Zhan Wang - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 27, 2008 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist

  • Exhibited

    Shanghai, MoCA, Shanghai Biennale – Hyper Design, 5 September – 5 November, 2006

  • Catalogue Essay

    Zhan Wang's world-renowned Ornamental Rocks are stainless steel sculptures inspired by the centuries-old "scholar's rocks" found in traditional Chinese gardens. The intricate, fantastical shapes of these rocks inspire both awe and contemplation. "Especially prized are stones that have been sculpted naturally by processes of erosion or that appear to have been shaped by nature even if they have been artfully enhanced by man. Pitted, hollowed out, and perforated, such rocks, which are often displayed on end, are seen as embodiments of the dynamic transformational processes of nature. By the Tang dynasty (618-907), four principal aesthetic criteria - thinness ( [in Chinese,] shou), openness (tou), perforations (lou), and wrinkling (zhou) - had been identified for judging scholars' rocks as well as the larger examples featured in gardens. Besides these formal qualities, rocks were also admired for their resemblance to mountains or caves, particularly the magical peaks and subterranean paradises (grottoheavens) believed to be inhabited by immortal beings. Some rocks were appreciated for their resemblance to animals, birds, human figures, or mythical creatures." ('The World of Scholars' Rocks: Gardens, Studios and Paintings' in Special Exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at http://www.metmuseum.org)
    To create his famed 'Ornamental Rocks' Zhan Wang hammers stainless steel sheets around an actual scholar's rock to fit like a second skin; the sheets are then welded together and polished to form a lustrous, seamless whole. The resulting sculpture is an exquisite synthesis of traditional content and contemporary form. Steel is a key element in China's dynamic industrial boom; it is the linchpin of skyscrapers that are the vessels for countless dreams and ambitions. Similarly, Zhan's sculptures use steel as the foundation material for a shapeshifter that mirrors the observer and his environment, serving as a constant reflection of the changing world. Wu Hung comments that to the artist, his works' "glittering surface, ostentatious glamour, and illusory appearance" are not necessarily bad qualities, and that his stainless-steel rocks are definitely not designed as satire or mockery of contemporary material culture. Rather, both the original rockeries and his copies are material forms selected or created for people's spiritual needs; their different materiality suits different needs at different times. The problem he addresses is thus one of authenticity: Which rock- the original or his copy- more genuinely reflects contemporary Chinese culture?"
    (H. Wu, Zhan Wang, at http://www.shanghart.com)


Ornamental Rock

Polished stainless steel.
105 x 113 x 238 cm. (41 1/4 x 44 1/2 x 93 3/4 in).
Incised with the signature and dated ‘Zhan Wang 2006 [in English and Chinese]’ and numbered of four on face.

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £156,500

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

28 Feb 2008, 7pm