Zhang Dali Chinese, b. 1963

Zhang Dali describes himself as an artist looking for “ways to express reality beyond reality”. Reality of a nation and of a people that have been through transformations of considerable magnitude in recent decades. A teenager during the Cultural Revolution, a student at Beijing Academy of Art and Design in the 1980s, as the country was gradually opening up to the market economy, Zhang Dali witnessed the rise of modern China. Then in the early 90s, he moved for some years to Bologna, in Italy.


As he returned to Beijing in 1995, he was shocked to discover that the city had been turned into a permanent construction site. The hutongs, these old working-class neighborhoods in the heart of the capital where people used to live a traditional and communitarian way of life, were being methodically torn down to make room for the buildings and infrastructures of a new economic paradigm.


For years, on the walls of these districts soon to be demolished, Zhang Dali used black spray paint to outline the profile of a giant face. A work inspired by graffiti, which he came across during his stay in Italy, making Zhang the first Chinese contemporary artist to ever appropriate this particular means of expression associated with urban art. Dialogue and Demolition was the name given to this long-term project - more than 2,000 faces in total, mostly produced between 1995 and 1998. “I needed to enter into conversation with the city," he said.


Dialogue and Demolition contains the seeds of all the vocabulary, all the major themes he kept on developing thereafter: memory, China’s attitude towards its past, the fate of the less fortunate, the mechanisms of power and domination at play in society. We see all of these issues reappear in later works that are equally ambitious, equally emblematic, like One Hundred Chinese, a series of plaster casts bearing the likeness of a hundred migrant workers, blue collars from poor inner regions enrolled in the vast construction programs of the big cities, new figures of the modern proletariat. Or like the AK-47 series, a set of portraits of the same underprivileged people painted on canvas in a photorealistic way, except that here, each image is composed entirely of the repetition of the word AK-47, symbol of violence and conflict par excellence.


For each new project, just as he probes deeper into his themes of predilection, Zhang Dali explores new mediums. In A Second History, he uncovers fake photographs previously featured in the press, pointing out falsifications, looking for the original pictures, just like an archivist. Inspired by the work of Czech writer Milan Kundera on Communist Bohemia, Zhang reveals not only "a second history", but also the sort of relationships that exist between political fiction and reality.


In World's Shadows, his approach is yet entirely different. He uses cyanotype, a photographic technique, to fix to paper blurred silhouettes that seem diluted in blue ink. Here the viewer finds himself in a world much more dreamy and ethereal than in the previous works by the artist. A series where, beyond the context of China, the contemplation of time invites to a broader reflection about the impermanence of things, prompting questions of universal significance.


Zhang Dali was born in Harbin, Northern China, in 1963. He graduated in 1987 from Beijing National Academy of Fine Arts and Design. A major contemporary artist, his work is regularly exhibited by prestigious institutions like the MoMA and the MET in New York, the Venice Biennale, or the Shanghai Center of Photography. His work is featured, among others, in the collections of the MoMA, the British Museum in London, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. He lives in Beijing.


Selected Solo Shows



Zhang Dali, Fondanatico, Bologna, Italy

Meta-morphosis, Palazzo Fava, Bologna, Italy
AK-47 Di Zhang Dali, Art City, S. Giorgio in Poggiale, Bologna, Italy
Monumental Nature, Pékin Fine Arts, Beijing, China
Beside City! Be Cityside!, Hefei Financial Harbor, Hefei, China

Body and Soul, Beelden aan Zee, The Hague, Holland

Permanence and Impermanence – New Works by Zhang Dali, Beijing Minsheng Art Museum, Beijing, China

Zhang dali: under the sky, Pekin Fine Arts, Beijing, China
A Second History, MACBA - Museum of Contemporary Art, Buenos Aires, Argentina
A Second History, Red Brick Factory Art District, Guangzhou, China
A Second History, Photomonth, Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology, Krakow, Poland
From Reality to Extreme Reality Zhang Dali Retrospective Research Exhibitions, United Museum, Wuhan, China
Zhang Dali ? World's Shadows
, Ludwisburg Kunstverein, Ludwisburg, Germany

Square, K Space, Chengdu, China
A Second History, Singapore ArtScience Museum, Singapore

Second History, Luxun Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Shenyang, China


Demolition: Second History, The Charles Shain Library, Connecticut College, New London, Connecticut, United States

Extreme Reality, Tank Loft, Chongqing Contemporary Art Centre, Chongqing, China
Zhang Dali Solo Show, Magda Danysz Gallery, Shanghai, China
The Second History, Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China


Pervasion: Works by Zhang dali (1995-2008), He Xianaing Art Museum, Shenzhen, China
Il Sogno Proibito Della Nuova Cina, Palazzo Inghilterra, Turin, Italy
The Second History, Space SZ Gallery, Shanghai, China

Chinese Offspring, Galerie Chinoise contemporaine, New York, New York, United States

Zhang Dali: Image and Revision in New Chinese Photography, Janet Wallace Fine Arts Centre, Macalester College, St.Paul, Minnesota, United States
A Second History, Ferst Center For The Arts, Georgia Institute Of Technology, Georgia, United States

Wash Painting Exhibition by Zhang Dali, Gallery of the National Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China

Selected Group Shows

New Art History, Moca, Yinchuan, China
Golden Panda Photography Awards, Contemporary Image Museum, Chengdu, China
A Fairy Tale in Red Times, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
NordArt 2019, Kunstwerk Carlshütte, Büdelsdorf, Germany
Shenzhen International Beach Sculpture Festival, Golden Sand Beach, Shenzhen, China
Bubble-Profile of Time, Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center, Shanghai, China
The 8th Dali International Photography Exposition, Dali, China
Graffiti-The Prose of Freedom, China Check Art Museum, Beijing, China
180 Years of Photography in China, Moca, Yinchuan, China
A Confrontation of Ideas, Anren Biennale, Anren, China
Nord Art 2018, Kunswerk Carlshuerre, Buedelsdorf, Germany
Art From The Streets, ArtScience Museum, Singapore
The Fuck Off Generation: Chinese Art In The Post-Mao Era, Ethan Cohen Gallery, New York, USA
Travelers: Stepping into the Unknown, The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan
Ambush on All Sides - An Alternative Intervention in Social Vision, Museum of Sichuan Fine Art Institute, Chongqing, China
Herbstsalon ’18 – Brücken Fremder Flüsse, MDR TV Station, Magdeburg, Germany        

“Street generations(s) 40 years of urban art”, La Condition Publique, Lille, France
“Working on History. Chinese Photography and the Cultural Revolution”, State Museum, Berlin, Germany

Global Street art, CAFA museum, Beijing, China

Audacious: Contemporary Artists Speak Out, Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado, United States

The Civil Power
, Beijing Minsheng Art Museum, Beijing, China
Community Implant Plan, Chengdu Jinjiang Museum, Chengdu, China
Suddenly Enlightened ? Chinese and German Conceptual Art Comparative Research Exhibition
, United Museum, Wuhan, China

Lianzhou Photo Festival Photography in the Post Media EraMIA Singapore Marina Bay Booth D-6West Says East Says ? Chinese Contemporary Art Research Exhibition, United Art Museum, Wuhan, China
Phnom Penh Photo Festival, Cambodia
Chinese Contemporary Photography? Mingsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, China
, 21c Museum, Louisville, Kentucky, USA
De Heus-Zomers Collection of Chinese Contemporary Art, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Holland

Individual Growth-Momentum of Contemporary Art, Tianjin Art Museum, Tianjin, China
Voice of the Unseen, Collateral Event at the 55th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy
Aura and Post Aura, The First Beijing International Photography Biennale, Millennium Museum, Beijing, China
Hot Pot: A Taste of Contemporary Chinese Art, Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, Brattleboro, Vermont, United States
Incarnations, Institute Confucius des Pais de la Loire, Angers, France
Fuck Off 2, Groninger Museum, Groningen, Holland
Re-Ink, Invitational Exhibition, Hubei Museum of Art, Wuhan, China
The Nature of Things, Magda Danysz Gallery, Shanghai, China
World's Shadows, Photo Phnom Penh 2013, Royal University of Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Spectacle Reconstruction, Budapest Art Museum, Budapest, Hungary

The Unseen at Guangzhou Triennial, Guangdong Art Museum Guangzhou, China

Body Double: The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture, The Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States
Omen-2012, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, China
Faking It: Manipulated Phototgraphy Before Photoshop, The Metropolitan Museum Of Art, New York, New York, United States
Raze, Peking Fine Arts, Pékin, China

New Photography 2011, The Museum Of Modern Art, New York, New York, United States
Speech Matters, The 54th International Art Exhibition Of The Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy
Black And White, Zero Art Museum, Beijing, China
The Life And Death Of Buildings, Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey, United States
Guan Xi, Guangdong Museum Of Art, Guangzhou, China
Self Camera, Changwon Asia Art Festival, Seongsan Art Hall, South Korea
The Evolving Art, Academy Of Arts and Design at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
Guanxi, Today Museum, Beijing ChinaStart from the Horizon-China Contemporary Sculpture since 1978, Si Shang Art Museum, Beijing, China
Photo Spring Caochangdi-Arles in Beijing, Beijing, China
Image History Existence ---Taikanglife 15th Anniversary art collection Exhibition, National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China

Is The World Real? 6th Lianzhou International Photo Festival, Lianzhou, China
The Original Copy: Photography Of A Sculpture, 1839 to Today, MOMA, New York, New York, United States
Exhibition Exhibition, Castello di Rivoli Museo De Arte Contemporanea, Turin, Italy
Four Dimensions, Hong Kong Photo Festival, Hong Kong, China
Zhang Dali: A Second History 41st Edition Of Les Recontres d'Arles, Espace Van Gogh, Arles France
A Decade-Long Exposure, Central Academy Of Arts Museum, Beijing, China
Great Performance, Pace, Pékin, China
Ame de Chine, Magda Danysz Gallery, Paris, France
From New York To Beijing: Graffiti-Blogging In The Street- Blade and Zhang Dali, C-Space, Beijing, China
Reshaping History- China Art from 2000-2009, National Conference Centre, Beijing, China
China's Soul, Magda Danysz Gallery, Paris, France

Calligraffiti: Writing in Contemporary Chinese and Chicano Art," Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, California, United States
Stairway to Heaven:From Chinese Streets to Monuments and Skyscrappers, Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri, United States
The Very Condition, Wall Art Museum, Beijing, China
Images From History, Shenzhen Art Museum, Shenzen, China
Collision, Central Academy Of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing, China
Transforming Traditions, Galerie Victoria H. Myhren, University Of Denver, Colorado, United States
From Style Writing To Art- Street Art Group Show, Galerie 18, Shanghai, China

Five Years Of Duolun, Shanghai Duolun Museum Of Modern Art, Shanghai, China
The Revolution Continues: New Art From China, Galerie Saatchi, London, England
Logan Collection, San Francisco MOMA, Californie, United States
China Gold, Musee Maillol, Paris, France
The Avant Garde in the 80's and 90's of the last Century in China, Groningen Museum, Netherlands
Re-Imaging Asia:Asian Coordinates, House Of World Cultures, Berlin, Germany
Christian Dior & Chinese Artists, UCCA, Beijing, China

Unexpected: Out Of Control, Ku Art Center, Beijing, China
All of our Tomorrows: The Culture of Camouflage, Kunstraum der Universität, Lünenburg, Germany
China Now, Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Red Hot, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, United States
Three Unitary, DDM, Shanghai, China
Past Forward, Oriental Vista Art Collections, Shanghai, China

China Now, Essl Museum, Vienna, Austria
Radar: Selections from the Collection of Kent and Vicki Logan, Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado, United States
Fever Variations, 6th Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, South Korea
Great Performance, Max Protetch, New York, New York, United States

Wall, Millennium Museum, Beijing, China
Chinese Contemporary Sculpture Exhibition, Museum Beelden aan Zee, Scheveningen, Netherlands
New Photography and Video from China, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England

Between Past and Future, International Center for Photography, New York, New York, United States

Festival Internazionale di Roma, L'Officina-Arte del Borghetto, Rome, Italy
China-Germany Art, Factory 798, Beijing, China
The Logan Collection, Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado, United States

International Photography Festival, Pingyao, China
The First Guangzhou Triennial, Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China
Asia in the World, ARCO, Madrid, Spain

China Art Now, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore

Contemporary Chinese Photography, Finland Museum of Photography, Helsinki, Finland
Contemporary Chinese Photography, Oulu Art Museum, Oulu, Finland
HOT POT, Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, Norway

Thought Brand Meat Mincer, Performance Dongsi 8 Tiao, Beijing, China
Serendipity, The Japan Foundation Asia Center, Tokyo, Japan

FUCK OFF, Galerie Eastlink, Shanghai, China
Artistes Contemporains Chinois, Musée des Tapisseries, Aix-en-Provence, France

Transparence Opacite?, Valle d'Aosta, Italy

Food for Thought, Eindhoven, Holland
Beijing in London ICA, London, England
Chinese Contemporary Photography, Bard College, New York, New York, United States
Unveiled Reality- Chinese Contemporary Photography, Chulalongkom University Museum, Bangkok, Thailand
The world is yours! Design Museum, performance, Beijing, China
hsin: a visible spirit, Cypress College, California, United States

Galerie Chinoise contemporaine, London, England
Urbanity, Wang Shou Temple Art Museum, Beijing, China
Lehman College, New York, New York, United States
11th Tallinn Triannual, Tallinn, Estonia

W ²+ Z ²- Multi-media and video Exhibition, Academy of Fine Arts, Gallery of the National Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China

La Formazione della Terra, Goethe Institute Gallery, Turin, Italy

Graphic Arts Experimentation Laboratory, Bologna, Italy

Zona Internazionale, Neon Gallery, Bologna, Italy
Arte Deperibile, Spazio Cultura Navile, Bologna, Italy

Collettiva di artisti cinesi, Il Sigillo Gallery, Padua, Italy

Pittura su Carta, Galleria Comunale, Ferrara, Italy

Wash Painting Salon in Peking, Capital Museum (Confucius Temple), Beijing, China

Three Men Show, Sun Yat-sen Park, Beijing, China