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Zhang Huan

Thinking Big

BY David Teh

All images — Zhang Huan studio, Shanghai. Photo by Tom Uglow.

With his 1998 move to New York, Zhang Huan (see AAP 29, 30) became a standard-bearer for China’s contemporary art awakening. China’s past and present realities reverberated through images that were—for a Western audience hungry for insight—abstract yet legible, conceptually nuanced yet physically compelling. Zhang’s reputation for enduring the abject—as in his celebrated performance in a squalid public toilet, 12m2 (1994)—had preceded him to the US. By the time he performed naked on a bed…

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