SHAO FAN China, b. 1964


Shao Fan was born the son of accomplished painters who, as professors of art at China's foremost art academy, found themselves being assigned to paint propaganda for Mao Zedong.


His art tutelage began at the age of three years with Western influences. As his art matured he had to re-learn to be a Chinese artist, free of the pervasive outside influences espoused by many contemporary artists and academics. Remembering family in the traditional courtyard house of his childhood has been central to his reconnections with his Chinese culture and heritage. "The design for this [King] chair has been based on a traditional round chair ('yuan yi'), which is usually associated with high status, reflected also by the position the chair takes in the household." (V&A Museum)


He is now acknowledged as one of the first - Ai Weiwei, his good friend, being the other - Chinese artists to deconstruct furniture, walking the fine line between art and design. Shao's  love and knowledge of traditional techniques in wood and porcelain, and the formal style of Ming dynasty (1368-1644) furniture used in combination with modern materials "…deftly blends East and West with the contemporary and the traditional. His work seeks a balance among from, function, elegance and the serenity of nature." (New York Times, 'Beijing Modern' 7.11.08)


His work has the deceptive immediacy of the stroke of script on a page and our interest in Chinese ideograms partly explain the resonance of his designs outside China, but above all it is the combination of these elements coming together in such harmony which is the compelling appeal of the 'King' chair.


Exhibited: 'Subversive Design' Exhibition, Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, 12 October 2013 - 9 March 2014


Companion chair designs from Shao Fan's 'King' series are in the permanent collection of the V&A Museum.