The Zhou Brothers are one of the most accomplished contemporary artists in the world today renowned for their unique collaborative work process. They always work together on their paintings, performances, sculptures, and prints, often communicating without words in a so-called dream dialogue. Their thinking, aesthetic, and creativity are a symbiosis of Eastern and Western philosophy, art, and literature that informed their development since early childhood. Their indomitable spirit allowed them to leave behind their brilliant success in China, where they were hailed as national heroes for their early work, to step onto the world stage. They have since achieved international acclaim while continuing to work in the West.
The Zhou Brothers, Shan Zuo and DaHuang Zhou, were born in China 1952 and 1957 respectively. They studied drama and painting at the University of Shanghai from 1978 to 1982 and the National Academy for Arts and Crafts in Beijing from 1983 to 1984 where they received their MFAs. During the beginning of the 1980s they became leaders of the contemporary art movement in China. In 1985 they won the National Prize of the Chinese Avant-Garde of the Ministry of Culture and the Prize for Creativity from the Peace Corps of the United Nations. They were also honored as the first contemporary artists ever to show their work in an exhibition that traveled to the five largest museums in China, including the National Art Museum of China in Beijing and the art museums in Shanghai and Nanjing.
Realizing that the political and cultural landscape at that time would not allow them to expand their careers, an invitation to exhibit in Chicago in 1986 presented a timely opportunity to make the transition onto an international stage. The Zhou Brothers have consequently maintained their home and studios in Chicago while actively exhibiting their work nationally and abroad. They have held guest professorships at the International Academy for Art and Design at the Fachhochschule in Hamburg, Germany, 1996 and at the Sommerakademie in Salzburg, Austria, from 1996 to today. They received one of the most prestigious fine art awards, the Prize of the Haitland Foundation, Germany, 1996. The most important demonstration of their collaboration is the performance the Zhou Brothers gave during the opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2000. In front of the most important political, economic, and cultural leaders in the world, they created a large-format painting titled New Beginnings to give due treatment to their most important theme, humankind.
Their work has been documented in over 20 books and catalogues and has been collected by private and public institutions world wide. A retrospective exhibition “Zhou Brothers: 30 Years of Collaboration” was organized by the Elmhurst Art Museum and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs on October 2004. Zhou Brothers: 30 Years of Collaboration includes artwork from three major periods of the brothers’ collaboration: China (1973 – 1985), America (1986 – 1993) and Europe and America (1994 – 2003).