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Exhibition Zhang Huan: Soul and Matter

8th  July - 13rd october  2013
Palazzo Vecchio Museum and  Forte di Belvedere

Zhang Huan was born in 1965 in An Yang City (China), he lives and works in Shanghai and New York. He took part in the most important international art events like the Venice Biennale (1999), the 5th Lyon Biennale (2000), the Yokohama Triennale (2001), the 6th Gwangiu Biennale (Korea, 2006), the Shanghai Biennale (2010). His works are exhibited in the most famous museums around the world.

Palazzo Vecchio Museum

Every day (except for Thursday)   Thursday 9 am - 2 p.m.
July-September                                                    9 am - midnight
October                                                                       9 am - 7 pm  

Tickets  Museum                       euro 10,00

Combined Ticket
Museum+Forte di Belvedere     euro 14,00

Last ticket sold 1 hour before closing time   

Forte di Belvedere
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Every day (except for Thursday)   
July-September           10 am - 8 pm
October                              10 am - 5 pm
(Thursday closed)
Last ticket sold 1 hour before closing time

Single non-trasferable ticket    euro  5,00 (unlimited entries during all the
exhibition period)

Combined ticket                 
Forte di Belvedere+
Palazzo Vecchio Museum          
euro 14,00

«Art cannot change the world but it can
raise the questions and help more people
to think about the future in a wider contest»
Zhang Huan

Within the exhibition The Soul and The Matter, dedicated to Zhang Huan, one of the most interesting Chinese contemporary artists and a leading figure in the international scenario, the visitor is accompanied through an artistic itinerary starting from Palazzo Vecchio, the symbol of Florentine civil power, and reaching Forte di  Belvedere, a historically rich place set in a splendid landscape. In this extraordinary context, the displayed works show the most recent poetic creations of Zhang Huan, an artist capable of renovating the language of Chinese contemporary art and much more. The dialogue between past and current cultures, images and symbols, and different societies and religious practices is at the basis of this project.
The exhibition itinerary within Palazzo Vecchio, dedicated to sculpture, allows for the discovery of the subjects and materials of an artist who inseparably ties his work to Buddhism. The comparison between Christ’s and Buddha’s images and a portrait of Confucius in the Salone dei Cinquecento, where imposing paintings of political character can be seen, propose an unusual combination of religious values, art forms, traditions and practices from the past. The exhibition ideally continues onward in a more anthological development at to Forte di Belvedere, where monumental sculptures, for the first time in Italy, are displayed outside on are displayed on the external terracing for the first time in Italy. The complex hosts large portraits made with incense ashes and works in cowskin, displaying images from a past China surfacing from within the memory of the artist.
The ability of the artist to create aesthetic and cultural connections between the Florentine Renaissance and the Chinese civilizations is reminiscent of the Silk Road which connected the East to the West. The exhibition also offers a privileged key in understanding contemporary China, a fascinating and complex reality which, not only today, is an economic power, but moreover, an extraordinary laboratory of art and culture.



Palazzo Vecchio

Some buildings are indissolubly linked with the civil and cultural history of a Country and par excellence Palazzo Vecchio is the symbol of the power and its different protagonists in the town of Florence from the Medieval Communes to the Medici’s apotheosis with Cosimo I and up to the period in which Florence was the capital of Italy and Palazzo Vecchio became the Italian parliament house. Today, Palazzo Vecchio is the museum of its own history and the Headquarters of the City of Florence. Exhibiting Zhang Huan’s works in a place so rich in history and meaning enhances the role the artist acquired world-wide. Zhang Huan started his career as a performer by the beginning of the 1990s in Beijing. He has produced amazing works of art made of incense ashes, demonstrating all his experimental artistic courage in creating aesthetic and cultural connections between Eastern and Western cultures with an emphasis on the link with history and past times.

Starting from the Salone dei Cinquecento, where a grandiose cycle of paintings celebrate Cosimo Medici, up to the second floor halls, witnesses of the most ancient decoration of Palazzo Vecchio, Zhang Huan’s displayed works symbolize an intellectual and emotional provocation for the visitor. The fertile dialogue between ancient and contemporary elements arises from the meeting of history, Oriental spirituality and artistic tradition of the Renaissance so to nourish the awareness that only through the knowledge of the past it is possible to create a new way to elaborate the future.

The exhibit itinerary is completely dedicated to sculpture and develops through different works, some of which are expressly created for this event while others come from the artist’s studio in Shanghai, all showing Zhang Huan’s artistic creativity and his polysemous language characterized by technical and iconographic meanings. Even the materials he used, incense ashes and marble, in antithesis in their composition, show the meeting of two different cultures and the will to instill a message of peace and collective harmony. At the same time, Zhang Huan’s art becomes a precious means of universal communication and an instrument for spiritual research, where soul and matter represent the two opposite but indivisible poles for a careful consideration on individual essence and mankind’s destiny. Therefore, it is impossible not to attentively wonder about the value of such artistic production which puts tradition together with experimentation, and which offers a touching cognitive experience inviting not only to identify ourselves with already-known symbols of our beliefs, but to take into consideration a wider vision of our existence to be able to enjoy new and valuable guides which shine a light on the history of mankind, peoples and civilizations.

Forte di Belvedere


On the occasion of the exhibit Soul and Matter the  Palazzina di Belvedere, an annexed building to the main structure of Forte di Belvedere, said to be designed by Bartolomeo Ammannati around 1570, hosts a rich and well-structured selection of Zhang Huan’s works. The itinerary shows an anthological development giving better understanding to the creative path of the Chinese artist: the techniques implemented during the years, his capacity of making current and renewing some issues linked with the traditional Chinese values and the Oriental spirituality. It is in this way that Zhang Huan gives new energy to contemporary art.

The exhibition follows the creative experience of the artist starting from his return to China in 2005. Memory Doors, the result of the Chinese woodcarving technique, are wooden doors recovered in old country houses, rich in values linked with the past, mainly carved with images of gods and propitiation rites. In a cognitive itinerary linked with the origins of the Chinese civilization, the display goes from Cowskin, realized in cow or buffalo skins - to voluntarily remind the artist’s rural childhood – to the striking Ash paintings, generated by ashes of incenses burnt by the worshippers in Buddhist temples around Shanghai. The use of these ashes allows Zhang to face the issue about the “life cycle”. As in Taiwan Buddha (2010), a monumental sculpture where one of the two images, shaped with ashes, is destined to crumble down during the duration of the exhibition: a tangible metaphor about the precariousness of human beings, a touching reflection on the concepts of life and death in the Buddhist philosophy and on the possible spiritual rebirth.




città di firenze
Comune di Firenze
Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria
P.IVA 01307110484
Note Legali
Licenza Creative Commons

Amministrazione Trasparente: I dati personali pubblicati sono riutilizzabili solo alle condizioni previste dalla direttiva comunitaria 2003/98/CE e dal d.lgs. 36/2006