First launched in 2000 at the Shanghai Biennale, the artwork portrayed a metaphorical representation of the gigantic HSBC building in Shanghai, China. HSBC is a building which has stood the test of time, and changed hands before becoming the headquarters of Pudong Development Bank in the 1990s.
Designed by Palmer & Turner, a British architectural firm, the building stands for its neoclassical styling. Above its style, it has hosted the mighty and the affluent of Shanghai including the Communist Municipal Peoples Government. It’s thus viewed as a crucial landmark in Shanghai.
Bank of Sand, Sand of Bank, 2008
Huang’s 20-ton repro of the complex is a concept detailing the troubles, history, and the value of the building. The replica consists of dry sand and concrete, supported by wooden molds, and a hat lampshade. But Huang only added little water and cement to the structure, leaving it vulnerable and disintegrating.
Huang designed the repro to mark the shifting political and economic realities in China in early 2000. According to him, the concept and all aspects of the replica had contextual meaning. While the fragility of the artwork denoted an end of a political and economic era, the hidden lampshade represented 1940s end of colonialism.
Also, the hut is a symbol of change, and the central aspect highlighting the evolution of the nation. While the colonialists loved it as a traditional piece, people now use it to turnaround their looks. Meanwhile, the use of the bank in the artwork had several symbolic representations, for it linked colonialism, capitalism and acted as the foundation for the revival of the economy.
There is also a relationship between HSBC Bank and the sand masterpiece, the bank and the sand, and presentation in New York. Huang detailed contemplation of every single detail is mind-boggling. HSBC featured in the design to highlight the history of Shanghai from the colonial era. It’s the only significant building with a rich and a great story dating back to the start of colonialism. To the British, the building was a darling, and they embraced it for its uniqueness until the Chinese Government took over.
The sand denoted money and the desires of society to amass it. But the bank’s role as a fulcrum of the society’s hopes and aspirations becomes questionable for its instability. Thus, the crumbling design concept.
The launch in the 2000s in Shanghai expresses the economic shift as the Chinese economy started booming during that period. New York presentation was not a coincidence but pre-planned. With New York being the center of capitalism and a representation of western ideals, there was no better place for a western launch.
Bank of Sand, Sand of Bank, was the fifth presentation of Huang works in the Gladstone gallery. He presented “Magiciens de la Terre” at Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, 1989. After immigrating to France, he featured in 1999 Venice Biennale representing France. Despite migrating, people in China still respect him for his creations early in his life.
All images by Huang Yong Ping/gladstonegallery.com unless otherwise noted.