Liu was born in 1963 in the small industrial town of Jincheng, a pulp and paper-producing center in Liaoning province. At age 17 he moved to Beijing to study art at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. (中央美术学院) He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in oil painting in 1988, and a Master of Fine Art in oil painting in 1995, both from CAFA. In 1998–99 he continued his studies overseas at the Academy of Fine Arts at the Complutense University of Madrid in Spain. He now holds tenure as a professor in the painting department at CAFA.
1990: Began participating with the Chinese Independent Film Movement, starting as the lead role in The Days, which was named one of the top 100 most important international films of the past century by the BBC.
1993: Art director for movie: Beijing Bastards.
2006: Starred in Documentary, Dong ("East",《东》), a documentary of the Three Gorges and Thailand painting project by director Jia Zhangke. This film was entered into the 2006 Venice Film Festival as a candidate for the Golden Lion Award.
- 2016 Liu Xiaodong: Slow Homecoming, worldwide first retrospective; Kunsthalle Düsseldorf & NRW-Forum Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany, curated by Heinz-Norbert Jocks.
- 2016 Liu Xiaodong: Migrazioni; Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, Italy.
- 2011 Paintings of Yan' Guan; Art Basel Miami, Miami, Florida. A preview of these paintings were published in Harper's Magazine.
- 2010 Liu Xiaodong has a new exhibition of his paintings in Beijing starting 18 November 2010.
- 2009 Inaugural Exhibition, Hadrien de Montferrand Gallery, Beijing
- Displacement: The Three Gorges Dam and Contemporary Chinese Art, Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago
- Biennale of Sydney 2006, Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, NSW
- The Three Gorges Project - Paintings by Liu Xiaodong, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, CA
- The Wall - Reshaping Contemporary Chinese Art, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY
- Regeneration - Contemporary Chinese Art from China and the U.S., ASUART - Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, AZ
- The Second Beijing International Art Biennale 2005, Beijing International Art Biennale, Beijing
- Mahjong - Chinesische Gegenwartskunst, Kunstmuseum Bern, Bern
- Three Gorges, China Art Archives & Warehouse (CAAW), Beijing
- Regeneration - Contemporary Chinese Art, David Winton Bell Gallery, Providence, RI
- Alors, la Chine ?, Centre Pompidou - Musée National d´Art Moderne, Paris
- The 1st Guangzhou Triennial, Guangzhou Triennial, Guangzhou, Guangdong
- Liu Xiaodong, Galerie Loft, Paris
- Photography as fine art, galerie skala, Cologne
- Portraits, figures, couples and groups, BizArt, Shanghai
- Lisson Gallery; Liu Xiaodong, artist biography. http://www.lissongallery.com/artists/liu-xiaodong
- Artnet; Liu Xiaodong, artist biography. http://www.artnet.com/artists/liu%20xiaodong/
- "Liu Xiaodong: Migrazioni" (in Italian). Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
- "Yan' Guan Town: Paintings by Liu Xiaodong". Harper's Magazine. Harper's Foundation. 323 (1,938): 49–51. November 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2012.(subscription required)
- Liu Xiaodong - Hometown Boy, The Independent, 18 November 2010