On Saturday, May 5, 2012, Zhang Huan, one of China's most influential contemporary artists, will unveil a permanent public sculpture entitled Rising (2010-2012), at Living Shangri-La, Toronto on University Avenue, the ceremonial boulevard for Canada's largest city.
In recognition of Asian Heritage Month, the community is invited to join the artist for a free ceremonial presentation scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m. Afterwards, the public is invited to attend the opening of "Zhang Huan: Ash Paintings and Memory Doors" at the Art Gallery of Ontario, located within walking distance of Living Shangri-La, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The opening event is sponsored by Westbank and the Peterson Group, the developers behind Living Shangri-La, Toronto.
Rising is Zhang Huan's first public art commission in Canada, and its unveiling will inaugurate the 66-storey glass structure (Wikepedia says 62-storey) that is the Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto. The hotel will officially open its doors on August 7, 2012. It is the Asian-based luxury brand Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts' second property in Canada. The developers, Westbank and the Peterson Group, have made a point of integrating contemporary art into their recent projects. For the Toronto-based property, the two companies partnered with the Art Gallery of Ontario to commission a world-class artist to create a site-specific work of art for the building's exterior. After an extensive global search the selection committee unanimously chose Zhang Huan, captivated by his unbridled imagination.
"Zhang Huan's ability to distill an incredible amount of power and meaning into beautiful objects has earned him regard as one of the world's most compelling contemporary artists," said Matthew Teitelbaum, Director and CEO of the Art Gallery of Ontario. "On behalf of the AGO, I am honoured to have participated in the selection process that resulted in the commission of Rising. Publicly accessible art is good for everyone, and this exceptional installation is a significant contribution to the urban landscape and the cultural fabric of Toronto. I want to thank Westbank and the Peterson Group for their foresight."
Zhang Huan conceived Rising as a philosophical reflection of the world around us. The polished stainless-steel sculpture is comprised of countless doves, the international symbol of world peace, and a twisted tree branch that resembles the body of a dragon. The sculpture draws an analogy to the fragile conditions facing our planet. Zhang Huan seeks to convey the message that humans can exist in harmony with nature, and that, if this delicate balance is struck, our cities will become better places to live. Zhang Huan says that "through the monster-shaped tree, I would like to advocate the protection of ecology, and the harmonious relationship between humans and nature. The doves in the tree symbolize the peace of the world and my wish is for beautiful city life to be shared by mankind and nature."
Realized in two parts, the large-scale exterior sculpture (21.98 x 19.8 x 4.8 meters) will permanently reside at the entrance to the hotel and a second component (4.27 x 16.85 x 14.88 meters) will extend indoors, gracing the walls of the hotel's lobby. Rising took the artist two years to complete in his studio in Shanghai.
Ian Gillespie of Westbank remarked on the commission, "In developing Living Shangri-La, Toronto we wanted to build a destination for all of Toronto and for visitors from around the world. Zhang Huan has created significant public works of art for important cultural institutions worldwide, including Hehe Xiexie for the 2010 Shanghai Expo, Three-Legged Buddha, part of the permanent collection of Storm King Art Center in New York, and Questioning Confucius for Tenuta dell'Ornellaia in Italy. With Rising we hope to create a destination that will hold pride-of-place for the city and contribute to its vibrancy and economic health in the months and years ahead."