Zhang Huan - Photographs Evening Sale New York Wednesday, April 1, 2015 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Cotthem Gallery, Brussels
    Private Collection, Paris

  • Exhibited

    Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 11 December 2013 – 6 April 2014
    Looking East, Facing West: The World of Zhang Huan, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park Grand Rapids, 24 May – 25 August 2013
    Rising Dragon: Contemporary Chinese Photography, San Jose Museum of Art, February – 30 June 2013 then traveled to
    Krannert Art Museum, Champaign, 12 October – 30 December 2012; Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, 25 March – 2 September 2012
    Zhang Huan: Ashman, Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea, Milan, 7 July - 12 September 2010
    Altered States: Art of Zhang Huan, The Asia Society, New York, 6 September 2007 – 20 January 2008
    Made in China: Chinese Art Now! Works from the Estella Collection, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 8 September 2007 – 1 March 2008, then traveled to Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, 16 March – 5 August 2007
    Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China, Asia Society and the International Centre of Photography, New York 11 June – 5 September 2004, then traveled to Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, 2 October 2004 – 16 January 2005; Seattle Art Museum, 10 February – 15 May 2005; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, March - May 2006; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1 July - 17 September 2006
    for all, another example exhibited

  • Literature

    The Asia Society, Zhang Huan: Altered States, pp. 129-137
    Changsha, Chinese Avant-Garde Photography Since 1990, p. 93
    Cotthem Gallery, Zhang Huan - Pilgrimage to Santiago, p. 85
    The Israel Museum, Made in China: Contemporary Chinese Art at the Israel Museum, n.p.
    Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Made in China: Works from the Estella Collection, p. 407
    Phaidon Press, Zhang Huan, n.p.
    Prestel Publishing, New China, New Art, p. 111
    Smart Museum, University of Chicago and International Centre of Photography, Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China, p. 46

  • Catalogue Essay

    “My face followed the daylight till it slowly darkened. I cannot tell who I am. My identity has disappeared.” - Zhang Huan

    As one of the most celebrated artists in China, Zhang Huan has been exploring national identity and personal identity throughout his career, perhaps most notably through his performances. “I often find myself in conflict among the environment I live in,” he has stated, “and feel surrounded by an intolerable self-existence. Therefore, when these problems occur within my body, I find that my body is the only direct approach that allows me to feel the world, and also let the world know me.” The ephemeral nature of performance art subsequently lent way to the incorporation of photography into the artist’s work, allowing him to document the varying stages of his performance. Indeed, once the performance ended, the photographs, being the sole remnant of the performance, became surrogates for the performance itself.

    In Zhang Huan’s Family Tree viewers find a deeply intimate and cultural exploration of heritage and selfhood that is in keeping with the artist’s penchant for performance. The grid documents the progression of three calligraphers whom the artist had invited to write text on his face over the course of a single day. The sources inscribed on Zhang’s face include popular Chinese folklore, family names and poems. As such, the artist transformed the human face from a marker of individuality to a vessel of collective history. Some of the text on Zhang’s face relates to studies of human physiognomy, whereby individual facial features alluded to personality attributes. Yet, the irony in Zhang’s work is that the layering of informative text on his face subsequently hides it. Taken two years after the artist had left his native China for New York, Family Tree is a candid exploration of one’s background and the potential complexities that could follow. To understand one’s unique self, Zhang informs the viewers, is to understand the endless confluence of social and cultural forces that had come to create it.

    Other examples of this work can be found in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Yale University, New Haven; Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University


Family Tree

Nine chromogenic prints.
Each 49 1/2 x 39 1/2 in. (125.7 x 100.3 cm)
Signed in Pinyin, titled in Chinese, numbered 6/8 and dated in ink on the reverse of each flush-mount.

$180,000 - 220,000 

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head, Photographs

Shlomi Rabi
Head of Sale, New York

General Enquiries:
+1 212 940 1245

Photographs Evening Sale

New York 1 April 2015 6pm