Li Xianting is an independent art critic and a curator of contemporary art in China. Born in 1949, Li graduated from the department of Chinese painting at the Central Academy of Fine Art in 1978 and was editor of Meishu (Fine Art) – then the only major art journal in China – until 1983. As a chief editor of the journal, Li supported the breakthrough of the Stars Group – the first major art movement to appear since the Cultural Revolution, including such artists as Huang Rui, Ma Desheng, Wang Keping, Qu Leilei and Ai Weiwei. In 1984, Li began editing a new avant-garde journal, Zhongguo Meishubao (Fine Arts in China), through which he supported the 1985 New Wave movement, known for its Dada-esque experiments with various art forms from collage to painting, photography, video and installation.
In 1989, Li and curator Gao Minglu co-organized the exhibition "China/Avant-Garde," the first "official" sponsored presentation of avant-garde artists at the China Art Gallery. Held for two weeks in February 1989, "China /Avant-garde" featured more than 200 artists from all over the country. The "No U-turn" sign that served as a logo for the exhibition symbolized the hope that liberalization of the arts, introduced after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, would continue unabated.
In the 1990s, Li backed the newly emerged art movements Cynical Realism and Political Pop, which explored new possibilites of artistic expression after the Tiananmen Square Massacre. As a critic and curator, he has championed the work of young artists in China, and continues to do so.