The Stars Art Group (Xing Xing)


Founded by Ma Desheng and Huang Rui, the Stars Art Group (xing xing 星星画会) was a foundational movement of the contemporary Chinese avant-garde active in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Mostly self-trained, the Stars championed individualism and freedom of expression both in their work and public activities. Taking personal experience and social issues as their subject matter, they pointedly diverged from state-sanctioned Socialist Realism. The group’s members made history in 1979 when they defied government regulation and mounted an unofficial exhibition in a park adjacent to the National Art Museum in Beijing. When officials closed the exhibition, the group staged a historic protest that became a rallying point for cultural openness in the early years of China’s post–Cultural Revolution political thaw; significantly, they succeeded in reopening the exhibition. The group went on to stage a second public exhibition, though their activities tapered off in the early 1980s, when many members emigrated abroad. The group’s legacy can be seen today in the work of member artists Ai Weiwei, Wang Keping, Li Shuang, Huang Rui, and affiliates Zhang Hongtu and Zhang Wei.