Wang Guangyi didn’t have an easy beginning to his artistic career. Even though he is now highly regarded as an originator of China’s post-1989 modern art movement, he spent four years trying to get into college, while working on the railways in rural China, as his father also did. He finally graduated the China Academy of Fine Arts in 1984, aged 27. Guangyi’s genre is known as political pop art. He uses images from old Chinese propaganda from the Cultural Revolution era and mashes it up with advertising from the west. Examples of this oeuvre, known as the ‘Great Criticism’ series, include ‘Porsche’ from 2005 and ‘Materialist’s Art’ from 2006. Another big theme in his work is the North Pole, as a symbol for self-discovery.
A controversial figure in his homeland, Wang Guangyi is well-regarded outside of China, having had exhibitions of his work displayed across Asia, South America and Europe. As a top-selling artist, Guangyi has a level of wealth and lifestyle comfort beyond the imaginings of most other Chinese people, and some see his art as a cynical money-making venture without much artistic merit. Others view it as a necessary critique and reflection on the China of the revolution and where the country is today. Guangyi lives and works in Bejing.