Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.
For the 10th time in a row, an international artist takes over the Nef – the great hall – of Grand Palais with one single art piece of gigantic proportions for Monumenta 2016. Following renowned names such as Anselm Kiefer, Richard Serra, Christian Boltanski, and Anish Kapoor, Xiamen-born and Paris-based artist Huang Yong Ping reflects on the transformations of our world through Empires – a rather peculiar landscape, symbolic of today’s economic world. With true Chinese artistry, Huang Yong Ping mesmerizes the spectator with a scenery that feels both foreign and familiar at the most innate and fundamental level. Cluttered at a first glance, the mise en scène is composed of carfully picked elements, each of them serving a very specific purpose. 305 multicolored cargo containers occupy most of the space, aiming towards a chimerical commercial harbor. It is among these tiny industrial islands that slithers the main actor of the scene, taken out of its play and frozen in time. A snake skeleton of gargantuan proportions drags itself along the great hall, poiting with its elephantine head the apogee of this whole spectacle: a disproportionately large replica of Napoleon’s bicorne, symbolising the empire and with that, the power.
Though truly spectacular in its sheer size, Huang Yong Ping‘s piece is no less spectacular in its message. Evoking the idea of political power, as well as that of the ascension of new geographical regions as key players in the never-ending game of the world economy, the Chinese artist’s work is no less inspiring whatever the size. The showcase at Grand Palais has been presented by Kamel Mennour gallery, partner of Monumenta 2016, which offers a deeper insight into Ping‘s work in two of its Parisian locations – the iconic space in Saint-André des Arts, as well as the newly opened venue in avenue Matignon. The gallery gives to visitors the unique chance to look behind the curtain and take a peek at the creative process of Empires – from the very first conception of the philosophical content and architectural scale, to the very last steps in overcoming the physical difficulties and restrictions our reality imposes on it. Scaled-down mockups of Empires, be they as simple as wooden blocks and thread, or as complex as 3D-printed multicolored mosaics, are exhibited next to watercolor studies of snake scales, horse figures and unusual skelettal forms. Sculptures made from aluminum, imagined while the artist was working on his monumental project, evoke bizarre animals. Through these pieces, Huang Yong Ping both closes the circle and opens a new page – one that is, by chance as is often the case with the artist’s work, to be the starting point of new projects.