LACMA Adds Zeng Fanzhi’s Untitled (2018) to its Contemporary Chinese Collection

Zeng Fanzhi, Untitled, 2018, oil on canvas. 

LOS ANGELES——The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) announced the acquisition of Zeng Fanzhi’s Untitled (2018) to its permanent collection. The museum purchased the painting with funds generously donated by Dominic and Ellen Ng. In the past year the museum has strengthened its holdings in Chinese art with major acquisitions including the promised gift of Gérard and Dora Cognié’s collection of global contemporary ink paintings and calligraphy. The addition of Zeng’s painting will further strengthen the museum’s growing contemporary Chinese art collection. Zeng’s painting will be on view at LACMA March 2019 in the Ahmanson Building. 

“In recent years, LACMA has been building relationships with partners in China while deepening our commitment to the study, interpretation, and display of Chinese art, particularly contemporary art made by Chinese artists,” said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “Dominic and Ellen are steadfast supporters of LACMA and our collaborations with Chinese arts institutions and artists. Their exemplary support for the acquisition of Zeng Fanzhi’s Untitled to LACMA’s growing collection of contemporary Chinese art underscores their commitment to Chinese art and artists, both in the United States and China.

“Zeng Fanzhi is one of the leading figures in the Chinese art world today, and this monumental painting is a major addition to LACMA’s permanent collection. We are deeply grateful to Dominic and Ellen Ng for their generosity in introducing such a compelling work and artist to LACMA’s collection. In the past two years, LACMA has greatly strengthened its collection of contemporary Chinese art. As we turn the corner into 2019, we look forward to the March unveiling of this magnificent painting, the June 2nd opening of the exhibition The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China, our engagement with the Yuz Museum in Shanghai, and the promised gift of 400 works of contemporary ink painting from the Gérard and Dora Cognié Collection,” said Stephen Little, Florence and Harry Sloan curator of Chinese art and department head, Chinese and Korean art, LACMA. 

“I believe that art can help bridge cultures and promote mutual understanding between people with different perspectives,” says Dominic Ng, Chairman and CEO of East West Bank. “Chinese contemporary art has emerged as one of the most compelling areas of the global art landscape. The addition of a piece by Zeng Fanzhi—who is considered by many to be China’s greatest living artist—exemplifies Michael Govan’s vision to showcase a broad range of artistic voices and contributes to the ongoing cultural exchange between the East and the West.” 

About the Artwork 

Zeng Fanzhi’s Untitled (2018) marks a carefully considered turn to the abstract for the artist, who emerged in the 1990s with his tense, brooding paintings of hospital scenes and urban Chinese men hiding their faces behind masks. This painting, one in a series of four new abstract landscapes, is monumental in size at nearly nine by twelve feet. Untitled continues Zeng’s current work that aims to blur the strict boundary between figuration and abstraction. Recent paintings that explore this approach include a series of shadowy landscapes thickly foregrounded with sharp branches, and a series referencing Vincent van Gogh’s self-portraits with loose, unraveling ropes of paint—exhibited at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing in 2016 and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2017. 

Zeng has consistently mirrored and commented on the scale and speed of social, cultural, and technological transformation in China that has sometimes resulted in repression and conformity, experimenting and adapting his technique and formal decisions along the way. Zeng has adopted a Daoist approach to his mark-making, considering both the physical process and meditative release of painting. 

Portrait of Zeng Fanzhi. Photography by Li Zhenhua © 2018 Zeng Fanzhi 曾梵志肖像图。摄影:Li Zhenhua © 2018 曾梵志

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