HUANG YONG PING (Chinese, B. 1954)
HUANG YONG PING (Chinese, B. 1954)

HUANG YONG PING (Chinese, B. 1954)
Best Before 1 July, 1997
signed in Chinese; dated '1997' (lower right)
chromogenic print, wax, string and glue
framed: 94 x 85 cm. (37 x 33 1/2 in.)
paper: 84 x 75 cm. (33 1/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
Executed in 1997

Brought to you by

Eric Chang
Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

A highly regarded avant-garde artist, Huang Yong Ping, working with diverse traditions and media, was one of the first conceptual artists in China to use art as a form of social action. Born in 1954 in Xiamen, China, Huang came of age during the Cultural Revolution, and by the time he graduated from Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou, China had opened its doors to the West and ideas of modern art were flowing into the Chinese art world. In 1985, Huang became a founding member of Xiamen Dada, an avant-garde group influenced heavily by Marcel Duchamp's concept of the "ready-made" and Joseph Beuys' interest in social interventions. Huang took up residence in France in 1989, and since then he has actively exhibited in numerous exhibitions of contemporary Chinese art on an international platform.

Featured here, Da Xian - The Doomsday (Lot 434) consists of three large-scale sized porcelain bowls, ornate with traditional motifs depicting flags of the colonizers with 19th century European and American storehouses used by the colonial powers in China to store traded goods, symbolic of period at the height of colonialism and the Chinese porcelain trade with the West. Inside the bowls, Huang had placed British brands of commercial packaged foods which all carry the same expiration date: "Best Before 1 July, 1997," the date of the handover of Hong Kong to China. The food serves to remind us of the limitations in history and life, as Huang states "food is not like earth or wood, which can last for a long timeK it always has a limit. It reflects human history or society. Everything has a limit in history, society and in life. I had to create a relationship between these issues through an image, and the image here is the bowl." While the foods in the bowls mark the end of a colonial situation, the paintings on the bowls date high colonialism, with both having marked limitations that come to an end. The mock-seriousness of the title of the work, combined with images of capitalist consumption and colonial culture, suggest an ironic relationship to history. On the one hand, Huang may be suggesting that what happens after "doomsday" is even more catastrophic than what went before. On the other hand, he may be suggesting the resiliency of the Chinese people and that, whatever whims of history may come, our real needs are simply to keep our bowls full.

Huang incorporates traditional Eastern aesthetics and philosophy with the conceptual language of contemporary Western art, and his work often addresses the colonial history between the East and the West, juxtaposing Chinese and Western concepts to critically and humorously reveal the paradoxes and dichotomies of the two cultures. Best Before 1 July, 1997 (Lot 590) features a British commercial beverage which also carries the date that marked the end of 155 years of British rule in Hong Kong, and the handover to China. The stark photographic image offers insight into the complicated past of China and its relations with other nations in our globalized world.

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