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 the 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 the art department, Art Institute of PLA, Beijing, China
1985    Entered oil painting graduate program in the Central University for Nationalities, Beijing, studied under Liu Bingjiang, Luo Yi
1988    MFA in oil painting, the Central University for Nationalities, Beijing, China
1988-90    Associate professor of the art department, the Central University for Nationalities, 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 the United States, Europe, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong to have solo exhibitions
1998    Became US Citizen
2006    Certificate, Modern Art History, Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, USA
2018    Director of the Chinese Program of the Claremont College of Art and Humanities, CA, USA
Curator of exhibition and symposium Transpositions: Malleable Materials, Fluid Forms, and Shifting Contexts, Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, Tianjin, China; Claremont Graduate University, CA, USA
Currently    Advisor for School of Arts and Humanities of Claremont Graduate University, CA, USA
Advisor for Artspace Minneapolis, MN, USA
Advisor for the Institute 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


  • Yi Kai: Impression of Mask and Maskers, The Progress Gallery, Pomona, USA


  • Museum of Art and History Lancaster CA, USA
  • George Cuttress Fine Art, Pomona, CA, USA
  • DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA, USA
  • Calvin Charles Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ, UUSA
  • Gallery Lasietique, Scottsdale, AZ, USA
  • Gallery Lasietique, Scottsdale, USA
  • Museum West Gallery, San Francisco & Palo Alto, CA, USA
  • Yi Kai: Time, Yin & Yang, Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong
  • Dolly Fiterman Fine Arts, Minneapolis, MN, USA
  • Dai Ichi Fine Arts Gallery, New York, USA
  • Museum West Gallery, San Francisco, CA, UUSA
  • Recent Works by Yi Kai, Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong
  • Orchard Point Exhibition Hall, Singapore
  • Nelson/Rovzar Gallery, Seattle, WA, USA
  • Nelson/Rovzar Gallery, Seattle, WA, USA
  • Chinese Art Gallery, San Francisco, CA, USA
  • Larson Gallery, University of Minnesota, USA
  • Crown Art Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
  • National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China


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

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, USA
1999 An example of work to include a lecture by Elizabeth Broun, the Director of the National Museum of American Art Smithsonian Institute (Washington D.C.) in the year 2000, UUSA
2000 Painting included in a lecture given by Elizabeth Broun, Director, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC, USA
2002 Best of the Show, 6th International Art Competition, Estes Park, CO, USA
2005 National Register’s Who’s Who in Executives and Professionals
2020 ITSLIGUID "Artist of the Month" Winner, USA


The Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN, USA
Minnesota Museum of American Arts, Minneapolis, MN, USA
University of St Thomas, MN, USA
Medtronic, Minneapolis, MN, USA       
Key Investment, Minneapolis, MN, USA
The Woman’s Club of Minneapolis, MN, USA
Dolly Fiterman Fine Arts, Minneapolis, MN, USA
Piper Jaffray, Minneapolis, MN, USA
Patterson & Keough PA, Minneapolis, MN, USA
The St Paul Company, Minneapolis, MN, USA
Hearts On Fire, Boston, MA, USA
SAP American, Philadelphia, PA, USA
General Mills Inc, USA
Key Investment Inc, USA
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