Liu Xiaodong - Artist in front of a work from his Migration series, 2016

Liu Xiaodong /   Liu Xiaodong

China 1963

Contemporary Realism, Figurative Art

Liu Xiaodong
Liu Xiaodong
March 28, 2017

Liu Xiaodong is a Chinese contemporary artist that is mostly known for his figurative large-scale oil paintings. Besides, he is a documentary filmmaker, diarist, and occasional actor. He is from Jincheng, a small industrial town in Liaoning province in the northern China from parents that were both factory workers. In his work, you can trace the dedication to ordinary life and the margins of society within the circumstances of global issues, environmental crisis, natural disasters, economic turmoil that he depicts without beautification and in stark realism.

the gallery museum at home has some news about the privacy policy
Liu Xiaodong – Sky Burial, 2007 Image via Mary Boone Gallery

Documentary Style of Xiaodong’s Work – Reinterpreting Recent History

Liu Xiaodong graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing in 1995 in the Oil Painting Department. In that period the only allowed aesthetic was Social Realism and the important element of studying would involve painting the farmers and peasants working. Painting from life remained his hallmark until today. He earned an MA at the Academy of Fine Arts, University of Complutense, Madrid in 1999. He belongs to the neo-realist Chinese movement but is very categorical about confronting the notions of contemporary aesthetics. He is moved and inspired by a wish to most properly represent the people and context in which they are found. This forensic approach leads him in a pursuit for dogmatic details and documentary style narratives in his works. Xiaodong is interested in capturing the passage of time in front of him and very often needs to give a new perspective on Chinese recent history. He shows a specific awareness of the historical situation and the particular circumstances of the time and place he is portraying and he often uses documentary photography and video works as well.

new gallery contact for the museum
Liu Xiaodong – Disobeying the Rules, 1996 – Image courtesy of Tiroche DeLeon Collection.

Xiaodong’s Working Style

Xiaodong’s style of working is in perfect balance with above-mentioned ideas. He settles outdoors in a temporary studio which is placed in an improvised location and stays at this residence couple of weeks or months. He brings his equipment – large-scale canvases and a temporary tarpaulin, camera, paint, diaries, drawings, sketches. Painting en plain air, among the people he portrays and being close to situations he wants to capture, creates a sense of interconnection that can be recognized on his paintings. But, he finds aesthetic reasons important for this kind of work. It is like a peasant laboring on the land. Physical labor and spiritual pleasure come together. They form a strange power. One is exotic while the other is provincial. They create a wonderful chemistry… As long as you do this the painting is good because the texture is born in the environment.[1] Liu is a professor at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.

The dedication to ordinary life and the margins of society

 in the news the artist heard about the home privacy policy
Liu Xiaodong – Qinghai-Tibet Railway, 2007 – Image via Mary Boone Gallery

Influences and Recognition

Xiaodong gained international recognition with his Hotan project in 2012-13 when he was on a two-month self-determined residency program in Xinjiang province in order to paint jade miners. Among his eastern influences he cites the Song and pre-Song classics, and even though critics connect him with Lucien Freud, he quotes Cezanne as his main western inspiration. He is known to the international audience maybe even more by his leading role in the movie The Days which was nominated and is considered one of the hundred most significant international movies in the past century by the BBC. One of his newest exhibitions has as a central theme recent global migrations.

Liu Xiaodong lives and works in Beijing, China.


  1. Barnaby, B. Liu Xiaodong: life as he knows it, Financial Times [March 26, 2017]
  2. Featured image: Liu Xiaodong – Image via
    All images used for illustrative purposes only

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Weight of InsomniaChronus Art Center, Shanghai, ChinaSolo
2016What About the Art? Contemporary Art from ChinaQatar Museums Gallery,Doha, Qatar Group
2016Des Artistes Chinois à la Fondation Louis VuittonFoundation Louis Vuitton,Paris, FranceGroup
2015Cross Section of a RevolutionLisson Gallery, London, UKGroup
2015Painting as Shooting Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, ItalySolo
2014Liu Xiaodong in IndonesiaEslite Gallery, Taipei, TaiwanSolo
2014Childhood Friends Getting FatMinsheng Museum, Shanghai, ChinaSolo
2014Liu Xiaodong’s Two ProjectsShao Zhong Foundation Art Museum,Guangzhou, ChinaSolo
201410th Gwangju BiennaleGwangju, South KoreaGroup
2014Asia Triennial ManchesterManchester, UKGroup
20141st Xinjiang International Arts BiennaleUrumqi, ChinaGroup
2014Right Is Wrong: Four Decades of Chinese Art from the M+ Sigg CollectionBildmuseet, Umeå, SwedenGroup
2013Passage to History: 20 Years of La Biennale di Venezia and ChinesenContemporary ArtArsenale di Venezia, Venice, ItalyGroup
2013Experiencing Simplicity: Realistic Paintings from the Long CollectionLongnMuseum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2013Mind Beating55th Venice Biennale, Spazio Thetis, VeniceGroup
2013Host and GuestTel Aviv Art Museum, Tel Aviv, IsraelGroup
2013Portrait of the Times: 30 Years of Contemporary ArtShanghai Contemporary Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2013From Beijing: Works by the Faculty of China Central Academy of Fine ArtsNew York Academy of Art, New York, NY, USAGroup
2013CAFA Professors: Special Exhibition of the Works of Central Academy of FinenArt ProfessorsCentral Academy of Fine Art Museum, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2013Liu Xiaodong: Hometown BoySeattle Art Museum, SeattleSolo
2013Liu Xiaodong's Hotan ProjectToday Art Museum, BeijingSolo
2013Liu Xiaodong: In Between Israel and PalestineMary Boone Gallery, New YorkSolo
2012The Process of PaintingKunsthaus Graz, GrazSolo
2012These Days, Very HappyMassimo De Carlo, MilanoSolo
2011Liu Xiaodong: Hometown BoyEslite Gallery, TaiwanSolo
2010Liu Xiaodong: Hometown BoyUCCA, BeijingSolo
2010Liu Xiaodong: Yan' Guan TownMary Boone Gallery, New YorkSolo
2009Traces: Liu XiaodongAngle Gallery, BeijingSolo
2008Qinghai-Tibet Plateau & Beijing Girls: New Paintings by Liu XiaodongMary Boone Gallery, New YorkSolo
2007Liu Xiaodong Solo ExhibitionEslite Gallery, TaiwanSolo
2007The Richness of Life: The Personal Photographs of Contemporary Chinese ArtistTime Zone 8, BeijingSolo
2007Liu Xiaodong 1984-2006Time Zone 8, BeijingSolo
2007Awakening From a Ten-Year Long Sleep 1997-2007HJY Art Center, BeijingSolo
2006The Three Gorges Project: Painting by Liu XiaodongAsian Art Museum, San FranciscoSolo
2006Hot Bed: A Painting Project by Liu XiaodongTang Gallery, BangkokSolo
2006Liu Xiaodong's New Works: DominoXin Beijing Gallery, BeijingSolo
2006Energy and CharacterShanghai Art Museum, ShangaiSolo
2006Art in MotionMuseum of Contemporary Art, ShanghaiSolo
2005Childhood Friend Getting FatLoft Gallery, ParigiSolo
2004Three Gorges: Displced Population & Three Gorges: Newly Displaced PopulationChinablue Gallery & CAAW, BeijingSolo
2004Eighteen Soldiers Between Mainland and TaiwanBunker Museum of Contemporary Art, TaiwanSolo
2003Liu XiaodongEslite Gallery, TaiwanSolo
2002Liu XiaodongArt Center of Donghai University, TaiwanSolo
2001Liu XiaodongLoft Gallery, ParigiSolo
2000Liu Xiaodong 1990-2000Museum of Central Academy of Fine Arts, BeijingSolo
2000Liu Xiao Dong and His TimeLIMN Gallery, San FranciscoSolo
1990Liu XiadongGallery of Central Academy of Fine Arts, BeijingSolo
2012FaceMinsheng Art Museum, ShanghaiGroup
2011Collecting History: China New ArtMOCA, ChengduGroup
2011A New Horizon: Contemporary Chinese ArtNational Museum of AustraliaGroup
2011Museum on Paper: Twelve Chinese ArtistsIberia Centre for Arts, BeijingGroup
2011Reshaping History: China Art from 2000 to 2009China National Convention Center, BeijingGroup
2010The Force From Central Academy of Fine Arts: Contemporary Art ExhibitionMuseum of Central Academy of Fine Arts, BeijingGroup
2010Thirty Years of Chinese Contemporary Art 1979-2009Minsheng Art Museum, ShanghaiGroup
2010Contemporary Art from China and BelgiumNational Art Museum of China, BeijingGroup
2010Zaoxing: Artwork from the Faculty of the Central Academy of Fine ArtsMuseum of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, BeijingGroup
2010Rehearsal' 2010 Shanghai BiennaleShanghai Art Museum, ShanghaiGroup
2010Fresh InkMuseum of Fine Art, BostonGroup
200910 Biennial HavanaHavanaGroup
2009CollisionCAFA Art Museum, BeijingGroup
2009The Three Gorges Dam and Contemporary Chinese ArtMuseum of Chicago Art Institute, ChicagoGroup
2009The Three Gorges Dam and Contemporary Chinese ArtSalt Lake Art Center, Salt Lake CityGroup
2008China 21CenturyPalazzo delle Esposizioni, RomaGroup
2008Waiting on the Wall: Chinese New Realism and Avant-Garde in the Eighties and NinetiesGroninger Museum, GroningerGroup
2008Half-life of a Dream: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Logan CollectionSFMOMA, San FranciscoGroup
2008Now in ComingArt 3, BeijingGroup
2008Case Studies of Artists in Art History and Art CriticismSZ Art Center, BeijingGroup
2007The Painting of Modern LifeHayward Gallery, LondraGroup
2007Made in ChinaLouisiana Museum of Modern Art, CopenhagenGroup
2007Made in ChinaIsrael Museum, GerusalemmeGroup
2007Energy and CharacterChina Art Museum, BeijingGroup
2007Art Lan @ AsiaZaim, YokohamaGroup
2007China: Facing RealityLudwig Contemporary Museum, ViennaGroup
2007Fcing RealityNational Art Museum of China, BeijingGroup
2006Zones of ContactBiennale of Sydney, SydneyGroup
2006The Blossoming of Realism: Oil Painting of Mainland China Since 1978Taipei Fine Arts Museum, TaipeiGroup
2005History of River: The Chinese Oil Painting Exhibition in New EraArt Museum of China, BijingGroup
20052nd Beijing Biennial Art ExhibitionArt Museum of China, BeijingGroup
2005Wang Guangle, Yin Chaoyang, Men Xinxi, Xia Xiaowan, Liu Xiaodong Art ShowArt 110 Gallery, BeijingGroup
2005The Wall: Reshaping Contemporary Chinese ArtMillennium Art Museum, BeijingGroup
2005Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg CollectionBern MuseumGroup
2004Dreaming of the Dragon's Nation---Contemporary Art Exhibition from ChinaIrish Museum of Modern ArtGroup
2004Regeneration: Contemporary Chinese Art from China and the USSamek Art Gallery, BucknellGroup
2004Feel MemoryYibo Gallery, ShanghaiGroup
2003Alors, La Chine?Centre Pompidou, ParigiGroup
20031th Beijing Biennial Art ExhibitionArt Museum of China, BeijingGroup
20033rd Exhibition of Chinese Oil PantingArt Museum of China, BeijingGroup
2003An Opening EraArt Museum of China, BeijingGroup
2003The Nude: Ideal and Reality, From Neoclassicism to TodayBologna Modern Art Museum, BolognaGroup
2003Premiers Lueurs Sur L' Orient: L' Aventure de la Peinture Chinoise au 20 SieclePalais de la Porte Doree, ParigiGroup
2002A Decade of Experimental Chinese Art - Guangzhou TriennialArt Museum of Guangdong, GuangzhouGroup
2002China Contemporary ArtArt Museum of Brazil, San PaoloGroup
2002Contemporary Chinese ArtGoedhuis Gallery, New YorkGroup
2001China Art NowSingapore Art MuseumGroup
2001Academic and Un-AcademicYibo Gallery, ShanghaiGroup
2001Towards a New Image: 1981-2001, Twenty Years of Contemporary Chinese PaintingMuseum of Contemporary Art, Beijing, ShanghaiGroup
2000Shanghai Spirit, Art ExhibitionShanghai Biennial, ShanghaiGroup
2000China Art in the 20th CenturyArt Museum of China, BeijingGroup
2000The New Face of ChinaRay Hughes Gallery, SydneyGroup
1999Gate of Century: 1979-1999Modern Art Museum of Chengdu, ChengduGroup
19991999 China ArtLIMN Gallery, San FranciscoGroup
1999Dong Yu Museum's CollectionDong Yu Museum, ShenyangGroup
1999Upriver Museum's CollectionHe Xiang-Ning Museum, ShenzhenGroup
1998East Meet East in the WestLIMN Gallery, San FranciscoGroup
1998Representing The PeopleChinese Arts Centre, LondraGroup
1998Upriver Museum's CollectionUpriver Museum, ChengduGroup
199747th Venice Biennial Art ExhibitionBiennale di Venezia, VenziaGroup
19978+8-1Vierte Etage Gallery, BerlinoGroup
19978+8-1Connaught Brown, LondraGroup
19978+8-1Chicago Art Fair, ChicagoGroup
19978+8-1Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong KongGroup
1997Chinese Portrait in the Last 100 YearsArt Museum of China, BeijingGroup
199797 Asia Art ShowArt Summit, DhakaGroup
1996Exhibition of the Association of Chinese Oil PaintersArt Museum of China, BeijingGroup
1995Contemporary Chinese Oil Painting from Realism to Post ModernismBruxellesGroup
1994Between East and West: Transformation of Chinese Art in the Late 20th CenturyThe Discover Museum, BridgeportGroup
1994TransformationMark Tansey, New YorkGroup
1994Liu Xiaodong & Yu Hong's WorksOIPCA, New YorkGroup
1993New Art from China: Post 1989Marlborough Gallery, LondraGroup
1993Red Star Over ChinaKeen Gallery, New YorkGroup
1993Contemporary Chinese PaintingZ Gallery, New YorkGroup
1992Art Today in ChinaCalifornia Art Institute, ValenciaGroup
1992Post 1989 China Avant-GardeArt Museum of China, Hong KongGroup
199120th Century ChinaArt Museum of China, BeijingGroup
1991China Annual Oil Painting ExhibitinArt Museum of China, BeijingGroup
1989Chinese Avant-garde Art ExhibitionArt Museum of China, BeijingGroup
1988The Sketch ExhibitionChina Art Museum, BeijingGroup