Zhang Huan And His Performance Art At The EXPO CHICAGO Event
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Zhang Huan And His Performance Art At The EXPO CHICAGO Event

April 7, 2022 Share

Now in its ninth edition, EXPO CHICAGO, the international exposition of contemporary and modern art, will return to Navy Pier’s Festival Hall from April 7 – 10, 2022

EXPO CHICAGO, the international exposition of contemporary and modern art, takes place every autumn for four days at the historic Navy Pier. It is here you can buy art or simply enjoy looking at it. It’s essentially a temporary Modern Art Museum on Lake Michigan. 

But the first in-person edition since the start of the pandemic—the coming month presents an opportune moment for exploring the city’s offerings. Marking the exposition’s first in-person return since its 2019 edition, EXPO CHICAGO will welcome more than 140 leading galleries representing 25 countries and 65 cities worldwide. 

EXPO CHICAGO will present a diverse and inventive program throughout the exposition, including dialogues and exchanges by the Northern Trust. But beyond the artworks on view at fair booths and large-scale installations, including film, video, and sculpture, there is one performance artist set to take centre stage once more.

Zhang Huan
EXPO CHICAGO 2019. Courtesy EXPO CHICAGO.

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, and later on, he received recognition for his large-scale sculptures.

His willingness to push boundaries with his artistic expression has made him successful. He is one of the most respected Chinese artists, among Ai Weiwei, Cai Guo-Qiang and Huang Yong Ping.

Zhang Huan has taken steps to continually surprise the public as an artist – actions that embarrassed his people. And it is clear from his extreme acts why some may turn away. He burst onto the art stream with performances that tested the limits of human endurance, from dressing in a suit made entirely from raw meat (Lady Gaga fan, perhaps?) to drawing tiny symbols on his face until he turned black from the amount of ink. 

Zhang Huan
133 Zhang Huan 1/2 (meat)
Zhang Huan
Zhang Huan, ‘Skin (20 Self Portraits)’, 1997, silver gelatin print, each 40.4 x 50.7 cm

One of his most notable performances is his 12 Square Meters from 1994, where Zhang covered himself in a mixture of fish oil and honey from head to toe. He then sat stock-still on a peddle stool in a public lavatory for hours as he let different insects crawl all over his body.

Afterwards, he went to and returned from New York, suddenly embraced Buddhism, and presented sculpture installations, which were new compared to the performances that made him one of the world’s famous artists. In fact, to Zhang Huan, a medium is a means, not an end. 

This multi-faceted artist is now living in his studio complex based in Shanghai, working on new artworks that take on a massive scale of their own. He is primarily known for his performance work and makes photographs and sculptures.

Zhang Huan
EXPO CHICAGO 2019. Courtesy EXPO CHICAGO.

This year Huan is rumoured to be joining a group of artists as they undergo the exhibit entitled: Skin in the Game, an exhibition of painting, sculpture, video, installation and performance that explores touch, transmission, and skin—the potential, vulnerability and risk contained therein. The exhibition establishes a dialogue of the erotic, from pleasure and violence to taboo and voyeurism, through lines that touch on game, colour, the hunt, sport, religious iconography, performance and competition.

Curated by Zoe Lukov and produced by Abby Pucker, join in on the avant-garde experience at 400 N Peoria St, Chicago. Who knows what Zhang Huan will pull out of the box this year.

Author: Michelle Laver