Living Shangri-La

On Saturday, May 5, one of China’s most influential contemporary artists, will unveil a permanent public sculpture entitled Rising (2010-12), 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 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Rising is Zhang Huan’s first public art commission in Canada, and its unveiling will inaugurate the new 66-storey glass structure, Living Shangri-La, Toronto. The developers, Westbank and the Peterson Group, have made a point of integrating contemporary art into their recent projects. For the Toronto 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.”

Zhang Huan conceived Rising as a direct reflection of the living space of mankind. The polished stainless-steel sculpture is comprised of countless peace pigeons and twisted tree branches that resemble the body of a dragon. The numerous peace pigeons have landed on the body of a running creature from outer space, their living space is more and more crowded, just like people and animals sharing the same space on earth, which makes it smaller and smaller. While reflecting the present situation, Zhang Huan hopes that humans and nature can get along harmoniously, and cities will be better for mankind’s living conditions. People and animals could live freely in cities. The monster-shape tree aims at advocating the protection of ecology, and the harmonious relationship between humans and nature. The pigeons in the tree symbolize the peace of the world and beautiful city life shared by mankind and nature. According to Zhang Huan, “Rising represents my wish for beautiful city life to be shared by mankind and nature.”

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