Death of the artist Huang Yong Ping, master of fantastic animals

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At the Grand Palace, three years ago, Huang Yong Ping had unfurled the steel skeleton of a ferocious creature snaking between piles of containers and turning its mouth towards its own tail. The huge installation, titled empireswas as allegory of the destiny of any superpower, commercial, economic or political – the over-sized replica of a Napoleonic tricorn hats the work -, crushing a time the world but promised to ruin. The Franco-Chinese artist passed through history, symbols and the figure of the animal (sometimes alive) to deliver pieces to the fabulous tone and the critical range. he died suddenly at the age of 65, was learned Sunday from his Parisian gallery Kamel Mennour.

Huang Yong Ping appeared on the art scene in a pioneering exhibition, "Magicians of the Earth" (1989), which aimed to expand the spectrum of contemporary art to non-Western artists and promote "Practices rooted in ancestral cultures, resistant to post-colonialism, fighting against totalitarianism and, above all, curious about emerging global openness", as stated by its Commissioner, Jean-Hubert Martin. Ping's work then consisted in passing to the washing machine books on the history of Chinese and Western art, and then presenting the contents of the drum after spinning: a marronnous porridge, a fragrant image of the combination of two worlds which then mixed little (in art anyway). Ping, born in Xiamen Province, and trained by the Hangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, is 35 years old. He decides to settle in France and to take the nationality.

Workers install the empires, at the Grand Palais, in 2016. Photo Joel Saget. AFP

In 1999, he even represented the Hexagon at the Venice Biennale (in the company of Jean-Pierre Bertrand) with "A man and nine animals"large trunks of trees topped with carved busts, which raise the ceiling of the pavilion and raise the eye to spiritual altitudes. The other artistic mantra of this great reader of philosophy is indeed the Zen thought and that of Taoism. In 2006, on the island of Vassivières, at the International Center of Art and Landscape, he installed a large prayer wheel, a replica of those used by Tibetan Buddhists to make a nagging sound supposed to dispel the evil and provide the peace. Ehi ehi sina sina, a sound and incantatory title, will be shown again in 2008 at the Center Pompidou in the exhibition "Traces of the Sacred".

"Theater of the world"

He still liked to populate his work with animals of all sizes. In addition to the steel snake pointing its nose towards the ocean in Saint-Brevin-les-Pins (a perennial piece), its Theater of the world brought together species (grasshoppers, cockroaches, tarantulas, centipedes, lizards and scorpions) under the meshes of a turtle vivarium. The work was controversial, especially in the United States – where a retrospective took place at the Walker Art Center in New York in 2006 – because it was the theater of a cruel world she staged: the critters devoured each other. Where one recognizes the leg of a modern fabulist who, under a zen airs, nevertheless cultivated a certain pessimism.

Judicaël Lavrador

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