Born in Beijing in 1960, Wang Gongxin was trained as an oil painter in a socialist-realist style. He taught at the Beijing Normal University for five years and, in 1988, he was a visiting scholar at State University in New York. It was whilst there with his wife and fellow artist, Lin Tianmiao, that he first encountered video art. He began to produce video art in 1993 and, two years later, returned to Beijing where he was one of the driving forces in the avant-garde movement along with his friend and colleague Zhang Peili. Wang Gongxin turned his home and, later, a corner of a relative’s restaurant, into a gallery where fellow artists could meet and exhibit. He is credited as one of the first artists to have created a site-specific video installation in China in the mid-1990s. As a first generation Chinese video artist, Wang Gongxin has commented that his concerns are ‘social’ and concerned with political and social issues, as well as history and tradition. Wang Gongxin often displays a subtle humour in his work subverting viewer’s expectations by turning seemingly ordinary situations upside down. As the critic Pi Li has noted, Wang Gongxin’s work ‘doesn’t escape reality, but many of his pieces make reality just a little lighter’.
Wang Gongxin has exhibited at major institutions around the world, such as The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo (1997), the 25th Sao Paulo Biennial (2001), the 49th Venice Biennial (2001), Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin (2001), the 1st Guangzou Triennial (2002), Museum of Asia Society in New York (2004) and Victoria and Albert Museum in London (2005).