brothers were protesting in the less famous squares of their home town, Jinan, south of the capital.
But even in 1989, the year when the protests climaxed in China, the works of the creative duo found their way to Beijing, where they were shown at the China National Art Museum in one of the first exhibitions of Chinese contemporary art, China Avant-Garde. In their twenty-year career, Gao Zhen, aged 51, and Gao Qiang, 45, have been subjected to the same interrogations, persecutions and, ultimately, diaspora as the artists of District 798, China’s East Village.
This marked the beginning of their epic as dissident artists, or “artist-intellectuals, those who never adapt” as Francis Scott Fitzgerald would say, in his meticulous style as a writer on the front line, defending freedom and democracy. Even though he was far from the hot-spots of the First World War, the distant cousin of the author of the American fought with teeth and pen for the ideal of universal justice.
In this struggle, Mailer’s and Fitzgerald’s United States and the Europe of 1968 simply got in before them. But the trenches of human rights know no borders – neither of space, nor of time.
And thus we have a testimonial from the other side of the world in its race towards freedom.
B.B.: Gao Zhen and Gao Qiang, what was your childhood like?
G.B.: Usually we don’t feel like mentioning our childhood and recall those dark, shameful and helpless days. By then, the cultural revolution started by Chairman Mao had successfully changed China into a really crazy country. Education was a lie and lies were truth. We remember that our first lesson at primary school was Long Live Chairman Mao, and the second one was Long Live the Chinese Communist Party. Of course, just as Imre Kertész said, happiness exits even in concentration camps. Intermixed with cruelty and discrimination, we also managed to enjoy family warmth and we have some fond memories.
B.B.: Did your family suffer during the Cultural Revolution?
G.B.: During the cultural revolution, my family was hit by disasters. My father was put into jail and died. After that, one of our brothers was sent into the country for what was called “reformation”. Our family didn’t have a penny to live on and had to depend on relatives for a long time.
B.B.: When did you decide to become artists and how much of a factor was your desire to free yourselves from the abuse of political power?
G.B.: Though we started studying drawing when we were children, we decided to be artists in the 1980s. It was just because we knew it was the only thing we could do.
B.B.: How does a creative duo consisting of blood relatives come together?
G.B.: It is natural for us since we are brothers and have the same interests. Both of us think art makes life fun and enjoyable. So we decided that we should and could work together.
B.B.: As non-organic intellectuals, you ended up on the government’s blacklist and you were unable to leave China because the authorities withheld your passports. All because you signed a petition in favour of dissident Wei Jingshen. Was there ever a time when you might have wanted to abandon your work because of government pressure?
G.B.: From 1989 to 2003, we were not allowed to have passports, and we missed many opportunities to promote our art worldwide. For example, we were invited by the curator, Mr Harald Szeemann, to go to the 49th Venice Biennale with our performance of World Hug, but we couldn’t get there without passports. Anyway, we certainly didn’t want to give up art because of this. We just loved art all the more because of our lack of freedom.
B.B.: How did the situation under the Deng Xiaoping government change for Chinese citizens and for you artists?
G.B.: It’s hard to say. Time will tell.
B.B.: Which has been more harmful and which more beneficial to your country – Communism or Capitalism? Which side are you on?
G.B.: We won’t worry about that until we become governors. And we also won’t worry too much about these concepts until we become ideologues. We are wondering if there are only two sides. No third solution?
B.B.: Some of your works are still prohibited – such as Miss Mao, which is under wraps in your studios. It is not uncommon for a show to be taken down overnight. And yet China is still pursuing its policy of portraying itself as a free country. What’s your opinion about this umpteenth contradiction?
G.B.: You know, this is a world full of paradoxes. We believed it was because the Chinese government knew what was right and best, but it appears not to be right and best. It needs time to grow up and get over its weaknesses.
B.B.: Now that you’re famous, how have things changed for you?
G.B.: When will we be so famous that the world – or at least China – will change as a result of our fame?
B.B.: Are you rich?
G.B.: Ha! Now we are seriously considering running a free restaurant as an artwork.
B.B.: As fathers, what future would you like for your children?
G.B.: We hope our children will be free to do anything and free to be anybody, so long as they are not soldiers, Nazis, Communists or prisoners.
B.B.: Thank you.
G.B.: Thank you