Zhang Xiaogang: Bloodlines and Family

In 1993, Zhang Xiaogang began the Bloodline series, which comprises some of the most iconic images in Chinese contemporary art. In this video, he explains how his discovery of family photographs—thought to have been lost because many albums were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution—inspired these paintings.

In the series, Zhang makes little distinction between male and female facial features, suggesting an indifference to individuality. He established a clear identity as an artist by shedding Western aesthetics to focus on personal narrative and collective memory.

Oil painting on canvas of a family portrait of two adults, a man and a woman, and two children, a girl and a boy, their lips are closed, they do not smile.

Zhang Xiaogang, Bloodline Series- Big Family No. 17-1998, 1998, oil on canvas. M+ Sigg Collection, Hong Kong. By donation. © Zhang Xiaogang