Pan Gongkai, former president of China Academy of Art (Zhongguo meishu xueyuan) and, more recently, president of China Central Academy of Fine Arts (Zhongyang meishu xueyuan), namely, the two major art institutions in China, is having his first museum show in the United States at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle (through January 18).
Pan is the son of Pan Tianshou, one of the titans of twentieth-century art in China, and himself former head of the China Academy of Art, in fact a leader of that institution through its many iterations. The sheer tempestuousness of that experience in China’s modern history impacted the elder Pan severely, bringing about his untimely death during the Cultural Revolution. Pan Gongkai’s commitment, in other words, to a neoclassical medium and style of large-scale semi-abstract lotus flowers (come landscapes) has been forged out of rather bitter experience on a personal level.
This can be seen in the painting even without benefit of Jo-Ann Birnie Danzker’s excellent if short catalogue that accompanies the show.
Though this is Pan’s first museum show, versions of his work have been on display in the US recently, most recently in an exhibition entitled Melt in September courtesy of the Confucius Institute at University of Michigan:
That project in turn derives from Pan’s 2011 installation in the China Pavilion at the Venice Biennale: