Off the coast of France, a massive serpent emerges from the sea

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A gigantic serpent rises out of the sea off the coast of France.

Just west of Nantes, France, on the Loire Estuary, a creeping snake leaps out of the water. Completed in 2012, the 425-foot (130-meter) sculpture Serpent d’océan by French Chinese modern artist Huang Yong Ping is a component of the 37-mile Estuaire permanent public art collection.

As the water level falls, the aluminium skeleton of the snake is continually exposed and submerged by the tides, revealing its ancient artefacts. The serpent blends in with its surroundings thanks to its twisted spine, which mimics the shape of the nearby Saint-Nazaire bridge.

A major figure in the 1980s Chinese avant-garde movement, Huang Yong Ping had multiple works banned by the Chinese government. He moved to France in 1989 and became a French citizen by naturalisation. Not surprising, given that the artist’s work often deals with identity and the mingling of cultures, that he would bring a creature from Chinese mythology to Europe.

The serpent d’océean is remarkably energetic for its size and strength. The skeleton of the serpent terminates in a thin, whip-like tail that gracefully slices through the water, seemingly propelling the body of the serpent in the direction of the coast. Depending on the time of day, the sculpture always shows itself in different forms because of the shifting tide and the light’s reflection. Curiously, as time passes and algae grows to the top, the piece has new meaning as it illustrates the cycle of nature and life.

Yong Ping expanded on the theme for his highly praised Empires presentation in 2016 by creating an even larger serpent that measured 787 feet (240 metres). The display was a component of the Monumenta series, which got its start in 2007 at the Grand Palais in Paris with Anselm Kiefer. As part of a commentary on global trade, the Chinese artist’s snake was surrounded by 305 freight containers in the Monumenta final presentation.

The 425-foot-long Serpent d’océan public sculpture by Huang Yong Ping is located near Brevin-les-Pins on the banks of the Loire estuary.

Off the coast of France, a massive serpent emerges from the sea

This idea was modified by the French-Chinese artist for his Monumenta exhibition, which took place in 2016 at the Grand Palais in Paris.

Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra


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