Chen Shaoxiong was born in Shantou, Guangdong province, China in 1962 and lived and worked in Beijing until his death in 2016. Chen graduated from the Print Department at Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 1984. Chen worked both independently and as a member of two artist collectives, “Project without Space” and “Xijing Men.” In 2007 Chen founded “Xijing Men” with Tsuyoshi Ozawa and Gim Hongsok, while in 1990 he was a founding member of the Big Tail Elephant Group.
The Big Tail Elephant Group is an artist collective founded in 1990 by Lin Yilin, Chen Shaoxiong, and Liang Juhui and later joined by Xu Tan. The group formed in Guangzhou, China, with an interest in urban development and the rapid transformation of modern cities, Guangzhou being among the earliest cities in China to undergo this shift.
In 2000 and 2006 Chen was the recipient of the Chinese Contemporary Art Award. In 2013 Chen was a Bellagio Creative Arts Fellow, where he developed works combining themes of contemporary art forms, social movements, and collective action.
Chen first exhibited work with Big Tail Elephant in 1991 at the Guangzhou No.1 Worker's Palace, Guangzhou, China, and regularly continued to show work with the collective through the 2000s. Chen participated in many group exhibitions including several biennials and triennials. Select group exhibitions include Another Long March: Chinese Conceptual Art (1997), Breda, The Netherlands; Big Tail Elephant (1998) at Kunsthalle Bern, Bern, Switzerland; Transmediale '98, 11th Video Festival (1998) at Podewil, Berlin; 16th World-Wide Video Festival (1998) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Inside Out: New Chinese Art (1998) at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, USA; 50th Venice Biennale (2003) in Venice, Italy; Guangzhou Triennial, Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video From China (2004) at ICP International Center of Photography, New York, USA; Guangzhou Triennial (2002 and 2005) at the Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China; Seventh Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale (2012), Shenzhen, China; 2013 INK ART: Past as Present in Contemporary China (2013) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA; and The Garden of the Forking Paths—Exploring Independent Animation (2013) at OCT Contemporary Terminal, Shanghai.
Chen’s first solo exhibition, Anti-CSX at Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou, China was in 2003. Select solo exhibitions include Ink City: New Works by Chen Shaoxiong (2005) at the Courtyard Annex, Beijing, China; Double Landscape (2005) at Grace Alexander Contemporary Art Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland; Chen Shaoxiong (2007) at Barbara Gross Galerie, Munich, Germany; Chen Shaoxiong: Ink Things (2009) and Prepared: Strategies for Activists (2012) at Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, USA; and Air-Dry History (2013) at Pekin Fine Arts, Hong Kong, China.