China takes Monumenta to new heights

Following in the footsteps of Richard Serra, Christian Boltanski, Anish Kapoor, and Ilya and Emilia Kabakov at the last Monumenta in 2013, Chinese-born artist Huang Yong Ping will this year showcase his works in a 13,000 sq.m space at the Grand Palais. Not an artist of public fame, this man, who represents China’s artistic avant-garde, has created a spectacular installation that reflects on the transformation of our planet: a 250 meter-long snake monster, a symbol of the universe. We asked the artist to tell us more.

A short walk from Ivry-sur-Seine train station, Huang Yong Ping, 62, lets us into his studio. Two days before construction starts on the largest indoor art work ever, it’s all work, furrowed brows and last-minute changes. The teams are giving their all to this unique and gigantic project made from three hundred ship containers forming eight mountains, one of which is more than 10 meters high, on which the skeleton of an awesome 250-meter long snake monster with 102 teeth is writhing. In the center, an exact copy of a Napoleonic bicorn hat, digitally upsized to XL, is set to cast its shadow over the Grand Palais.



Monumenta Grand Palais

3 Avenue du Général Eisenhower, 75008, Paris
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What does the Grand Palais mean to you?

It’s a place where I can work with history, politics and the social context. This project is called Empires, for Monumenta and for the Grand Palais. Because there’s the same idea of monumentality in these three words, the idea of industrial empire at its height and chaos.

What does your work consist of?

It’s quite a simple work. The first important thing is the large portico made from containers. The second thing is the contrast between the moving snake and the stable and geometric containers. It’s like ying and yang. It’s the universal breath, the qi, which is constantly transforming itself and gives the universe and beings their shapes in Chan Buddhism. The third thing is Napoleon’s black hat, the epicenter around which everything turns. The Grand Palais is just a kilometer from the Invalides. History is entering the work. It’s this hat that symbolizes the Napoleonic wars, but also, of course, all the present economic, political and social wars, which I want to condemn. Greatness too and decadence, hegemony and decline.

What place does man hold in your work?

Man is always present. It’s man who makes the work and it’s man who visits and looks at the work.

Until June 18. “Huang Yong Ping. Empires”.
Closed Tuesday. €10.

By Anne Kerner. Photos : Jean-François Gaté, Fabrice Seixas - Published the

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