Li Kai was born in Beijing in 1947. He graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts Preparatory School in 1967 and at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution was sent to a remote region near the Huliu River to work at hard labor. In 1974 he was permitted to return to Beijing and served as a restorationist at the Forbidden City where he remained past the Cultural Revolution until 1982. Since that time he has supported himself solely as an artist. He has had numerous one-man exhibitions throughout China and has exhibited his work in France and Algeria. In 2001 he had a solo exhibit at the International Art Center, Beijing and in 2005 was included in the Exhibition of Beijing Landscapes. Li Kai’s studies of the Forbidden City were published in a monograph entitled, The Mysterious Forbidden City. He currently lives in Beijing where he is a professional painter.
Palace Door, 1987
Oil on Board
39" x 31" (99cm x 79cm)
About this work
Li Kai was an artist in residence at the Forbidden City for eight years. In 1974, during the Cultural Revolution, he was assigned there as a restorationist, cleaning and repairing paintings and other art within the Palace grounds. He lived in a small apartment that had existed for centuries and every day as he returned to it he would pass by a gate that somehow left a deep impression on him. When he made “Palace Door” the gate was just as it is shown, worn by time and missing some of the large gold-plated nails. There are nearly 1000 doors or gates to the Forbidden City, but Li Kai thinks this one must be at least 500 years old, and to him it holds the entire history of the place.