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Zhang Jian-Jun: Human Traces

30 September 2021 - 14 November 2021



K11 Art Foundation (KAF) is delighted to collaborate with London’s Royal Academy of Arts (RA) to present Zhang Jian-Jun: Human Traces, the inaugural touring exhibition of renowned artist Zhang Jian-Jun now arriving at its final stop in Hong Kong. Presenting a new body of works culminating from the artist’s earlier participation in the Artist-in-Residence Programme co-presented by KAF and RA, the exhibition was on tour previously in Shanghai and Shenyang where it drew more than 10,000 visitors and received wide public acclaim. The finale exhibition in Hong Kong, held at K11 HACC from 30 September to 14 November, will feature a series of new works created specifically for the city.

Curated by renowned Chinese scholar Wu Hung, the exhibition Zhang Jian-Jun: Human Traces reflects the artist’s latest musings on the eternal themes of human beings, nature, and time. The exhibition includes three interconnected and interactive parts, all of which revolve around these three topics and how they evolve around the concept of past, present, and future.

Zhang Jian-Jun is the fourth artist to participate in the ongoing artist-in-residence programme co-presented by KAF and RA. During his residency in 2019, Zhang transformed RA School’s Smirke 2 Studio into an “archaeological” site, culminating in the creation of Human Traces—a new mixed-media installation that manifests Zhang’s ongoing artistic enquiry into humankind.

As a pioneer of Chinese abstract art and figuration, Zhang has been expanding the artistic explorations in his oeuvre by consistently combining the three core concepts in art history—the interaction between nature and humans; the traces people leave behind over the course of time; and the relationship between historic and modern-day living.

Divided into three parts, the exhibition begins by responding to, and renewing, Zhang’s 2019 Human Traces exhibition in London. Works created over Zhang’s two months spent in London at the RA Schools—including beautifully moving ink and charcoal portraits of people he met during his visit—are presented in fresh light alongside new works. These contemporary figures portraying the diversity of ethnicities and identities are presented in contrast to his sculptures of images from various cultures, inspiring viewers to ponder the connections among people from different eras and cultural backgrounds.

Surrounded and confronted by one’s own reflections, the second part comprises a corridor of mirrors offering an immersive experience and encouraging visitors to reflect on their identities while seeing themselves at every conceivable angle.

This illusionistic path will then lead viewers to the epilogue which consists of an interactive space provoking further self-exploration. Zhang guides the audience to participate in the artistic creation with three stimulating questions, allowing them to leave their own “traces” in the exhibition.

Meanwhile, they can also explore the existing human traces left by audiences in Shanghai and Shenyang.
Human Traces is conceived as a dynamic process. From Shanghai to Shenyang, and finally to Hong Kong, the vanishing of portraits, and subsequent addition of new ones, together with the subtle changes of the exhibition space, reflect the interaction between the artist, and the past and present of each location. As the last stop of this process, the Hong Kong exhibition will bring together the dynamics of this ever-evolving, ever-adapting project, leaving behind the richest embodiment of Human Traces.

“Time” is one of the major sources of Zhang’s works. From his point of view, “human traces” is a mark of development and evolution. As he says, “The significance of the future is embodied in the past. I hope to bring different perspectives to the audience, providing them with a new way of thinking towards the unknown.”


Zhang Jianjun (born 1955, Shanghai) graduated from the department of fine arts at the Shanghai Drama Institute in 1978. As an artist, Zhang steered avant-garde experimentation in Shanghai in the 1980s. He was known for producing abstract, black-and-white works using mixed media to address notions of existence, humanity, and nature. After moving to New York in 1989, his works began to reflect the rapid transformation of China’s urban landscape and culture, and also questioned the meaning of value and authenticity. Zhang currently lives and works in Shanghai.


30 September 2021
14 November 2021
Event Category:


K11 Art Foundation

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