the stars 星星

contemporary chinese avant-garde

LATE 1970s AND EARLY 1980s

Initiated by Huang Rui and cofounded by Ma Desheng, the Stars Art Group (Xing Xing 星星) 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 on the railings of the National Art Museum in Beijing.

The group’s main leaders were Huang Rui, Ma Desheng, Wang Keping, Qu Lei Lei, and Yan Li. Members included Ai Weiwei, Bo Yun, Li Shuang, Mao Lizi, Shao Fei, Wang Luyan, Yang Yiping, Zhong Acheng(Ah Cheng), Zhang Hongtu, Zhang Wei, Zhao Gang and Zhu Jinshi.

The artworks of The Stars Art Group were born from the defiance of their youth. These avant-garde artists challenged the status quo to initiate free artistic expression in the post-Mao era. Their works were a voice of the future within a China that was on the verge of transformation.

The stars group, Chinese contemporary avant-garde
From left to right : Wang Keping, Ma Desheng, Yan Li, Qu Leilei and Huang Rui in Huang Rui’s courtyard, 1980. Photograph by Joan Lebold Cohen. © Stars Art Foundation 

historical exhibitions

  • 1979 September 27-28th, FIRST STARS ART EXHIBITION

    An unauthorized exhibition hung on the gates of the National Art Museum of China in Beijing. (outlawed after two days)

  • 1979 November 23rd- December 2nd, Beihai Park Stars Exhibition

    A continuation of the First Stars Art exhibition hosted in Huafangzhai, the space of the Beijing Artists’ Association. It attracted approximately 33,000 visitors. 

  • 1980 August 24th - September 14th SECOND STARS ART EXHIBITION

    National Art Museum of China, Beijing The National. Art Museum exhibition was the culmination of the Stars artists’ aspirations. The act of presenting their work in the museum gave a certain credibility to the movement.


Wang Keping talking about The Stars Art Group

Language : Chinese with English subtitles

Jade le Masne de Chermont, Production : 10 Chancery Lane Gallery



the stars exhibition - 40th anniversary

press and other ressources

  • Wang Keping talking about the stars group
    Video - 10 Chancery Lane Gallery production - watch the video
    Press - M - Le Magazine du Monde n°423, Oct. 26, 2019, p. 46-51 - read the article
  • portrait of a chinese artist
    Press - South China Morning Post - 1979 - read the article
  • eroding mao's legacy
    Press - Newsweek - Oct 15th 1979 - read the article
  • Liberalisation with limits
    Press - Asiaweek 1979 - read the article
  • Peking permits once-banned exhibit of new art
    Press - New York Times Peking Oct. 19, 1979 - read the article
  • chinese sculptor ridicules mao's ubiquitous red book
    Press - New York Times 1979 - read the article
  • the former red guard
    Press - Time Nov. 10, 1980 - read the article
  • dim stars over china
    Press - Newsweek 1986 - read the article