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CultureDaily Drip

Avant-Garde Artist Huang Yong Ping Passes Away at 65

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Huang Yong Ping, a Chinese-French installation artist famous for his philosophical, iconoclastic approach to pastiching East and West, tradition and contemporaneity, passed away on Saturday at the age of 65.

Huang came of age in the immediate aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, studying at what is now the China Academy of Art in 1977 as a wide tranche of Western art history was first becoming available to Chinese students following the ideological suppression of the Mao era. He co-founded the influential conceptual art group Xiamen Dada in 1986, rethinking Eastern vs Western concepts of high art through the lens of postmodern theory and the ideas of Western provocateurs like Joseph Beuys and Marcel Duchamp.

His 1987 sculpture “The History of Chinese Art and A Concise History of Modern Painting Washed in a Washing Machine for Two Minutes,” to give an early example of Huang’s work and the Xiamen Dada approach, is exactly what the name describes: a pile of pulp literally deconstructing centuries of art history into a Duchampian assemblage of raw material.

huang yong ping The History of Chinese Art and A Concise History of Modern Painting Washed in a Washing Machine for Two Minutes photo from Walker Art

Huang Yong Ping – “The History of Chinese Art and A Concise History of Modern Painting Washed in a Washing Machine for Two Minutes” (photo via Walker Art)

Huang was in Paris participating in a group show at the Centre Pompidou during the Tiananmen protests in 1989, and, following the violent crackdown that June, chose to remain in France. He became a citizen in 1999, representing France at that year’s Venice Biennale.

Huang Yong Ping Maquette for the 1999 Venice Biennale, Pavilion of France, One Man Nine Animals, Figure 1, 1999 from Ethan Cohen New York

Huang Yong Ping – “Maquette for the 1999 Venice Biennale, Pavilion of France, One Man Nine Animals, Figure 1” (Ethan Cohen New York)

Though he remained in France for the rest of his career, Huang was recently included with a number of other high-profile contemporary Chinese artists in the Guggenheim’s monumental group show Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World. His titular centerpiece installation, “Theater of the World,” a giant terrarium containing live snakes and insects, was removed from the exhibition shortly before opening following protests from animal rights activists who objected to works by Huang, Sun Yuan, Peng Yu, and Xu Bing.

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“[Huang’s] death on Saturday was confirmed by Gladstone Gallery, which represented him in New York and Brussels,” reports ARTnews. “A representative for the gallery did not immediately state a cause of death.” Read their full obituary here.

Cover image: Detail of Huang Yong Ping’s Theater of the World (via CRI English/UCCA)

Josh Feola
Josh Feola is a Shanghai-based writer and musician, and RADII's Culture Editor. His coverage of Chinese music and art has appeared in The Wire, Dazed, Artsy, LEAP, Tiny Mix Tapes, and more. He's been active in China's underground music scene since 2010 via his booking platform pangbianr.com, and is a former member of Beijing bands Chui Wan, SUBS, and Vagus Nerve.