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Installation view, Zhang Huan: In the Ashes of History, Sep 9 – Nov 8, 2020, The Hermitage State Museum, St. Petersburg © Pace Gallery, Pearl Lam Galleries, and Zhang Huan Studio. Photo by Alexander Murashkin

Museum Exhibitions

Zhang Huan

In the Ashes of History

The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Sep 9 – Nov 8, 2020

The State Hermitage Museum presents Zhang Huan: In the Ashes of History, a new exhibition on view from September 9 – November 8, 2020 celebrating Zhang Huan as the first Chinese contemporary artist to open a solo exhibition at the museum. On display in the Nicholas Hall, the biggest Hall of the Winter Palace, the exhibition presents over 30 works from four different series: Ash Painting, Memory Doors, Love/Reincarnation, and the Hermitage Buddha. In particular, Memory Doors comes from his new series My Winter Palace, which pays tribute to the Hermitage collection and art masters who have greatly influenced the artist.

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Installation view, Zhang Huan: In the Ashes of History, Sep 9 – Nov 8, 2020, The Hermitage State Museum, St. Petersburg © Pace Gallery, Pearl Lam Galleries, and Zhang Huan Studio. Photo by Alexander Murashkin

Zhang Huan is a contemporary Chinese artist who first came to prominence with a series of controversial performances in China and in the US. In the mid-2000s, the artist began to focus on paintings created in unique and unconventional ways—many of his large-scale works are made with incense ash from Buddhist temples. One of these ash paintings is a forty-meter group portrait of the communist party of the People’s republic of China that will fill almost the entire length of the Nicholas Hall.

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Zhang Huan, Love No. 2, 2020 © Zhang Huan Studio

The exhibition will also include other works of unusual technique: a combination of photographs and wood carvings. Several of the wood bas-reliefs are based on motifs from paintings in the Hermitage collection. An additional part of the project is two works from Love – a new series created during the quarantine 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.

Zhang Huan’s work often touches on questions of religion, family, politics, culture, poverty, and famine. The artist seeks to give renewed resonance to modernist techniques of abstraction and minimalism, encompassing with the parameters of Buddhism and Chinese culture, which allow him to retain his identity as a Chinese artist. He often uses a large range of materials and tools in the creation of his work and this maybe explains the sense of synthesis, even decorativeness, that can be found in his art.

To learn more, visit the Hermitage Museum's website.

Museum Exhibitions — The Hermitage Presents "Zhang Huan: In the Ashes of History", Sep 9, 2020