The present publication traces the development of avant-garde art in China since the 1980s through the careers of nine artists who are being regarded as pioneers in the field of Chinese contemporary art. In explaining her choice of artists, the author, Karen Smith, writes, 'They are creative pioneers, impetuous performers and fly-by-night philosophers who changed the face of art in China. All continue to be a vital force in what is happening now. By the early 2000s, these leading avant-garde artists exerted as much, if not more influence on domestic art circles than western role models like Gerhard Richter or Damien Hirst whose art defined new realms for conceptual pictorial language and understanding physical materials for Chinese artists in the 1990s. Their lives illustrate their differing experiences, and the diverse impulses they bring to creating artworks. Subsequent generations have raised the aesthetic bar but the uniqueness of much of the early avant-garde art—specifically works produced by these nine artists—that was dictated by the aura of the times, remains unsurpassed.'

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Chapter headings
Section 1 Embrace! Prevailing Ideologies, New Philosophies
Wang Guangyi: From Mao to Now
Geng Jianyi: Who is He?
Fang Lijun: Swim or Sink
Section 2 Adopt! Alternative Lifestyles and Taboos
Gu Dexin: 27.02.1962
Li Shan: Nowhere without Mao
Zhang Xiaogang: In the Gents
Section 3 Conquer! New Ground and Technology
Xu Bing: In a Word
Zhang Peili: Candid Video
Wang Jianwei: Does Grey Matter?
Nine Lives: The Birth of Avant-Garde Art in New China
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Nine Lives: The Birth of Avant-Garde Art in New China

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