Yi Kai

1955 Changsha, China


Born in 1955 Changsha, China, Yi Kai showed an affinity for art and drawing at an early age. In 1970, at the age of fifteen he was drafted into the People’s Army at the height of the Cultural Revolution, and spent nine years building railways in the countryside and creating art propaganda for the People’s Republic of China. In 1979, he was chosen as one of thirty-five from four thousand applicants to attend the Art Institute of the Army of China in Beijing earning a Bachelors of Fine Arts in traditional Chinese painting. During the late 1970s and early 1980s as China opened to the West, he became exposed to Western culture, particularly American culture. In 1985, Yi Kai attained his Masters of Fine Arts from the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing. In 1989, he immigrated to the United States. During the last twenty years Yi Kai’s art has transitioned from his artistic education in China to abstract and colourful works that reflect the influence of American culture and expression that inform his current direction.


Alisan Fine Arts first exhibited Yi Kai’s works in 1990 as part of Landscapes, Figures, Flowers & Birds: Variation from China held at the Hong Kong Arts Centre. Since then the gallery has organised three solo exhibitions for the artist. More recently in 2015, the gallery presented What Goes Around Goes Around a travelling solo exhibition, which visited Claremont Graduate University in California and 53 Art Museum in Guangzhou before coming to Alisan Fine Arts. In a letter to the gallery he noted, “in the autumn of 1984, Liu Jian, my colleague at university, introduced me to Mrs. King who was in Beijing for a business trip. At first, I felt nervous but after having met her, I realised she treated people as equals. Her thoughtful and elegant temperament impressed me. My friendship with Mrs. King over the years has been based on her treating people equally, with good intentions and respect.”


Yi Kai’s paintings have been collected by the Minnesota Museum of American Arts, Minneapolis Institute of Art; SAP American, Philadelphia; Museum of Fu Tan Po, Osaka; Beijing Art Institute; and Hang Seng Bank, Hong Kong to name a few.

1955        Born in Changsha, Hunan, China

1970        Joined People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA) to create propaganda art

1977        Selected by the Army to be the curator of the exhibition celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the China Army at National Art Museum of China, Beijing

1979        Transferred to Art Institute of PLA to establish fine arts department

                Studied Chinese painting in Art Institute of PLA, Beijing, China, under the masters Liu Dawei, Lin Fan, Liu Tiancheng and Shi Guoliang

1981        Enrolled in Chinese Artists Association, China

1983-85   After graduation, became Assistant professor of art department, Art Institute of PLA, Beijing, China

1985        Entered oil painting graduate program in Minzu University of China, studied under Liu Bingjiang, Luo Yi

1988        MFA in oil painting, Minzu University of China, Beijing, China

1988-90   Associate professor of art department, Minzu University of China, Beijing, China

1990        Went to San Francisco and finally settled in Minneapolis, United States, a full time artist and visiting professor

                Since then has been travelling across United States, Europe, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong to have solo exhibitions

1998        US Citizen

2006        Certificate, Modern Art History, Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, United States
2018        Director of the Chinese Program of the Claremont College of Art and Humanities, CA, United States
                Curator of exhibtion and symposium Transpositions: Malleable Materials, Fluid Forms, and Shifting Contexts, Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, Tianjin, China; Claremont Graduate University, CA, United States

Currently Advisor for School of Arts and Humanities of Claremont Graduate University, CA, United States

                Advisor for Artspace Minneapolis, MN, United States

                Advisor for the Insititue of Deep Sea Research & Engineering of Sciences Academy of China

                Advisor for 53 Art Museum and Gallery Magazine, Guangzhou, China

                Lives and works in Los Angeles, USA; Guangzhou, China


Selected Solo Exhibitions

  • What Goes Around Goes Around, New Works by Yi Kai, Travelling Exhibition, Claremont Graduate University, California, United States; 53 Art Museum, Guangzhou, China; Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong
  • Museum of Art and History Lancaster CA, United States
  • George Cuttress Fine Art, Pomona, CA, United States
  • DeCordova Museum, Lincol, MA, United States
  • Calvin Charles Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ, United States
  • Gallery Lasietique, Scottsdale, AZ, United States
  • Gallery Lasietique, Scottsdale, United States
  • Museum West Gallery, San Francisco & Palo Alto, CA, United States
  • Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong
  • Dolly Fiterman Fine Arts, Minneapolis, MN, United States
  • Dai Ichi Fine Arts Gallery, New York, United States
  • Museum West Gallery, San Francisco, CA, United States
  • Recent Works, Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong
  • Orchard Point Exhibition Hall, Singapore
  • Nelson/Rovzar Gallery, Seattle, WA, United States
  • Nelson/Rovzar Gallery, Seattle, WA, United States
  • Chinese Art Gallery, San Francisco, CA, United States
  • Larson Gallery, University of Minnesota, United States
  • Crown Art Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
  • National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China

Selected Group Exhibitions

  • Los Angeles International Art Expo, CA, United States
  • 33rd International Exhibition, The San Diego Watercolor Society, CA, United States
  • Los Angeles International Art Expo, CA, United States
  • San Francisco International Art Expo, CA , United States
  • George Cuttress Fine Arts, Pomona, CA, United States  
  • University of St Thomas Gallery, St Paul, MN, United States
  • Faster Gallery, University of Wisconsin, WI, United States
  • George Cuttress Fine Arts, Pomona, CA, United States
  • CCAA Museum of Art, Rancho Cucamonga, CA, United States
  • Koehler Gallery, CA, United States
  • OCCOA Gallery, Orange County, CA, United States
  • Brand 36 Works on Paper, Glendale, GA, United States
  • Powers Gallery, Acton, MA, United States
  • Powers Gallery, Acton, MA, United States
  • Gallery North Star, Grafton, VT, United States
  • New American Drawing 2003, Sante Fe, NM, United States
  • Minnesota Historical Museum, MN, United States
  • Plains Art Museum, Fargo, ND, United States
  • Drawing III International Juried Art Exhibition, Omaha, NE, United States
  • 6th International Art Competition, Estes Park, CO, United States
  • Lew Allen Contemporary, Santa Fe, United States
  • Gallery 8, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, CA, United States
  • Three Visual Voices, Dolly Fiterman Fine Arts, MN, United States
  • Susan Conway Gallery, Washington DC, United States
  • Minnesota Museum of American Art, MN, United States
  • Dolly Fiterman Fine Arts, Minneapolis, MN, United States
  • Minneapolis Institute of Arts, MN, United States
  • National Art Museum of Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico
  • National Art Education Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
  • General Mills Inc, MN, United States
  • Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong                
  • Variation from China: Landscapes, Figures, Flowers & Birds, Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong Art Centre, Hong Kong
  • Three-man Exhibition, National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China
  • East Art Gallery, New York, United States
  • Twenty paintings exhibited in 17 Chinese National Art Exhibitions, China

Selected Awards

1980 Two Bronze Medals for two paintings, China National Youth Art Exhibition, Beijing, China

1985 Award of Excellence, Beijing Art Exhibition, Beijing, China

1996 Curator Choice, MCAD Art Auction, Minneapolis, MN, United States

1999 An example of a work to be include a lecture by Elizabeth Broun, the Director of National Museum of American Art Smithsonian Institute (Washington D.C.) in year 2000, United States

2000 Painting included in a lecture given by Elizabeth Broun, Director, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC, United States

2002 Best of the Show, 6th International Art Competition, Estes Park, CO, United States

2005 National Register’s Who’s Who in Executives and Professionals


Selected Public Collections

The Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN, United States

Minnesota Museum of American Arts, Minneapolis, MN, United States

University of St Thomas, MN, United States

Medtronic, Minneapolis, MN, United States       

Key Investment, Minneapolis, MN, United States

The Woman’s Club of Minneapolis, MN, United States

Dolly Fiterman Fine Arts, Minneapolis, MN, United States

Piper Jaffray, Minneapolis, MN, United States

Patterson & Keough PA, Minneapolis, MN, United States

The St Paul Company, Minneapolis, MN, United States

Hearts On Fire, Boston, MA, United States

SAP American, Philadelphia, PA, United States

General Mills Inc, United States

Key Investment Inc, United States

Warwick Hotel, Paris, France    

LeeFon Corporation, Singapore          

Museum of Fu Tan Po, Osaka, Japan      

Beijing Art Institute, Beijing, China

China Times Newspaper, Taipei, Taiwan

Dorsey & Whitney Office, Hong Kong

Hang Seng Bank, Hong Kong