Why is Zhang Huan important?
Zhang Huang is one of the greatest and perhaps most popular controversial artists in contemporary China. He first started making a name for himself in the mid-1990s thanks to his performances, many of which have frequently been regarded as too punishing. Case in point, some of his more popular performances featured him naked and covered in insects.
Ai Weiwei – Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995
Ai Weiwei’s desire to court controversy
Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn as an art is brilliant and a work of total ingenuity, but in between the lines, it says a lot about the artist: his desire to court controversy. The return of Ai Weiwei to China after living in New York City for more than a decade in 1981–1993 marked the beginning of a new form of art, dedicating some of his works to the themes of transformation and destruction. He embarked on collecting ancient vessels with the aim of converting them into contemporary art pieces. Some people viewed this act as a way of collaborating with the ancient artists’ work, but some argued that it was misappropriating the artists’ work without their approval. This act provoked emotions since the urns were considered a form of consumer culture and heritage preservation, especially since he dropped it intentionally.
Ai Weiwei – Study of Perspective, Tiananmen, 1995-2010, C-Print, 32,5×43,5cm
Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist and activist. He has been vocal and openly critical of the Chinese government’s stance on democracy and human rights. His work has captured global attention and served to bring attention to social injustices, human rights violations and systemic violence.