Zhang Huan: In the Ashes of History

Zhang Huan: In the Ashes of History

The State Hermitage Museum

September 20, 2020
Zhang Huan
In the Ashes of History
September 9–November 8, 2020
The State Hermitage Museum
2 Palace Square
190000 St. Petersburg

The State Hermitage is delighted to present the exhibition Zhang Huan: In the Ashes of History, the first solo exhibition in Russia by the famous contemporary Chinese artist Zhang Huan. Originally, due to open on May 15, 2020, the exhibition been rescheduled to a later date, as result of the pandemic.

In the Ashes of History, which on a display in the Nicholas Hall, the biggest Hall of the Winter Palace, presents several series of works made in a variety of techniques. It contains more than 30 works of art, many of them painted by artist and features his impressions received from his initial visit to St Petersburg, Russia. An additional part of the project are two works from Love—a new series created in response to the events of the pandemic.

Prof. Mikhail Piotrovsky the General Director of the State Hermitage Museum, remarks: “Zhang Huan is a product of the Soviet-Chinese academic tradition, a master of punishing performance works that took America by storm, a Buddhist who has come to know the true meaning of his faith through the fire and ash of sweet-scented incense. He is an enchanting and emotionally subtle artist who is able to mobilize large numbers of people for a theatrical performance and for the production of vast sculptures. He is someone who is consciously open to several cultures, and feels at home within them while always remaining touchingly mindful of his roots.”

Zhang Huan is a contemporary Chinese artist who first came to prominence with a series of controversial performances in China and the USA. In the mid-2000s the artist began to focus on paintings made in a unique way—most of his large-scale works made with incense ash from Buddhist temples. One of these is a 40-metre group portrait of the communist party of the People’s Republic of China that fills almost the entire length of the Nicholas Hall. The exhibition also includes other works of unusual technique: a combination of photographs and wood carving. Several of the wood basreliefs based on motifs from paintings in the Hermitage collection. The final group of works in the forthcoming exhibition is the recent Red series that signifies a change in Zhang Huan’s creative path—back to the technique of painting. The first works in the series come under the title Reincarnation (eight specially selected paintings). The two works called Love also are on display in the Nicholas Hall; they made during the lockdown period as a distillation of the artist’s personal experience of the situation in China and the world, and a way of preserving the memory of those who have died in the pandemic.

The exhibition Zhang Huan: In the Ashes of History is organized by The State Hermitage Museum in a frame of the Hermitage 20/21 project with the support of Pearl Lam Galleries, China Art Foundation, DC Foundation—Diana Chen, Dr Junning Lee and Mrs Xiaojun Lee, Asymmetry Art Foundation, and Julian Zhen.

The exhibition curators are Dr. Dmitry Ozerkov, Head of Contemporary Art Department of the State Hermitage Museum, and Anastasia Veyalko, Junior Researcher of that Department. The guest curator is Prof. Wu Hung of Chicago University, USA.

An illustrated academic catalogue accompanies the exhibition (both in English and in Russian). It contains an introduction by Prof. Mikhail Piotrovsky, the General Director of the State Hermitage Museum, and essays by the curators.

The additional educational program will accompanied by the Youth Educational Centre of the State Hermitage Museum. It contains lectures, meetings with the artist and curators, master classes and discussions.

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The State Hermitage Museum
September 20, 2020

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