Zhang Huan - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 15, 2012 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Pace Wildenstein, New York
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    A founding member of Beijing’s conceptual artists movement in the 1990s, Zhang Huan gained early notoriety from his performance works involving extreme physical taxation. These shocking demonstrations— most notably, meditating in a public outhouse covered in flies (12 square Meters, 1994)—demonstrate the artist’s early preoccupation with physicality, mental stamina and spirituality, themes he would repeatedly return to even after transplanting himself to New York in 1998. Nearly a decade in the U.S allowed Zhang to develop a unique synergistic style, alluringly knitting the cultural and artistic threads between East and West.

    Returning to China in 2005, the artist became increasingly fascinated with the topics of mysticism and transcendence. Inspired by frequent trips to the local temples surrounding his Shanghai studio, Zhang work began to increasingly appropriate elements of Buddhist iconography. The following years would see Zhang combine cutting edge manufacturing techniques and millennia-old metaphors to create a body of intensely spiritual works in quest of to tether the physical and the intangible.

    In Ash Skull No. 6, 2007, Zhang Huan returns to his signature preoccupation with the human body. Part of Zhang’s seminal Ash Paintings series, the work is executed in the fine grey ash gathered from burned incense sticks at Buddhist Temples. Here, the residue of innumerable extinguished prayers is used to conjure up the hauntingly beautiful image of a human skull, an age-old symbol of mortality. The soft, monochromatic palette of the ash recalls traditional Chinese ink painting while the medium itself inextricably links the work to the human desire for spiritual transcendence. The painting is a masterful example of Zhang’s ability to marry the ancient Chinese association between death and fire with the application of contemporary Western composition. Moreover, Ash Skull No. 6, 2007, wholly encapsulates Zhang Huan’s defining purpose- to breakdown, expose and ultimately celebrate the fundamental components of humanity we all share.


Ash Skull No. 6

incense ash on linen
98 3/8 x 157 1/2 in. (250 x 400 cm)
Signed, numbered and dated “Zhang Huan, 2007, No. 6” on the reverse.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

15 November 2012
New York