Meijer Gardens opens East-West retrospective by Chinese artist Zhang Huan


Zhang Huan. Long Island Buddha, 2010-11. Copper, 67.68 x 89.37 x 69.68 inches. Courtesy of Pace Gallery

Beginning today, the diverse works — sculptures, photography and paintings — of Chinese artist Zhang Huan will be on display at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

Huan, who is based in Shanghai, is considered one of the most prodigious and insightful artists working today.

He works in various mediums — including as a sculptor, painter, photographer and installation artist — and his exhibit, "Looking East, Facing West: The World of Zhang Huan," is a retrospective of his diverse work.

His creations will be at Meijer Gardens until August 25. 

“Zhang Huan is among the most important voices in contemporary art today,” said Joseph Becherer, vice president and chief curator at the museum. “From his vantage point, working in China and the United States, he offers insight and inspiration for the global cultural community.”

“Looking East, Facing West: The World of Zhang Huan” explores the work of the artist, both thematically and artistically.

Diverse media

Works of sculpture are central to the exhibition and are inspired by historical models and antique fragments of Buddha-related imagery. 

Several photographic installations document Huan’s performance pieces, some of which have helped to establish his reputation in the United States.

Touching on the importance of Buddhism in his life, the artist’s revolutionary ash paintings are composed of discarded incense ash from temple sites in and around Shanghai.

“Meijer Gardens is thrilled to present an exhibition so distinctly composed of such diverse media — the first of its kind in the American Midwest — that focuses merited attention on the master,” said Becherer.

Meijer Gardens recently acquired one of the pieces that will be on display, Long Island Buddha, a steel and copper sculpture.

East to West

Huan studied painting in the style of Soviet Realism at Henan University in Kaifeng City, China.

He then moved to Beijing for advanced studies in oil painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, where he was first exposed to Western forms of contemporary art, including conceptual and performance art, which revolutionized his work and diversified its forms.

In 1998, he moved to New York and continued his performance work, which often focused on the subject of the East-West dichotomy, and being an outsider in a new culture. His efforts were met with widespread critical acclaim. 

He returned to China in 2006 and has focused on sculpture, painting and installations.

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