The 2020 Chinese New Year is particularly special because it marks the start of a new cycle with the Year of the Rat. In that spirit, the Maison Hennessy for the first time commissioned a monumental work of art, called Eaux-de-vie, from Zhang Huan in addition to a design for its special Chinese New Year editions of the Hennessy collection.
As the Maison Hennessy and Zhang Huan became better acquainted, they found in each other a kindred spirit. For both the cognac house and the artist, modernity lies in honoring one’s heritage while always seeking to explore new frontiers. For Hennessy, a sense of adventure has defined the House since its founding, and yet it has upheld its tradition of transmitting savoir-faire for eight generations – a unique feat in the history of cognac. For his part, Zhang Huan came into his own as an emerging artist while living in New York City, in the Nineties.
Drawing on his time as a foreigner in the United States, Zhang Huan imbues his work with life experience earned through travel. “Being abroad gave me a deeper understanding of my tradition, perhaps because I had to see myself from far away”, he says. “I believe that Chinese and Western cultures are meant to integrate with each other, which is why I sought to incorporate a sense of movement in this work. We never know where life may take us, but I do believe that everything that has gone before leads up to the present moment. That is what I want to celebrate in my creations.”
For the Hennessy commission, Zhang Huan sought to create a work of art that would express a sense of joy and celebration as well as a reflective quality that captures the essential mediations every New Year brings. “Making art is about using an object as a vehicle to express inner thoughts, or a spiritual side”, the artist explains. ” Eaux-de-vie is intended as a natural, living expression”.
A vibrant and resonant dreamscape, Zhang Huan’s Eaux-de-vie captures a universal spirit. Measuring over five meters long, this original painting was directly inspired by Hennessy’s world famous library of eaux-de-vie, which the artist recasts as a mystical metaphor with layers of meaning.
Distilled through the artist’s signature visual language, Hennessy’s precious eaux-de-vie appear like individual cellules that come together in a unique whole. Upon closer viewing, red lanterns, grapes and amber cognac become apparent within each cellule. The longer the viewer gazes at the work, the more the cellules seem to take on a life of their own, floating freely through space like so many symbols of each individual’s place in the universe. A strong color palate underscores the season’s joyful mood.
To celebrate this collaboration, Hennessy will be hosting a series of exceptional experiences around the world. The original artwork Eaux-de-vie by Zhang Huan will be unveiled at a special event in Cognac in October 2019.
The special Chinese New Year editions of the Hennessy collection by Zhang Huan will be available from January 2020.
ABOUT ZHANG HUAN
Born in Anyang, Henan, China, in 1965, Zhang Huan is one of the most important contemporary artists working today. Since he burst onto the international art scene in the Nineties by staging performance art events in New York City, he has become equally well known for monumental sculptures and paintings, and particularly his innovative use of mediums, such as incense ashes, in addition to more conventional materials. Blending Western artistic techniques and concepts with traditional Chinese cultural production is central to his artistic process. Zhang Huan is represented by one of the world’s most prestigious galleries, the PACE Gallery. He is based in Shanghai.