Great Leap Forward

  • 2007
  • Zhang Huan
  • Ash on linen
  • 286 x 1080 cm

Painted in incense ash, it references the agricultural and industrial reforms put in place by Mao Zedong between 1958 and 1960, which lead to one of the biggest famines of the century.

© Zhang Huan Studio. Photo © Fondation Louis Vuitton / Marc Domage


Zhang Huan

Steeped in Buddhist philosophy, Zhang Huan explores themes relating to the mind/body connection and to cycles of life and death.

After graduating from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 1993, Huan became known for his provocative performances in which he directly confronts water, blood, ice, and dead and living animals, testing his own physical and psychological limits. 12m2 (1994) is one of his most famous performances, for which the artist smeared himself in fish oil and honey and sat in a Beijing public lavatory while insects covered him. He pursued his work as a performer during his time in New York, from 1998 to 2005. His subsequent return to China marked a turning point. Having become a Buddhist, he has worked with 100 assistants to produce sculptures, installations and paintings that draw on religious iconography as well as contemporary Chinese history.

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