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This is an advance reading copy of uncorrected proofs. Changes will be made to the copy before publication. Please check all quotations for review against the final bound book.


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ART MAO Copyright © 2014 by CN Times Books, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the address below.

BEIJING MEDIATIME BOOKS CO., LTD CN Times Books, Inc. 501 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10017 www.cntimesbooks.com Ordering Information: Quantity sales. Special discounts are available on quantity purchases by corporations, associations, and others. For details, contact the publisher at the address above. Orders by US trade bookstores and wholesalers. Please contact Ingram Publisher Services: Tel: (866) 400-5351; Fax: (800) 838-1149; or customer.service @ingrampublisherservices.com ISBN 978-162774-095-1 Printed in China

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CONTENTS 07 40 451

Introduction: Art and Mao, by Francesca Dal Lago ART MAO (A-Z by artist) Index of artists

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Zhu Wei, China Diary no 16, 1995, ink and colour, 132 x 132cm, private collection. Courtesy of Plum Blossoms Gallery

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Personal Mao: Reshaping an icon in contemporary Chinese art by Francesca Dal Lago

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n recent years the production of what is generically defined as avant-garde art in mainland China has been the site of a widespread re-emergence of the icon of Mao Zedong, paired in the larger social context with a mass cultural trend focused on the renewed popularity of the figure of the Chairman. This phenomenon has attracted the attention of scholars, cultural critics, and journalists, and, in terms of artistic production, has achieved substantial market success.1 Notwithstanding the prominent visual character of the larger sociocultural phenomenon, little or no notice has been paid to the specific domain of the visual and to the close connection between the popular success of the so-called Maocraze and the propagandistic process of visual dissemination employed during the Cultural Revolution.2 An idiosyncratic form of cultural production and consumption at play in contemporary China encompasses both high and low culture in a fluctuating process largely facilitated by the long-lasting effects of the earlier ideological framework. The cultural critic Liu Kang has discussed this phenomenon by stating that “contemporary Chinese culture of the everyday has increasingly become the site of dialogical contention of a variety of forces, among which the culture industry, or the commercial popular culture, and China’s local and national forms and styles, including the revolutionary legacy of the culture of the masses, intersect and interpenetrate.�3 More specifically, the case can be made for a mode of cultural dissemination originally produced to meet the requirements of the ideological apparatus, but still active today within the collective imagination of a consumerist Chinese society. The transition of propagandistic models

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from ideological dissemination to mass consumption creates an unexpected correspondence between consumerist and socialist systems of mass communication. The Chinese case offers a direct example of the versatility of the propagandistic medium to fulfill opposite ideological orientations within the same society and within the time frame of one generation. While the starting point of my research has been the investigation of the tight relationship created during this century between artistic production and Nationalist ideology, my investigation has eventually turned toward a larger dimension of cultural production. This shift has taken place in order to provide valid tools of interpretation for the complex phenomenon of the renewed popular currency of the figure of Mao within a social framework that would seem to have abandoned the ideological assumptions symbolized by the icon at the time of its original emergence. It will eventually become apparent how the very significance of the icon of Mao can instead be considered as a discursive space where different, sometimes antithetical, ideological strategies are negotiated, often simultaneously. In this sense the renewed viability of this sign can be proposed as a paradigm of the complex, often highly contradictory forces at work in the contemporary cultural production of the People’s Republic. This cyclical shift from popular taste to official marketing strategy can moreover be considered as an idiosyncratic instance of what has been defined as “the Mercantile fervor of the Reform age,”4 an example of the ideological sell-out of Communist China that turned the country into the most promising sociocapitalist market of the 21st century. The Portrait If a 1979 statistic estimating the production of Mao’s portraits during the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) at 2.2 billion—three copies for every citizen—is accurate, then the standardized

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image of Mao, best known in the West because of its prominent position as the frontispiece of the Little Red Book and through Andy Warhol’s remake of the 1970s, maybe the single most reproduced portrait in human history (see page 20 and 353-58).5 This image has recently undergone a disconcerting revival prompted by a set of practices comparable to the Western phenomenon of star adoration and celebrity worship. In order to grasp the aura of immanent sacrality it once generated, it is worth considering its specific and multilayered significance. This aura is central to the assessment of the huge propagandistic system activated in China during the Cultural Revolution via visual language. The most important component of this ideological superstructure is related to the location of the portrait in the most sacred ritual space of Communist China, Tiananmen square, on the gate of the Forbidden City also called Tiananmen (The Gate of Heavenly Peace). The portrait was hung there since the early days of the People’s Republic in 1949 and was produced in several versions through the years. Of these the most reproduced was the version that hung on the gate during the Cultural Revolution.6 In its latest version the portrait still faces the expanse of the largest public square in the world, at the symbolic center of the state, where all major modernizing movements of this century began physically or metaphorically. In this position it does not perform a merely decorative role on the side of this central area, but—as noted by the art historian Wu Hung—it occupies one of the conceptual poles that creates a symbolic space with other elements of the square, endowing it with the manifold sacrality derived from the conflation of traditional cosmological arrangements and socialist ideological superstructures.7 Hanging above the gate’s central opening, the portrait is situated on the central axis of the city plan. This axis, with

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its associations of central imperial power, has formed the ideological and cosmological spine of most Chinese capitals since the Zhou dynasty in the 5th century bc. At the same time the portrait hangs just below the historic rostrum from which Mao personally announced the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. In that position it is a constant reminder of the conceptual unity that links the founder of the modern state and the Chinese tradition of power.8 In addition to this semiotic network external to the space of the picture, the portrait displays another range of ideological signifiers in the formal arrangement of its elements. Through a set of compositional characters indebted both to Soviet models and to local traditions of imperial and ancestral portraiture, it operates in a way similar to that of early Byzantine icons by “making visible that which could not be perceived by the senses.”9 The icon “contemplates us, it becomes in its turn the gaze of God on the beholder who finds himself caught within the circuit of informative and transformative relations.”10 “The icon acts . . . Who see it sees himself. Who sees it is seen.”11 Like the iconic representations of Soviet leaders, it is constructed by merging a semiphotographic effect with the surface of the painting. This process bestows the image with a hybrid quality that shifts between the objectivity of the everyday and the transcendence of the myth.12 Thanks to this symbolic layering of significance, the portrait was turned into a highly effective tool of ideological indoctrination during the Cultural Revolution and became an intrinsic element of this period’s visual and political culture. Mao was a ubiquitous figure then. His images were executed in a wide range of forms and materials and disseminated in every public and private space, thus performing a function of ideological surveillance on every individual in all contexts of daily life. The visual ubiquity of the portrait, combined with

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the power attached to the political and personal prestige of the man, contributed to the creation of a feeling of religious adoration not just toward the Chairman, but toward the image itself, which began to share in the god-like nature of its referent. The Posthumous Cult: the Maocraze in the 1990s This set of ideological features is both central to the dissemination of Mao’s portrait during the 1960s and ’70s and a major cause of its renewed currency as a popular culture icon in the early 1990s. In that period a popular fad based on the visual and cultural re-appropriation of the image of the leader engulfed the whole country in a posthumous cult of personality that has been dubbed the Maocraze (the Chinese term maore is literally translated as MaoHeat). During this time the portrait acquired a talismanic status whose best-known manifestation was its use as a rearview mirror ornament by taxi or bus drivers to protect both vehicle and passengers from road accidents. Mao was progressively accepted as a trademark of low-brow consumerism. Books on his life, re-editions of his collected writings, and essays on his person and his role in Chinese history and society started to appear. Karaoke and pop remakes of revolutionary songs associated with his figure became top-selling hits all over the country. Mao-style restaurants became fashionable, with decor employing standard paraphernalia from the Cultural Revolution and menus based on the poor, countryside diet. “It was,” as Dai Jinhua, a prominent cultural critic, has stated, “more the revelation of a political unconscious than some kind of conscious political behaviour: the displacement and identification of political power with consumerism.”13 Many have read in the Maocraze a phenomenon of nostalgia for a totalitarian past of relative economic stability

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and unblemished ideological zeal, lacking the anxieties and insecurities initiated by the looser atmosphere of recent economic liberalization. In the eyes of the people Mao remained the eternal revolutionary, and his image could be subversively employed—from within the accepted framework of political discourse—to contest the legitimacy of today’s rulers, who were perceived as being corrupt.14 As a consequence of its popular success, the revived Mao cult was appropriated by the Communist Party to serve active nationalist goals. The renewed focus on Mao’s patriotism strengthened the party’s image for ideological cohesiveness and provided a surrogate for the worn-out socialist ideology undermined by the economic reforms of the Deng era. By 1993, the 100th anniversary of Mao’s birth, the Mao cult became a grandly orchestrated event that officially promoted and marketed a new brand of reform-style nationalism. Nonetheless, the popular enthusiasm for the Chairman quickly subsided as a direct consequence of the government’s official appropriations and manipulations.15 It should be remembered that unlike Stalin in the Soviet Union, Mao was never officially repudiated by the Chinese Communist Party, despite the devastation the country suffered under his rule. Thus, his icon has never ceased to be considered—both at home and abroad—as the quintessential representation of modern China. At the same time, in the eyes of the people, especially in extra-urban areas, Mao remains the eternal revolutionary subversively employed—from within the accepted political discourse—to contest the legitimacy of today’s rulers.17 The image of the despotic and tyrannical Mao (the Bad Mao) is therefore contrasted by popular, superstitious beliefs with that of a Good Mao, “worshipped as one of the people, incorruptible and non-nepotistic in contrast to the post-Mao rulers who are dismissed as greedily and narrowly concerned

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only with their own.”18 The Maocraze and contemporary Chinese art While the nationalist agenda attached to the official appropriation of the Maocraze should not be dismissed in the discussion of Mao-related artworks, the popular aspect of the fad and its mass cultural character appear more relevant to contemporary artistic production. It is important to remember that the language of the Maocraze was visual to begin with and that its visual currency very much facilitated its propagation and the depth of its ideological penetration. Since “visual” is in turn the space of production of the avant-garde, there exists an immediate level of response between the two artistic languages—Cultural Revolution propaganda and avant-garde art—sustained but not mediated by the recent popular fad. In other words, visuality is the first and most direct space of reception of that original message and therefore becomes central to the consumption and re-elaboration of the original propaganda. The re-use of popular symbols of the socialist realist and propagandistic visual production has been discussed by the critic Li Xianting, the first to provide a critical frame to this new production and the one who gave this genre its name of Political Pop: An existence saturated with politics has become the accustomed state of being for most contemporary Chinese. . . Efforts to avoid this political reality. . . are only further evidence of the power of the system. Political Pop uses the acknowledgment of this political reality as its starting point, but then proceeds to satirize politics, providing an effective (but by no means heroic) means of neutralizing the hold of a politically saturated mentality on the inner mind. . . In a sense, “Mao Fever” and Political Pop art are linked in that there is inherent in both the use of past icons or “gods” to criticize, or in the case of the latter, to satirize, current reality.19

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A constant aspect of this production is the ironic dimension attached to the representation of the Chairman, a liberating experience vis-à-vis the dark psychological mood of coercion and regulation of the previous totalitarian period. The attitude of cheeky irreverence often expressed in these works could actually be compared to the form of vernacular humour focusing on Mao that began in the early 1980s, where jokes provided an occasion of transgression and release that would facilitate the secularization of the figure of the Chairman.20 A general distinction to be made about these works relates to the age of the artists and whether or not they personally lived through the period of Mao’s rule. For those who lived through the Cultural Revolution as young adults, it is hard to disentangle the figure from the confused sense of exhilaration and disillusionment associated with those years. In the works of these artists Mao is generally treated with a critical depth and a sense of psychological involvement mostly lacking in the works of younger artists. Zhang Hongtu—an artist in his fifties now based in New York—has summarized the feeling of this older generation toward Mao’s icon with the following words: “When I first cut up a photo of Mao’s face to make a collage, I felt as if I were sinning. Such feelings have made me realize how my work is really an effort to break the psychological authority that Mao as an image continues to hold over all Chinese. For me, working on Mao became a form of exorcism.”21 For a later generation who were children or teenagers at the time of his death, Mao is largely an icon in the popular sense of the term, an idol with a similar visual relevance to that reached in the West by Marilyn or Elvis.22 For these artists Mao is very much an item of wall decoration or an image without depth that does not retain any deep, personal significance.23 Finally, for individuals of both generations, Mao’s image has often become a transparent semineutral sign

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where, as is often the case in the system of Western celebrity cults, the viewer may “overlay his or her own interpretation . . . with his or her own sexual, personal and cultural identity.”24 The first known critical re-appropriation of the image of Mao that predicates later, ironical uses of the image is a sculpture by Wang Keping (b. 1949) titled Idol (1978). Exhibited as a part of the “Stars II” outdoor exhibition in 1980, it visualizes the god-like status of the leader, overlapping Mao’s flaccid features with those of an ironically winking Buddha.25 Mao Zedong—Red Grid No. 1 by Wang Guangyi (b. 1956) and Mao and Whitney by Yu Youhan (b. 1943), both dated 1988, are the earliest examples of the more recent Mao-related phenomenon in painting.26 Wang’s work belongs to a series in which major paintings—largely drawn from the Western tradition—are reduced to their essential volumetric forms and/or analyzed through a cold abstract grid, reminiscent of iron bars, in a process meant to divest them of any trace of emotional impact.27 To a slightly later period belongs Mao on the Rostrum in Tiananmen Square (1989) and Mao Talking with the Peasants in Shaoshan (1991) (see page 21, 395 and 398), both by Yu Youhan. Yu appropriates a famous 1950s official photograph of Mao taken with a family of cheerfully smiling peasants in his hometown village, Shaoshan, and manipulates it with patterned color motifs that recall the decorative style of folk art. This simulated naïve language parodies official socialist realist policies, whose basic tenet was to promote an art created from the standpoint of the masses. The folk language Mao hailed as the necessary choice for revolutionary art is grotesquely exaggerated, as the figures turn into flat patterns arranged in a fabric-like composition.28 The blurred faces are nearly absorbed into the decorative background, and only their overemphatic smiles are left to distinguish the people from the overall wallpaper effect.

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Yu parodically equates the relentless annihilation of the self that marked a whole decade of recent Chinese history to a process of home decoration, in which all the elements are selected for their formal matching qualities. The process thus becomes a metaphor suggesting the ways in which visual propaganda assimilated most individuals into a semi-irrelevant background propped against the representation of the only protagonist left on the political scene. Just like Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire Cat, the shining smiles remain after the disappearance of the subjects, representing their original presence. Isolated within the red faces, the white blots lay bare the fallacy of the joyful bliss artificially imposed on the subjects of the Cultural Revolution’s art and society. Exaggeration exposes the farcical quality of political propaganda and the surreal, overidealized relationship between the leader and the people. While for older artists the Chairman’s image and the symbolic value attached to his official representation still maintain a deep emotional significance, artists of a generation too young to have experienced the political brainwashing of the Cultural Revolution directly reveal a sneering detachment in the use of Mao’s icon. In a particularly significant example—a painting executed in 1991 by the Beijing-based artist Liu Wei (b. 1965), titled New Generation (1990)—the artist exposes the ongoing play of references created between Mao the icon and Mao the historical character by relegating the Chairman to the position he physically occupied for two decades in the daily life of the people: a portrait on the wall.29 Mao has literally become a backdrop for a photo-taking session of two children, portraits of the artist and his brother. While the Chairman’s figure is still towering over the composition, it is not the leader but his representation that is reproduced within the painting. Mao is a portrait on the wall, secularized through the addition of a semi-abstract

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and naïvely drawn landscape, his image employed as a framework to Liu’s self-representation. His face is shown with the usual blank expression that looks but does not see, while the boys in front of him are actually looking out. The tension produced by juxtaposing the highly iconic, expressionless portrait of Mao on the wall and the restlessness of the children in the forefront is quite illustrative of the shift that has occurred. The Chairman is no longer a physical and religious entity whose presence can affect the course of millions of individual lives; he is a reminiscence of the past, a flat poster on the wall, a mere backdrop for a new generation striving in the foreground to gain the centre of the picture. Another recurring form within this tendency are the works in which Mao is not directly portrayed but metonymically suggested through the quotation of attributes and/or formal compositions associated with his former official representations. For example, in a series of works by Geng Jianyi (b. 1962), titled Rays (1992), Mao is unmistakably indicated by the shining rays that would often surround his icon in the official portraits from the Cultural Revolution (see page 22). Geng substitutes the central icon of the radiant halo with figures like pandas or everyday images of workers, peasants, and national minorities, such as those printed on Chinese bank notes.30 The unique quality of Mao’s god-like image is thus conceptually undermined by its replacement with one of the most common symbols of contemporary Chinese visual and mass culture. In the case of the panda, a Nationalist cord is ironically stroked by equating the most formidable advocate of a unique Chinese national character to a universal symbol of Chinese cuteness, the fluffy and friendly panda bear.31 Similarly, in a 1995 work by Wang Xingwei (b. 1969), titled The Road to Anyuan (see page 23 and 342-43), Mao is suggested by the re-enactment of the composition of the

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most famous work of the Cultural Revolution, the 1967 painting by Liu Chunhua bearing the same title (see page 25).32 The contemporary work retains the signifiers that any Chinese viewer would immediately associate with this ultrafamous image: the pink umbrella, the trademark cloudy blue sky, and the distant mountainscape that opens up under the Chairman’s feet. Wang thus establishes an immediate visual parallel with this foremost popular icon and creates a complicitous set of associations among the original image, viewers who can still remember its visual impact, and the reinterpreted version, in which the central figure is turned backward and the artist casts himself in the role of the Chairman, wearing a tacky Western suit and a yellow shirt instead of the gray robe of the classic scholar. The hilarity created by this most unusual case of mistaken identity is immediate and irresistible. Reproducing Mao as an absent, cut-out presence has been the focus of a large series of works by the New York-based artist Zhang Hongtu (b. 1943), whose series Material Mao quotes the Chairman through his standardized, cut-out silhouette (see page 26). Contrary to the outlook that sees this empty frame as inspired by the Taoist philosophical concepts of yin and yang (negative and positive),33 the idea for the series, according to the artist, “comes directly from a bagel.�34 For Zhang, yet another member of the older generation who personally experienced the trauma of the Cultural Revolution, obsessively reproducing the negative silhouette of the Chairman and surrounding it with ordinary materials that create both a visual or verbal pun on his god-like status is a daring act of defacement for a figure who marked the psyche of an entire generation through his constant visual and psychological presence. Representations of Mao are included in the semidiarist series executed in ink and brush by the Beijing-based Zhu Wei (b. 1966) under the general title of China Diary. In China Diary

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No. 16 (1995) (see page 6), Mao is once again translated into contemporary clothes by an immediate association to the system of pop cultural stardom, the nearest form to personality cult known in 1990s China. Impersonating the role of Cui Jian—China’s most famous rock-and-roll star and one of the artist’s idols—Mao is represented as the singer, wearing a red cloth on his eyes while singing on stage. This particular act, Cui Jian’s performing trademark in the early 1990s, is a visual reference to the lyrics of the song “A Piece of Red Cloth.” The cloth is a metaphor for the red flag by which the singer criticizes the numbing effects of socialism on the minds of the people. It is therefore paradoxical that on stage the Chairman should wear a symbol critical of the social system he helped create. In spite of this equation of two different star systems, a certain skepticism over Mao’s popularity is suggested by his downgraded position as an impersonator of the rock-and-roll icon on the stage of a street singer. While in Wang Xingwei’s painting Mao on the Way to Yan’An the leader’s exceptional popularity was underlined by his very absence (Mao is so well-known he does not need to be portrayed), Zhu’s representation suggests a reversal of roles, in which the leader is forced to wear the clothes of the star to revamp his antiquated political look.35 More subversive is a 1992 video titled Counterrevolutionary Slogan (see page 29) by Liu Anping (b. 1964), in which the author impersonates Mao in the form of his official portrait and re-enacts one of the most defiant acts performed during the 1989 demonstrations—the defacement of Mao’s portrait hanging on Tiananmen Gate.36 The episode, immediately condemned by the student demonstrators, appeared particularly reprehensible to the authorities exactly because of its high symbolism. By re-enacting this specific episode, Liu exposes how the harsh punishment given to the vandals revealed Mao’s still sacrosanct status in the eyes of Chinese rulers.

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Peasants reading and studying Mao’s teaching in the model commune of Dazhai, reproduced in The Red Sun Shines over the Progressive Road of Dazhai, Beijing Waiwen Chubanshe 1969, p129.

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Yu Youhan, Chairman Mao talking with the peasants of Shaoshan, 1991, oil on canvas, 167 x 119 cm, courtesy of the artist (see pages 390-408)

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Geng JIanyi, Eternally Radiant, 1992, oil on canvas, 120 x 100 cm, courtesy Hanart TZ Chang Gallery, Hong Kong (see pages 106-07)

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Wang Xingwei, The Way to the East, 1995, oil on canvas, 146 x 186 cm, courtesy Hanart/ TZ Chang Gallery, Hong Kong (see pages 342-43)

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While the number of artists who have employed Mao or references to his figure in their work is too large to be discussed in this article,37 the computer-generated, hand-painted collages of Zhao Shaoruo (b. 1962), based on the Chairman’s most popular photographic representations, appear powerful in their apparently simple construction. Executed between 1994 and 1996, this series referenced the type of calendars bearing the Chairman’s image that become popular during the Maocraze. In what appear to be simple photomontages, the artist attaches the image of his own face onto Mao’s body and thus literally casts himself—an unknown individual—into the role of this previously ubiquitous icon. By fully reappropriating the language of official portraiture to serve the goal of artistic self-representation, Zhao accomplishes an act of visual blasphemy that stretches to the limits the process of desecularization already suggested in some of the previously discussed works. The large variations found in the treatment of Mao’s image support the idea that through the intense visual drumming to which Chinese individuals were exposed for decades, his icon was eventually emptied of its strictly ideological connotations, acquiring an aura of daily familiarity central to the manipulations of unofficial art. This phenomenon is strikingly similar to what David Morgan has discussed in regard to popular religious images in the United States: “The theory of popular religious visual culture advanced here posits that by becoming constant and virtually transparent features of daily experience, embedded in the quotidian rituals . . . that people take for granted, religious images help form the half-forgotten texture of everyday life.”38 The manipulations of Mao’s image become a powerful tool of self-definition and representation exactly because their ubiquity in the realm of public representation was such a visual staple in the daily life of millions.

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Poster based on Liu Chunhua, Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan, 1967, oil on canvas, 220 x 180 cm, private collection

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Zhang Hongtu, Mesh Mao, 1992, from Metrial Mao series, iron mesh, 91.4 x 69.9 x 21.6 cm, courtesy of the artist (see also pages 423-31)

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At the same time, this type of appropriation conforms to the mode of cultural consumption described by Michel de Certeau as “the silent, transgressive, ironic or poetic activity of readers,” in which the form of reading provides an alternative, unregulated interpretation of imposed forms of cultural orthodoxy. In de Certeau’s words, “the creativity of the reader grows as the institution that controlled [the text] declines.”39 Only in the ideologically relaxed arena of postMao China, thanks to the social and political restructuring produced by the new open-door policies, did the possibility of such manipulations become feasible. Ideological desire and the rescue of the self For those who lived through the Cultural Revolution as young adults, this period represented a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Regardless of the social havoc brought about by the “collapse of rationalism,” most often it stands for a memory in which overwhelming ideological fervor, ecstatic release from years of parental and social surveillance, and hysterical adoration for a single individual are conflated in a disconcerting emotional knot. The work of the painter Li Shan can be read as a conflation of personal and ideological experiences related to Mao’s figure and a compelling case of creative reception and re-elaboration of ideological indoctrination. By negotiating his own personal and sexual identity within the most iconic portraits of Mao, Li Shan visualizes his shifting role from passive receptor to active manipulator in the space of the same image and provides a telling instance of the contradictory set of emotions still attached to the icon by millions of people. Based in Shanghai since the early 1960s, Li was 24 in 1966 at the start of the Cultural Revolution. From the late 1980s until the mid-1990s he nearly exclusively painted Mao images based on two of the Chairman’s most famous portraits, one

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taken during the period of Mao’s guerrilla activity in the 1930s (see page 36-37) and the other of the ageing and benevolent-looking patriarch reproduced in billions of copies, which was hung on Tiananmen Gate during the Cultural Revolution. By appropriating these two specific portraits, Li references those representations of Mao that in his memory are associated with a specific range of emotional experiences and are therefore closely connected to a specific time and place in his life. The portrait is thus quoted within the painting in a specific representational format to evoke a set of personal associations completely dissimilar from the ideological implication lying at the center of the portrait’s construction. In these paintings deliberately mimicking the graphic flatness of propaganda posters, the iconic value of the image is recreated by juxtaposing Mao’s head, executed with black-and-white photorealistic accuracy, against a flat and brightly colored background. Reminiscent of the way in which Warhol “has accepted the photograph directly into the domain of pictorial art not as an external memory prop for the painter’s handmade re-creation of reality, but as the actual base for the image on the canvas,”40 Li appropriates the photographically originated representations of Mao, preserving part of their basic black-and-white features and thus marking a clear distinction between the found image and his own manipulations. The portrait Li most frequently employed is that of the young Mao. A helpful comparison could be made in this regard to the literary production of the so-called Educated Youth, a group of writers of Li’s same generation defined by their forced experience of country life during the Cultural Revolution. Dai Jinhua has remarked that in order to rescue their idealistic memories of youth from the condition of historical denial that emerged in mainstream culture after the end of the Cultural Revolution, “educated youth literature

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Liu Anping, Counterrevolutionary slogan, 1992, video 2 minutes, courtesy of the artist

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sought . . . to redeem the self from the calamity, the pillaging, the evil that was history—it was the memory of youth as substitute. Consequently, they tried with near desperation to rip away the memory of their youth from history and the discourse of history. Undoubtedly, it was all in vain.”41 The evocation of youth and the recollection of a special time of his life achieved via selective memory thus becomes an acceptable reading of Li’s use of the image of the young Mao. The artist’s interpretation is similar to this approach. He declares that his use of Mao is an attempt to provide “a comment on his own personal history, not on the history of China.”42 The ecstatic fanaticism marking the experience of the Cultural Revolution and the phenomenon of self-identification with the figure of the political leader is echoed in the celebrity worship system so common in Western popular culture. The interpretation that sees fandom and fanaticism as typical manifestations of youthful idealism is well represented, for example, in the Elvis cult, as Ted Harrison states in his book Elvis People: There are fans who find that in remembering Elvis and keeping his memory alive, they are keeping alive that period of their own lives when they were young, and life was full of hope and promise. . . . In the 50s young people began to feel important. Elvis led the way. And today the same fans, now stuck in middle age, with middle incomes and little hope now of achieving great things in life, can return inside themselves to times past, and Elvis leads the way again.43

In this light the young Mao in Li’s work is both the incarnation of that time and the projection of the artist’s memory of self at that time. The figure stands for both the cause and the effect of a process of total devotion and self-annihilation.

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A recurring element of Li’s manipulations of Mao’s portrait gives the title to the series and is central to the assessment of these representations. This is created by adding details or facial features in a hue of pink verging on fuchsia, which Li calls yanzhi (rouge). This particular color is associated in Chinese visual culture with popular art, such as New Year prints and popular pageants. In the domain of Chinese opera it is linked with the role of the dan or young maiden, which in the past was performed by men. On an immediate visual level the association of this color with the officially sanctioned images of Mao thus establishes a subversive process vis-à-vis the solemnity of the icon, similar to the use of folk patterns in Yu Youhan’s paintings. Li speaks of the yanzhihua (rouge-ization) of Mao to describe the popularization of the Chairman’s portrait and its transformation into a true “popular” icon through the use of a colour immediately associated with low and vulgar taste.44 But an implicit reference is directed toward male homoerotic desire, traditionally associated in China with the theatrical world because of the convention of men playing female roles. This association—implied both by the use of the colour and by the androgynous, feminized features assumed by the portrait in Li’s series—introduces another recurrent trope of the literary recollections of the Cultural Revolution—that of sexual freedom and liberation experienced during this period.45 “Gendering” Mao becomes Li’s personal way to vulgarize the figure of the leader and bring this sublime object of desire to a more accessible level. The result of this practice is the projection of the artist’s sexuality onto the icon, the screen of a feminized Mao.46 This process of self-identification is further revealed in a 1994 painting by Li titled Mao and the Artist (see page 39). Here Mao and Li coquettishly lean on each other, holding in their hands two sensually stylized flowers. Their facial traits

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demonstrate an effect of mutual assimilation, in which the older Mao is portrayed as a semiclone of the artist. The political icon is progressively absorbed within the artist’s persona and rendered as the projection of his psychological journey during a decisive moment of his own history. By feminizing the traits of a young, desirable hero—and investing the icon that so profoundly marked the horizon of a whole generation with the signs of his own desire, Li attempts to rescue his individual self from “the pillaging that was history.” And yet his portrait still maintains a degree of inaccessibility that locates it on a different level from that of the viewer. The iconic properties derived from the original version are preserved in the reworked format, endowing it with a character of puzzling aloofness. This resistance to a single mode of readings endows the “new” Mao with an undefinable quality that acts as a poignant visual expression for a country traversing a period of intense moral and material changes. In this case, as in many others, Mao has been “undemonized” in a process of deapotheosis through absorption into the self.47 This phenomenon closely recalls the process through which certain popular religious images associated with the daily experience of the viewer can eventually be invested with a specific personal recollection: “the function of the image at the time and thereafter in the ritual of remembering and recounting for others appears to manage change in a way that preserves a sense of self in face of transformation.”48 During a period when ethical and moral values are being continuously rediscussed under the frantic pace of reform, Mao-the-image has been paradoxically transformed into a stable sign and a most unlikely space of expression for that very entity Mao-the-man had attempted to erase, his subjects’ individual selves.

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Notes An earlier version of this article was presented during the 1997 CAA Annual Conference in New York at the panel Totalitarian Cultures and Their Audiences, organized by Karen Kettering and Karen Fiss. To them, as to Geremie R. Barmé, Jonathan Hay, Robert Lubar, Sang Ye, Giovanni Vitiello, Miriam Wattles, and Roberta Wue, my warmest thanks for the precious suggestions and kind assistance in the revision and presentation of this text. The original paper was delivered in concomitance with an extremely tragic event, the untimely death of our friend and colleague Alice Yang. To her warm and inspiring friendship I dedicated my presentation at that time and wish to dedicate this article now. 1. The most definitive text on the Maocraze, from which I have drawn throughout this article, is Geremie Barmé’s Shades of Mao: The Posthumous Cult of the Great Leader (Armonk: M. E. Sharpe, 1996). Other English texts that have discussed this phenomenon are Edward Friedman, “Democracy and ‘Mao Fever,’” The Journal of Contemporary China 6 (Summer 1994): 84–95; Dai Jinhua, “Redemption and Consumption: Depicting Culture in the 1990’s,” Positions 4, no. 1 (1996): 127–43; Orville Schell, “Chairman Mao as Pop Art,” in The Mandate of Heaven (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994), 279–92. 2. The only English language discussion of the visual aspects of the phenomenon to my knowledge is David Clarke, “Reframing Mao: Aspects of Recent Chinese Art, Popular Culture and Politics,” in Art and Place: Essays on Art from a Hong Kong Perspective (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1996), 236–49. 3. Liu Kang, “Popular Culture and the Culture of the Masses,” in Postmodernism and China, ed. Arif Dirlik and Zhang Xudong, Boundary 2, 24, no. 3 (Fall 1997): 121 (my emphasis). 4. Barmé, 13. 5. Ibid., 8.

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6. For practical and satirical reasons this version of the portrait is commonly defined as “One-ear Mao”(yige erduo), to distinguish it from the “two-ear” (liange erduo) frontal representation, more directly associated with traditional ancestral portraits, which since Mao’s death has been hanging on Tiananmen Gate. The artist Zhang Hongtu has pointed out this terminology to me. 7. In “Tian’anmen Square: A Political History of Monuments,” Representations, no. 35 (Summer 1991): 85–117, Wu Hung affirms that the construction of Tiananmen square—undertaken through a period of twenty-five years—was meant to create a symbolic structure that would “externalize Mao’s vision of revolution, history and people on a geographic plane” (102). In this context Mao came to represent both past and present of the Chinese state. 8. The mourning of ex–Party Secretary Hu Yaobang, which initiated the twomonth period of protest in Tiananmen Square in 1989, was marked by placing an iconic portrait of the deceased man on the Stele of the People’s Heroes directly opposite the site occupied by Mao’s portrait on the gate. On May 23, Mao’s portrait was defaced in one of the most iconoclastic acts performed during the demonstrations (see n. 36). Finally, the statue of the Goddess of Democracy, the last attempt made by the students to establish their ideological position on the square, was placed immediately in front of the portrait, in an openly confrontational gesture of defiance. On these strategic acts of public representation, see Wu Hung, 104–14; Tsao Tsing-yuan, “The Birth of the Goddess of Democracy,” in Popular Protest and Political Culture in China, ed. Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom and Elisabeth J. Perry (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994), 140–47; Clarke, 242–43. 9. John Baggley, Doors of Perception (London: Mowbray, 1987), 77. For a discussion of the portrait in terms of traditional ancestral portraiture and mourning, see Clarke, 238. 10. Marie-José Mondzain, Icone, image, economie (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1996), 119. According to Mondzain, the Byzantine icon is constructed so that an ideal set of perspectival lines departs from the gaze of the figure and

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converges “in the eyes of the beholder, who is left feeling that he [or she] is essential to the completion of the icon,” 81 (my trans.). 11. Ibid., 119. 12. This is very similar to the way in which official Soviet portraiture was manipulated in Russia; see Brandon Taylor, “Photo-Power,” in Art and Power, ed. Dawn Ades, Tim Benton, et al., exh. cat. (London: Hayward Gallery, 1995), 251–52. 13. Dai Jinhua, 129. 14. Friedman, 90–91. The critical undertones that the portrait could assume vis-à-vis the government were underlined during the Tiananmen demonstrations, when people started to openly carry it as a form of protest; see Barmé, 16. 15. Barmé, 5. 16. Friedman, 90. 17. Ibid., 91. 18. Ibid., 93. 19. Li Xianting, “Major Trends in the Development of Contemporary Chinese Art,” in China’s New Art, Post-1989, ed. Valerie C. Doran (Hong Kong: Hanart T. Z. Gallery, 1993), xxi. 20. A general type of criticism often directed at this production is summarized by the expression pop trivia, employed by Barmé, who dismisses this art as a by-product of the more complex Maocraze and therefore seemingly relegates these works to the role of simple footnotes of a larger and higher social narrative; see Barmé, 45.

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LI Shan, Rouge series no 59, (Young Mao) 1994, acrylic on canvas, 115 x 200 cm, courtesy Hanart/TZ Chang Gallery, Hong Kong (see pages 166-69)


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21. Quoted in Geremie Barmé and

26. In a recent telephone conversa-

Linda Javin, eds., New Ghosts, Old

tion Yu Youhan told me that he made

Dreams (New York: Times Book Ran-

his first painting with Mao in late

dom House, 1992), xxvi.

1988. This painting, Mao and Whitney (1992), is an earlier and smaller ver-

22. Barmé is the first to recognize the

sion of the one later published in La

many similarities between the Mao

Biennale di Venezia: XVL Esposizione

and Elvis cults; see Barmé, 47.

Internazionale d’Arte, exh. cat. (Ven-

23. Clarke, 239, remarks how in most

ice: Marsilio Editore, 1993), 549. Ai

unofficial art, it is not Mao but “the

Weiwei (b. 1957), a Star member who

pre-existing, mass-reproduced, rhe-

moved to New York in 1981, employed

torically loaded images of him” that

Mao’s icon for a series of paintings

become the focus of artists’ manip-

begun in 1984. Because these paint-

ulations.

ings were produced outside of China proper and were thus presumably

24. Wendy McDaris, “Elvis + Marilyn =

unknown within the People’s Repub-

2 x Immortals,” in Elvis + Marilyn = 2

lic, I consider Wang Guangyi’s and Yu

x Immortals, exh. cat. (New York: Riz-

Youhan’s painting of 1988 as the first

zoli, 1994), 43.

symptoms of the phenomenon within mainland culture. Two examples of

25. The Stars, the first avant-garde

Ai Weiwei’s paintings are reproduced

art group to emerge in post-Mao

in Hui Ching-shuen ed., The Stars: Ten

China, created a sensation with their

Years (Hong Kong: Hanart 2, 1989), 56.

1979 exhibition in Beijing, held outside the doors of the China Art Gal-

27. Reproduced in Gao Minglu, pl. 34.

lery, the main official institution for modern art; see Hui Ching-shuen,

28. For a similar argument, see

ed., The Stars: Ten Years (Hong Kong:

Li Xianting, xxi.

Hanart 2, 1989). For a reproduction of this sculpture, see Gao Minglu, ed.,

29. The painting has been produced

Inside Out: New Chinese Art, exh. cat.

in two different versions. The 1990

(Berkeley: University of California

version (41 x 33 [104 x 85]) is in the

Press, 1998), 151, fig. 17.

collection of the author; the 1992 version (59 x 39 [150 x 100]) is slightly

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different in subject matter and di-

of popular cult, see Ellen Johnston

mensions but bears the same title.

Laing, The Winking Owl: Art in the

The latter version was commissioned

People’s Republic of China (Berkeley:

by the Johnson Chang of Hanart T. Z.

University of California Press, 1988),

Gallery in Hong Kong and is repro-

67–70.

duced in China’s New Art, Post-1989, 76. The 1990 version is reproduced

33. Michael Sullivan, Art and Artists

in Gao Minglu, pl. 39 (where it is er-

of 20th Century China (Berkeley:

roneously dated 1992). While con-

University of California Press, 1996),

scious of the problem of discussing

271.

a painting in my possession, I have decided to do so because of the spe-

34. As stated by the artist in a talk

cific visual argument raised by this

presented at the symposium Art,

work within the general discussion of

Culture, and Memory: The Cultural

Mao-related art.

Revolution and China Today, China Institute in America, New York, Oc-

30. Reproduced in La Biennale di

tober 5, 1996; also quoted in Danny

Venezia, 544.

Yung, Lee Hui-Shu, eds., Works by Zhang Hongtu (Hong Kong: Hong

31. For another association established

Kong University of Science and Tech-

between pandas and political authori-

nology Center for the Arts, 1998), 10.

ty or simply as a foremost nonsensical symbol of Chineseness, see Missing

35. The equation of political and

Bamboo, see Wu Shanzhuan’s 1993 in-

rock-and-roll star systems is also the

stallation at the Wexner Center for the

subject of Yu Youhan’s painting Mao

Arts; reproduced in Julia F. Andrews

and Whitney, reproduced in La Bien-

and Gao Minglu, Fragmented Memory,

nale di Venezia, 544.

exh. cat. (Columbus: Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University,

36. This happened on the afternoon

1993), 35.

of May 23, 1989, when three young men from Hunan, Mao’s birth prov-

32. For a comprehensive introduc-

ince, threw several eggshells full of

tion to the ideological implications

ink on the portrait hanging on the

that made this painting such an icon

square. The defacement was consid-

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.39.


square. The defacement was consid-

40. Robert Rosenblum, Andy Warhol:

ered so outrageous that the students

Portraits of the 70s, exh. cat. (New

immediately apprehended the men

York: Whitney Museum of American

and turned them over to the police.

Art, 1979), 12.

As stated by Liu Anping in a recent letter, the Beijing Court condemned

41. Dai Jinhua, 136.

them respectively to life sentence, twenty, and fifteen years under the

42. Li Shan, interview with the author,

charge

New York, April 1996.

of

“counterrevolutionary

propaganda and arousal.” The vandalized painting is reproduced on the

43. Ted Harrison, Elvis People: The

cover of Barmé and Jaivin.

Cult of the King (London: HarperCol-

37. Other Chinese artists who have

lins, 1992), 170.

employed Mao or Mao-related matter in their work include Chen Dan-

44. Li Shan, interview with the author.

qing, Feng Mengbo (b. 1966), Feng Jiali (b. 1963), Huang Yan, Liu Da-

45. The association with sexual free-

hong (b. 1962), Qi Zhilong (b. 1962),

dom facilitated by the anarchistic

Wang Qiang (b. 1957), Wang Ziwei

social environment of the Cultural

(b. 1963), Xue Song (b. 1965), Zhang

Revolution is underlined by sever-

Bo, Zhang Dong, Zhang Gong (b.

al works of recollections recently

1959), and Zhang Jianhai. Thanks

published.

to Hans Van Dijk and Li Xianting for

these are Anchee Min’s Red Azalea

their suggestions in the compilation

(New York: Pantheon Books, 1994)

of this list.

and Mang Ke, Ye Shi (Wild Things)

In

Western

languages

(Chansha: Hunan Wenyi Chubanshe, 38. David Morgan, Visual Piety: A His-

1994). This book has been translated

tory and Theory of Popular Religious

in Italian under the title I giorni del-

Images (Berkeley: University of Cali-

la bufera (Stormy Days), trans. Bar-

fornia Press, 1998), 207.

bara Alighiero Animali (Pavia: Casa Editrice Liber Internazionale, 1994).

39. Michel de Certeau, The Practice

Chinese publications on the subject

of Everyday Life (Berkeley: Universi-

include Zhe Yongping, ed., Nage

ty of California Press, 1984), 172.

Shidaide Women (The Way We Were

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During That Time) (Beijing: Yuanfang Chubanshe, 1998); Zhang Dening and Yue Jianyi, eds., Zhongguo Zhiqing Qinlian Baogao: Qingchun jitan (Love Reports of the Educated Youth: The Altar of Spring) (Beijing: Guanming Ribao Chubanshe, 1998). 46. Mao was often described as a most coveted object of love and desire, the first and only love in the life of millions; see Liu Xiaoqing “ A Star Reflects on the Sun,” in Barmé, 171. In her essay “A Woman’s Soul Enclosed in a Man’s Body: Femininity in Male Homosexuality,” in Male Subjectivity at the Margins (New York: Routledge, 1992), Kaja Silverman provides a paradigm that could be usefully applied to the reading of this production. In her discussion of Freud’s fourth mode of “love for someone who was once part of oneself,” she states that “the operative modality here would seem to be the subject’s desire for what he once was, perhaps even more for that which he once was to another figure who occupies in relation to him the position which he himself presently occupies in relation to the young man” (365). 47. Dai Jinhua, 130. 48. Morgan, 201.

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LI Shan, Mao and the artist, 1994, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 180 cm, courtesy Hanart/TZ Chang Gallery, Hong Kong

.42.

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Liu Dahong, extracts from the Red Calendar, 2006, oils, 38 x 58 cm, courtesy of the artists and TZ Chang and Hanart Gallery

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Liu Dahong, extracts from the Red Calendar, 2006, oils, 38 x 58 cm, courtesy of the artists and TZ Chang and Hanart Gallery

.44.

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Liu Dahong, extracts from the Red Calendar, 2006, oils, 38 x 58 cm, courtesy of the artists and TZ Chang and Hanart Gallery

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Ai Weiwei 艾未未

(born 1957 in Beijing)

P

erhaps the most famous Chinese artist today, Ai Weiwei was born a rebel. Having passed his childhood in a Siberian gulag, due to his disgraced poet father Ai Qing, Ai Weiwei has never had an easy time in China. He was one of the founding members of the Star Group and participated in their first exhibition in 1979. Ai Weiwei left for America in 1981 and only returned to Beijing in 1993, when he helped found one of China’s first artists’ villages, the East Village or Dong Cun outside Beijing. He became an underground publisher, putting together the Black Book (1994), White Book (1995) and Grey Book (1997), books on the philosophy of Chinese artists which also introduced Marcel Duchamp, Jeff Koons and other Western artists to a Chinese audience. In 1997, he created along with Dutch curator Hans van Dijk the caaw, the China Art and Archives Warehouse, a contemporary art space where he went on to curate the legendary show “Fuck Off”, an anti-Communist rant for freedom of expression in 2000. He became from then on a much more conceptual artist, with an exceptional sense of humour. Much of his art has been a reflection on the politics of dictatorship and on China’s glorious past. He likes using ready-mades, as Duchamp would call them, or “ancient ready-mades” often re-using Chinese antiques, old temple pillars, parts of Ming-dynasty tables, Neolithic jars, porcelain fishbowls, old bicycles, and even a tonne of old pu er tea. Ai Weiwei’s work flits from art to design to architecture, often blurring the boundaries. In 2008, he helped design the so-called “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the Beijing Olympics. These Mao ink paintings (1985) were completed during

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his self-imposed exile in New York. They were also his last paintings. During his decade in America, Ai studied at the Parson’s College of Design and rented a studio in the East Village. He preferred taking photographs at this time, a record of his daily encounters, which evolved into the blog which he now feeds daily with hundred of photographs and thoughts. After inquiring with a private team into the tragedy of the 5,000 children killed in the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province, he was classified as a government enemy and political dissident. He was beaten by police for his involvement and was flown to Germany for surgery for his injuries. In 2011, his newly built Shanghai studio was bulldozed, in principle to dissuade the dissenter from leaving the capital and fomenting trouble on the edges of the empire. He was arrested and jailed in 2011, and remains officially under house arrest. He has however been equally prolific as a prisoner. In 2013, he composed an anti-government rant/rock song and video entitled “Give Me Back Tomorrow” with long time friend musician Zuxiao Xuzhou. Ironically commenting on his imprisonment, he also made a replica diorama of his prison cell in a series of tomb-like structures dubbed sacred (Supper, Accusers, Cleansing, Ritual, Entropy, and Doubt) which was exhibited at the Chiesa San Antonin of the Venice Biennale in 2013. His status as an artist has only been heightened by the government sanctions and he has become a sort of cause célèbre in art circles, museum curators worldwide asking for his release and the return of his passport.

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.47.


Mao, 1986, oil on canvas, 183 x 243cm, AW Asia collection

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Ai Weiwei


Mao, 1986, oil on canvas, 183 x 243cm, AW Asia colection

Ai Weiwei

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Mao (triptych 1 of 3), 1985, oil on canvas, 181.6 x 133.4cm, private collection, Berlin

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Ai Weiwei


Mao (2 of 3), 1985, oil on canvas, 181.6 x 133.4cm, private collection, Berlin

Ai Weiwei

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Mao (3 of 3), 1985, oil on canvas, 181.6 x 133.4cm, private collection Berlin

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Ai Weiwei


Dmitry Baltermants (born 1912 in Warsaw)

P

hotojournalism is now considered contemporary art and, this absurd documentary photography, probably the only one of Mao dancing can be considered part of that movement. Dmitri Baltermants was born in Warsaw to a soldier father, who served in the first world war with the Imperial Russian Army and was killed there. By profession, he was a mathematics teacher but in 1939, doubtless inspired by the outbreak of the second world war, he decided to become a full time photojournalist. Official photographer of the Kremlin and the Soviet leadership, he covered the battles of Stalingrad, as well as the Red Army exploits in the Ukraine. No stranger to the horrors of war, Baltermants recorded the massacres of the Nazis including in Crimean city of Kerch in 1942. A correspondent for the Soviet newspaper Izvestia, he was also for a time picture editor of the magazine Ogonyok. He photographed Mao dancing in 1959 during Khrushchev’s state visit to Beijing.

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Dancing is also politics – Governmental reception, 1959, C-print. Courtesy of Glaz Gallery


Dmitry Baltermants

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Tommaso Bonaventura (born 1969 in Rome)

T

ommaso Bonaventura is an Italian photographer who decided to embark on an unusual project “If I were Mao� tracking down the impersonators of Mao who appear in movies or television series. These individuals spend years studying the facial; mimics, movements, calligraphic style, and poetry of the Great Helmsman in order to better represent him. Some play Mao as a young revolutionary in Yanan others as an old and jaded leader of a national. He shoots all the photographs with 4 x 5 camera, which gives a staged portrait quality, which also mimics official portraiture.

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Peng Jian, 2009, inkjet print, various sizes. Courtesy of the artist

Tommaso Bonaventura

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.57.


Du Tianqing, 2009, inkjet print, various sizes. Courtesy of the artist

.58.

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Tommaso Bonaventura


Jiang Yu, 2009, inkjet print, various sizes. Courtesy of the artist

Tommaso Bonaventura

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.59.


Zheng Jiang, 2009, inkjet print, various sizes. Courtesy of the artist

.60.

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Tommaso Bonaventura


Cang Xin 苍鑫

(born 1967 in Baotou, Inner Mongolia)

A

s young artist, Cang Xin found he was often tongue-tied. When he joined Zhang Huan, Ma Liuming, Rong Rong and others at the first Chinese artist squat, the Yuanminyuan artist village on the outskirts of Beijing in 1993, his timidity only grew. So, he tried to resolve this dilemma by making conscious decision to communicate with others and the outside, sensual world of objects. His birthplace Baotou, Inner Mongolia, heartland of shamanistic combined with Buddhism, was probably determining for his future art practice. In ancient Eastern spiritual belief systems, all things have spirit, ling, and there is no boundary between life and non-life – they are interchangeable, but that requires a middle person – a medium or shaman to engineer this exchange so that an uninhibited crossing (flow) can take place freely through the physics of time and space, and in turn maintain the perfect harmony of the universe as a whole. This process in turn necessitates the individual. Cang Xin, kneeling to lick the pavement of Tiananmen Square, the seat of power, the centre of the empire, and at the same time, perfectly positioned under the canvas representing Mao, is almost religious.

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Communication Series, Tiananmen (2000), C-Print, 80 x 80 cm. Courtesy of the artist

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Cang Xin


Chang Lei 常磊

(born 1977 in Jinan, Shandong)

C

hang Lei is a well-known rock star converted to a painter. “Inscription” or calligraphy in Chinese history is a symbol of power, and has been used by emperors and Chinese presidents alike. Chang Lei’s “China Mirror Images” series (2010) – reflects on how propaganda shapes youth. The “Long March Poem” copied so perfectly by Chang Lei in this work, was written by Mao Zedong as a eulogy for those who participated in the Long March. Chang Lei paints a war veteran alongside an elephant or xiang in this work, homonym for appearances and reality. The old man wears a tattered Mao jacket and seems forlorn, almost abandoned by modern times. His war exploits have been forgotten. The elephant in this series represents the Communist party and the importance of that party which still lingers. There is a Chinese saying (originating from Indian lore) about a group of blind men who go to touch an elephant to find out which animal it is. Each man touches a different part of the beast and therefore has a different story or truth, evoking the relativity and opaqueness of truth. The “New Generation with Four Qualifications” represents a young boy smoking the stub of a cigarette, perhaps following the advice of Deng Xiaoping who insists in his essay that the new generation “must preserve revolutionary ideals” while striving to join a more capitalist world. In the drawings of the “Mirror Image” Series, Chang Lei often represents himself as a eunuch. He feels that the power of propaganda has made eunuchs of the population, peons moving to the will of the leader.

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.63.


The Long March Poem, China Mirror Image Series, 2010, oil on canvas, 175 x 140cm. Courtesy of the artist

.64.

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Chang Lei


The New Generation with Four Qualifications, China Mirror Image series, oil on canvas, 175 x 120cm. Courtesy of the artist

Chang Lei

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.65.


Chen Jiagang (born 1962 in Chongqing)

C

hen Jiagang is an architect, photographer and art collector from Sichuan. In 1997, he founded the Upriver Gallery, the first private gallery in China, counting on his mainly Sichuanese artist friends, Zhang Xiaogang, Zhou Chunya, Tan Zhigang and others to fill the walls. Chen has travelled with a photographic team to many of China’s abandoned factory and mining towns in Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan. He focused on quarries, mines and factories now abandoned that had been developed during Mao’s “The Third Front”, an initiative to develop industries in the coastal regions, central China and the west and south-west in order to resist an imminent Russian invasion in the mid 1960s. Deng Xiaoping revisited the third-front industrial towns making a new five-year plan to redevelop them. The photographs are made up of several large format photographs fitted together digitally, accentuating the vast wasteland effect.

The young girl or girls in the photographs, sometimes Chen’s own remarkably beautiful actress wife, is traditionally dressed in a qipao or Mao jacket with one of the heavy hand-knitted wool scarves so popular in the Maoist period. She seems forlorn, or as some of the series is called “seduced and abandoned” like the landscape in front of her, once beautiful, now spoiled. The images recall the devastating affect economics and politics can have on the human and natural landscape. Classroom (2004) obviously harks to the Mao period with its simple grey wooden benches, its pasted propaganda calendars and posters, its austere brick interior, and evokes a strange nostalgia in the onlooker.

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Third Front series, 2004, C-print, 160 x 200cm. Courtesy of the artist

Chen Jiagang

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.67.


Classroom, 2004, C-print, 160 x 200cm. Courtesy of the artist

.68.

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Chen Jiagang


Country Teacher, 2004, C-print, 160 x 200cm. Courtesy of the artist

Chen Jiagang

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.69.


Sable Bridge , 2004, C-print, 160 x 200cm. Courtesy of the artist

.70.

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Chen Jiagang


Sable Bridge , 2004, C-print, 160 x 200cm. Courtesy of the artist

Chen Jiagang

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.71.


Chen Longbin 陈龙斌 (born 1964 in Taipei)

C

hen Longbin is a Taiwanese sculptor who has studied in Tunghai, Taiwan, as well as New York (MFA School of Visual Arts). He employs in his work discarded telephone directories, books, newspapers, and magazines. Originally sculpting in wood, he found in paper and print material, now becoming obsolete due to the advent of the computer age, a new medium. But he still uses wood sculpting tools, chainsaws, drills, band saws, sanders, and scissors. His Mao made of phonebooks is a composite of people’s names and phone numbers, almost like a census, forming a cross section of the entire population.

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Chen Longbin, Mao, 2009, phone books, 38 x 12 x 23cm. Courtesy of the artist


Mao, 2009, phone books, 38 x 30 x 22,9cm. Courtesy of the artist


Chen Yanning 陈衍宁

(born 1945 in Guangzhou)

C

hen Yanning was a young painter in Guangdong when he painted this epic portrait. Mao, surrounded by a retinue of smiling peasants, is visiting Guangzhou, year 1958, the apogee of the Great Leap Forward; part of his economic idée fixe to make China into a world power. But the push to change the country from an agrarian power to an industrial one came at great cost. Between 1958 and 1960, millions of Chinese workers were moved to the countryside to boost agriculture; however their techniques, planting double crops and digging deep into the soil, provoked land erosion and crop failure, which led to famine. Mao’s other great idea during this period was to make China self-sufficient economically, in particular by producing its own steel. He encouraged families to melt their pots and pans and scrap metal however with no training; most of the steel was unusable; the furnaces caused untold damage to the environment. This socialist realist masterpiece is a testament to the times, when naïve idealism was the prevailing wind.

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Chairman Mao on Inspection in Guangdong Province, 1972, oil on canvas, 172 x 294cm. Courtesy of Uli Sigg collection and Long Museum


Chen Yanning

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.77.


Chen Zhuo and Huang Ke 陈卓和黄可一 (born 1978 and 1980 in Hunan)

C

hen Zhuo and Huang Keyi are masters of digital photography. In the Chinese carnival series, they imagine the Great Leader as a sort of bronzed robot, setting off fireworks in an apocalyptic setting, an old fair ground, and modernity run amok. Their videos and photographs all speak about this new age in China with the figurehead of Mao spearheading the economic boom. They represent as the master of a giant fair ground where his countrymen are holding on tightly as the roller coaster ride takes off. In other representations, Mao is the head on the body of a super military tanker/factory, a shining red beacon in an ultra-modern world.

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Chinese Carnival, no 10, C-print, 90 x 140cm. Courtesy of Yang Gallery

Chen Zhuo & Huang Ke

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.79.


Cui Xiuwen 崔岫闻

(born 1970 in Harbin)

O

riginally an oil painter, a graduate of Northeast Normal University, Cui Xiuwen has become increasingly involved with film and digital photography. She is an unusual figure in the contemporary art world. Her flming of a little girl with a bob haircut, wearing the compulsory school unform with the red scarf of Communist youth pionneers, harks back to an era that influenced an entire generation, the Mao era. The little girl, multiplied a thousand times, stands in front of several well-recognized landmarks. The little girl reminds us of Cui Xiuwen herself, the tiny mouth, the pale oval face, the big eyes. In her own words, the artist states: Red scarf, white shirt, they signify the period from the 1950s all the way to the 1970s. Indeed, the symbols remain powerful to this day. For me, red scarf represents a period in my memory, a mark of belonging to a certain generation, the desire to gain honour, the exciting and yet unsettling sentiment of being urged on by the martyrs who created the People’s Republic, and even more so, the doubt and quest to identify the relationship between individual and group. The white shirt was always so white, white even in dreams, and yet it also created the pressure that was not exactly so white and pure. The color of history is fading, people age, memory becomes vague and unreliable.

The technique of “Sanjie” or “Angel” is a subtle mélange of painting, photography and video, put together with a team in the studio. “One Day in 2004” also portrays the same young girl but she seems more withdrawn, more spiritual.

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Angel no 4, C-print, painting, photography and video, 600 x 321cm. Courtesy of the artist

Cui Xiuwen

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One Day in 2004, no 6., C-print, painting, photography and video, Courtesy of the artist

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Cui Xiuwen


Dai Guangyu 戴光郁

(born 1955 in Chengdu, Sichuan)

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art of the ’85 New Wave movement in southwest China, Dai Guangyu is a total artist doing performance, photography, installation, painting and even photography. His early performances in China, such as Shi Jin Incontinence in 1986 at Tokyo Arts Centre were highly controversial. He had a starched white face like a Peking opera actor; his hair pulled back into a braid and was wearing the uniform of the businessman, a white shirt knotted with a black tie and black suit. In his gloved hands, he held a chicken with a rope. Blowing now and then a whistle, which would make the chicken croak, which at the same time would release the ink in his pants, which dripped into a small pail below. After some time had past, he just hung there, like a lifeless corpse, his strange apparition against a backdrop of Mao’s most famous slogan in big, red characters, “Mao zhuxi shi women xinzhong de hongtaiyang” (Chairman Mao is the Red Sun in Our Hearts). Dai Guangyu’s traditional landscape scrolls of the Communist leaders seem to infer the end of a certain culture of the literati. The calligrapher and painter now devotes his energies to representing political leaders who are by their very nature, anti-elitist and anti- intellectual. The pointillism of the portraits has a certain Taoist feel, a way of forgetting the subject, by portraying them as part of a floating world, illusory, fading ink dots.

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Five scrolls, Marx, Engels, Mao, Lenin and Stalin, ink, fingerprints, seal paste on xuan paper, 142 x 58 cm each scroll, from the exhibition “When the water recedes, rocks appear� (Beijing, December 2007)


Dai Guangyu

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Mao, ink and fingerprints on xuan paper and scroll, 180 x 49 cm. Courtesy of the artist


Fang Lijun 方力钧

(born 1963 in Hebei)

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ang Lijun was born into an upper class family and was lucky to start working at art early, doing ceramics and political propaganda painting, at a time when those were the only outlets permitted for an artist. When he was finally was admitted in 1985 to Beijing Central Academy to study painting, his lifelong dream, China was already in the throes of liberalization. The bald-headed figures he invented at this time referred to artists or rebels, jiantou, bored with the politics of their country and desiring to be part of a freer society. The artist also shaved his head at this time, like Yue Minjun and others. The “bald rascals” or many of them were also the group of artists who founded the Cynical Realist (wanshi xianshizhuyi) a term coined by his childhood friend, the art critic Li Xianting. The Cynical Realist movement portrayed reality with a sardonic humour, which showed their dissociation from contemporary reality and politics. Some of those artists and Fang Lijun himself, disillusioned after the June Fourth incident, went to live in an artists’ village set among the ruins of the old Summer Palace grounds, the Yuanminyuan. David Barboza, an American journalist, was perhaps the first to spot this budding art movement: “This is the artist’s long running motif about the relationship between the individual and the masses, and about authority and rebellion in China. What you see here are heads -- lots of clean shaven heads, cleverly sketched heads that have helped make Fang Lijun one of the country’s most respected artists. For years, he has painted colourful portraits of bored, rebellious and indifferent young men, men who have rebelled by falling asleep or doing nothing more than looking disillusioned or disinterested in the world around them.” from David Barboza, «Fang Lijun’s Cynical Revolution».

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Fang was one of the first contemporary artists to show his paintings abroad such as at the 45th Venice Biennale and in the one of the most important contemporary shows, China Avant-Garde in 1989. His “Water Series� from 1992 onward was part of a shift in his art. In this series, he depicts people swimming and floating in water. Sometimes the shaven-head man reappears, adding a certain foreboding to the work. Plunging into the sea of capitalism, xia hai was an expression invented by Deng Xiaoping to encourage Chinese to become entrepreneurs. It also alluded to the chaos of a society in the midst of sudden change.

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Series no 1, no 14, 1993, oil on canvas, 179.6 x 249.2cm. Courtesy of Herman Heinsbroek collection

Fang Lijun

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Feng Mengbo 冯梦波 (born 1966 in Beijing)

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eng Mengbo uses the video game aesthetic to create paintings such as his series entitled The Video Endgame Series. He also made a series of video games in which he and his family appeared. In 2009, he engineered a computer game and completed a series of oil paintings entitled “Long March Restart” based on the Great Leader’s Long March (1934-36) from North China to Yanan, the guerrilla headquarters of the first Chinese Communist Party. The soldiers of Mao throw Coca-Cola bottles instead of hand grenades. Viewers at Moma PS1 could participate as a red soldier. In Taxi! Taxi! Mao waves for a taxi, something unavailable in Communist times, dues to the banning of private enterprise. Many of Feng Mengbo’s videos subsequently became paintings, a strange mix of the digital aesthetic and paint.

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Taxi Taxi! 1998, oil on canvas, 100 x 354cm. Courtesy of Uli Sigg collection and M+ museum


Feng Mengbo

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Feng Mengbo


Feng Zhengjie 俸正杰 (born 1968, in Sichuan)

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eng Zhengjie is part of the Sichuanese artist clique who came in the late 80s and moved to Beijing with artists like Zhou Chunya and Zhang Xiaogang. In his “Portrait of China series”, he uses gaudy colours; pink, red and turquoise to portray the women and men of the new China, part of the liberalized China, Deng Xiaoping created, the xia hai movement or “jumping into the sea of capitalism” movement. He borrows his style from the Sichuanese technique of mianzhu nianhua, local colourful aquarelles, showing people’s daily life. The figures in his paintings have Sichuanese traits, high moonlike eyebrows eyes, slit and googly eyes which go off in all directions, searching like all the entrepreneurs and budding individualists in the chaos of modern-day China.

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China! China! 2002, acrylic on canvas, 85 x 82cm. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Xindong Chen

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Feng Zhengjie


Gao Brothers 高兄弟 (Zhen and Qiang, born 1956 and 1962 in Shandong)

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ost of the Gao Brothers’ works have come out of their family’s experiences during China’s Cultural Revolution (1966–76), in particular their father’s death under strange circumstances in their hometown of Jinan, Shandong. Autodidacts, they quickly became part of the Beijing underground art scene when they moved to Beijing inn the late 80s. They participated in the 1989 Chinese avant-garde exhibtion at the NAMOC organized by Li Xianting and Gao Minglu, exhbiting at that time an installation of hermaphrodite sexual organs entitled «Midnight Mass». Much of the Gao’s work has been performances such as Hug, Two Grils and Nine Boys, Sense of Space,... However, the brothers are also painters and sculptors. Most of the Gao’s works, too critical towards Mao, is illegal to exhibit in China. They have also sometimes had their passports confiscated, forbidden from participating for instance in the Venice Biennale of 2001. However, they maintain a studio in Dashanzi and often participate in international shows. The Gao Brothers’ sardonic humour is now part and parcel of the Beijing artistic landscape, infusing the Beijing art scene with a new spirit of pop art, pop art to make light of the past. In one of their works, Mao kneels in an apologetic attitude which evokes payer or confession. Their reference to Maurizio Catellan’s HIM (2001) is self-explanatory. The «Interview», a digital collage of Mao in a sort of Yalta talks with now deceased dictators OBL, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro Hitler and Kim Il-Sung is a reworking of a propaganda image. However, they have made the image ridiculous, a an incronguous get together of the world’s most hated dictators, seeingly generrated from rather humorous

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and over-zealous propaganda bureau. “The Execution of Christ” is a representation of seven Mao with Kalashnikovs, shooting Jesus Christ, the Messiah. The only surviving photograph of Mao with a gun was taken on April 28th, 1964; however it was obviously largely unpublicized. In China. The Execution is inspired by 19th century painter Edouard Manet’s depiction in oil of the execution of the emperor Maximilian I, the head of the second Mexican empire who was shot by firing squad after Napoleon withdrew French troops from the region. This work focuses on the interplay between the West and the East, Communism and Christianity. The contrast between a violent, atheist Mao and a pacifist Christ figure is striking. In China, the bullets used for executions are billed to the parents of the victim. The state has replaced God in its implementation of justice. The sculpture «Miss Mao», with the pigtails of Manchu overlord, the breasts of a young, nubile girl, the nose of Pinocchio, has become an iconic representation of the suppressed feelings of the Chinese populace, regarding a man whose policies are still very real, and whose legacy is as the Chinese say “70 per cent good, 30 per cent bad”. Mao’s sacred image as the leader and as a great man in Communist Party propaganda and within the collective memory of the people has been altered, from an idol into a funny doll which has the nose of Pinocchio, the pigtail of a Manchu lord, the breasts of a young woman, This work exposes the truth, that Mao’s politics are a lie. Miss Mao is the irony of Mao and the Maoist system and the people fooled by Mao’s politics. Miss Mao has been exhibited all over the world and attracted the ire of the Chinese authorities. It has been blocked and confiscated several times by Chinese customs. Our studio was closed to public because of Miss Mao. (From an interview with Pia Copper, January 2013)

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Miss Mao No. 3, 2006, edition 4/8, stainless steel sculpture, 250 x 180 x 160cm. Courtesy of the artists. Photograph © Michaelson Britt at Arsenal Montreal “Like Thunder Out of China” show

Gao Brothers

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Mao’s Guilt, 2009, bronze, 115 x 72 x 76 cm, courtesy of the artists

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Gao Brothers


Miss Mao Trying to Poise Herslf on Stalin’s Head,2009, stainless steel sculpture, 650 x 600 x 442 cm, pictured in the Kemper Museum, Texas. Courtesy of the artists

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NEED THIS IMAGE AT DOUBLE SIZE THAN THIS

The Execution of Christ, 2009, bronze life-size, edition of four. Courtesy of the artists


Gao Brothers

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The Interview, 2007, digital coupler print, 234 x 180cm. Courtesy of the artists


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Gao Xiang 高翔

(born 1971 in Kunming)

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n Gao Xiang’s “Who is the Doll?” series, the bride is a surrealist apparition larger than life. The bridegroom is the artist portrayed as a miniature figure in a blue Mao zhongshan outfit, a puppet in the palm of his muse. The Mao suit worn by the artist has now come to be associated with Mao as Gao points out, but many famous figures such as Jiang Zhongzheng, Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping wore the same kind of suit. It was Westerners who dubbed it a Mao suit because they associated it with the Great Leader. Before 1980, and during Mao’s reign, it was the official wardrobe of all the Chinese. The colour red is a cultural totem and represents the spirit in traditional China. In the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) only the imperial family had the right to wear red, which represented power. In the 20th century, red came to associated with revolution. It is also considered the colour of happiness. Gao Xiang is a professor at the Yunnan Arts institute for painting in Kunming.

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Who is the Doll, 2009, acrylic on canvas, 180 x 180cm. Courtesy of the artist

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Gao Zengli 高增礼

(born 1964 in Chengdu)

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n artist in exile in Paris, Gao Zengli’s work is a nostalgic return to his roots, the Maoist period and even imperial China. His work is a complex amalgam of rope, fabric, newspaper and oil, as thick and convoluted as his own transplanted artistic sensibility. A graduate of the Shandong art academy in 1985, Gao subsequently attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Gao finds inspiration in the rich emotion of history.

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Mao, oil and other materials on canvas. Courtesy of the artist

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Geng Jianyi 耿建翌

(born 1962 in Zhengzhou)

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eng Jianyi is one of the 85 New Wave Art movement founders of the cynical realist movement in China and part of the Hangzhou Art School clique. He founded the Pool Society with Zhang Peili, another conceptual artist. He also invented the term “grey humour” for a form of humour, which is ironic, something to help us disassociate from reality. His works generally are about the individual versus the collective. His black and white renditions of a man laughing changed the way many artists looked at the world, including Yue Minjun. “The Reason Why Classic Is” is a series of ghostlike portraits done on photosensitive paper. He is asking a fundamental question about what makes a portrait and how much detail is needed in order to make out a person. For some historic figures, it is only necessary to evoke something of their profile or character in order to depict them correctly. This particular portrait was done on a washed out book, with nothing written in it anymore, a cultural wasteland.

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The Reason Why Classic Is, 2000, book and watercolour on paper, 19.4 x 26.7 x 3.7cm. Courtesy of ShanghArt Gallery

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Guo Jin éƒ­ć™‹

(born 1964 in Chengdu)

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uo Jin is above all painter of childhood. A Sichuanese painter, graduate of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute (1990), he is also deeply attached to tradition and traditional painting technique. He represents the world of childhood and idealism, which has been lost. His works have a terracotta quality, ancient and aesthetic, using very little paint. Instead of focusing on the difficulties of the Communist childhood, his figures are idealized, sweet, enchanting, dreamers. Like his brothers Guo Wei, his world is that of the young acrobats of the Chinese streets with their rouged cheeks and funny hats that evoke a world of illusions, a stage of human passions.

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The Child and her Cap no 3, oil on canvas, 144 x 114 cm, courtesy of the artist and Somo Gallery

Guo Jin

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Children no 3, 2009, oil on canvas, courtesy of the arist and Somo Gallery

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Guo Jin


The Child and his Cap no 7, oil on canvas, 144 x 114 cm, courtesy of the artist and Somo Gallery

Guo Jin

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Guo Wei 郭伟

(born 1960 in Chengdu)

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uo Wei graduated from the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in 1989, a time of grand disillusionment. His brother Guo JIn is also a painter. His rose coloured, flowery Mao with its distorted facial expression resembles a clown or cartoon character, capable of provoking hilarity or seriousness with one facial twitch. This portrait refers to a father figure for the Chinese people, a man whose moods could sometimes swing the nations. Guo Wei’s portraits often feature disillusioned youths sometimes in silly costumes, loitering and playing.

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Happy, Sad, Angry, Pleased Mao, 2007, oil on canvas, 149.8 x 120 cm, courtesy of the artist

Guo Wei

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Hai Bo 海波

(born 1962 in Changchun)

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photographer living in the artist village of Songzhuang, part of the 85 move;ent, Hai Bo has tried to come to terms with the Cultural Revolution and the past through his photography. In a particularly memorable series of photographs, Hai Bo searches out the persons in old photos taken in the Maoist period and retakes the photograph with empty spaces for the people missing, co-workers or family members who have been killed or died for political or historical reasons. The woman in this photograph had been a Red Guard in February 1968 as the calligraphy above records. The title of the photograph is taken also from the inscription in the woman’s own hand at the top of the photo. She has grown older and is no longer obliged to wear the Maoist khaki uniform or cap complete with satchel. She no longer holds the little Red book and no longer sports the fashionable pigtails of youth at that time. A graduate of the printmaking department of Changchun Fine Arts Institute in 1984 and the Central Arts Academy in 1989, Hai Bo can be considered part of the first wave of Chinese contemporary artists.

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They (1998-2000), sepia and colour photograph, 78 x 200 cm, courtesy of Pace Beijing and the artist

Hai Bo

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I am Chairman Mao’s Guard, 1999, colour photograph, 60 x 40cm, courtesy of the artist and Pace Beijing

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Hai Bo


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Han Bing 韩冰

(born 1974 in Jiangsu)

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n one of the series «Facing the Future with my family», Han Bing stands alongside his close-knit family, holding a brick rather clumsily in his hands. Han is from a rural background but gave up the country life for the life of an artist in Heiqiao, an art suburb of Beijing where he studied painting eventually attending classes at the Central Academy. Han Bing is a sort of Renaissance artist: a performance artist, painter, and photographer. He is one of the few young artists in China today to focus on the illusory dream of urbanization and the widening gap between rich and poor. His art highlights the end of Mao’s dream of equality for all. The «New Culture Series» is a series of portraits of the unwilling victims of China forced urbanization, peasants and migrant workers who still believe in the desuet Maoist dream of equality. Their hope is to own a brick home, rather than a mud dwelling, part of Mao’s unfulfiled promise to the proletariat. ‘New Culture’ was the name of a movement originating in the Qing dynasty, which rejected traditional customs in favour of new and ‘Westernized’ mores. When Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution, he referred to “culture” and its renewal once more. And, in the early 80s, Deng Xiaoping led what was called ‘the reform and opening-up policy’. These three movements were started in different times by different kinds of people (intellectuals, labourers, officials, capitalists and bureaucrats) but what they have in common is their origin,. They were started by the elite. The symbol of an intellectual is a book, Mao’s red book, whereas the red brick symbolizes reform. I’ve taken pictures in the countryside and in the cities in China, since the ‘New Culture Movement’ is happening in a rural and urban context. For them,

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bricks represent their life, what they do for a living and how they exist in the world, it also shows that they’ve abandoned labour in the fields and become part of the city culture. They hold the bricks in their everyday life. So when I asked them to take pictures of them holding bricks, it didn’t feel in any way strange to them.” (From an interview with the artist by Pia Copper, 2012)

In another performance transformed into photographs, Han Bing pulls the cabbage or liubaicai, the staple of the Chinese peasantry on a leash like a small animal de compagnie. This performance highlighted the differences in mentality betwen urban and country dweller. The young urbanite is too suave to think about survival, he is more intersted in leisure, pets, fashio and portable telephones. This is also a funny take on Deng Xiaoping’s phrase, “getting rich is glorious”, as the urban dweller can now afford to take his cabbage for a walk instead of consuming it. Walking the Cabbage” which he has performed all over the world in Korea, Japan, America, France, Britain, has elicited lot of sympathy. He initiated anew series holding the cabbage like a treasured object. He often held the cabbage himself, cradling it in his arms and seemingly even stroking it. This gesture of love towrads the cabbage was almost a requiem to traditional peasant life. When he asked farmers to hold cabbages in the barn, he did not realize the significance of the moment. Their livelihoods depended on keeping their farms and remaining peasant farmers. A move to the big cities would mean losing their land and homes and become dependent on the state for subsidies and factory jobs. Life in the countryside is a form of independence, from government and the capitalist system, a sort of renegade culture, akin to the artist’s stance, an outsider.

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Facing the Future with my Family, New Culture Movement Series, 2006, C-print, 70 x 70cm edition of ten. Courtesy of the artist

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Han Bing


Dali School Village Gate Keeper, New Culture Movement Series, 2006, C-Print, 72 x 46cm, edition of ten. Courtesy of the artist


Jiuxianqiao Construction Worker, New Culture Movement Series, 2006, C-print, 72 x 46cm, edition of 10. Courtesy of the artist


Brick Hauler Before a Field of Flowers, New Culture Movement, 2006, C-print, 72 x 46cm, edition of 10, Courtesy of the artist


Han Lei 韓磊

(born 1967 in Kaifeng)

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an Lei is one of the first contemporary artists in China to use photography as a medium. A graduate of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Han Lei now lives in Beijing. For the Portrait of Young Man, Han Lei claims to be inspired by the 17th century Italian painter Caravaggio and baroque art. His boy with Mao badges seems to be posing for an official portrait yet is obese and clumsy. He is reminiscent of the portrait of Lei Feng, a hero soldier during the Cultural Revolution, who was also covered in Mao badges representing his devotion to the party. The photos are taken in a studio setting. Han Lei claims that a person’s physiognomy is telling and can reveal a certain social psychology. However, the light of these portraits is beautiful, challenging the model’s ugliness with the beauty of the light and the chosen aesthetic.

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Four Chinese Boys, 2007, C-print, 125 x 185 cm, edition of 25. Courtesy of the artist

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Han Lei, A Young Man from Chifeng, 2006, C-print, 125 x 200cm, edition of 25. Courtesy of the artist


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Portrait of a young man, 2006, C-print, 125 x 185cm, edition of 25. Courtesy of the artist


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Robert van der Hilst (born 1940 in Amsterdam)

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Dutch-born photographer, Robert van der Hilst lives between Shanghai and Paris. His photographs of China are well known and many have been collected in a book called Chinese Interiors. These images, taken in peasant homes in Jinhe, Hunan (Mao’s native province) and Anhui (Zhongmiaozhen village), show the appeal of the Great Leader into the 21st century. As a photojournalist, Robert van der Hilst has travelled to Japan, Cuba and Africa trying to capture the essence of living in those countries.

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Teapot, 2007, C-print, various sizes. Courtesy of the artist

Robert van der Hilst

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Interior with Mao portrait, drying clothes and Christian relics, C-print, various sizes. Courtesy of the artist

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Robert van der Hilst


Hong Hao 洪澊

(born 1965 in Beijing)

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graduate of the Central Arts Academy in Beijing in 1989, Hong Hao was originally a printmaker and became a photographer a decade later. Hong Hao is a master of the everyday. He scans objects taken from everyday life, paraphernalia: maps, books, tickets, receipts, banknotes, food... In the case of the Long March photograph, he uses propaganda postcards, tapes, Mao badges, maps of China, opened and closed Little Red books and essays of Mao Zedong and even a red-starred cap; the paraphenalia of a devout Communist and then organizes them according to shape and colour producing a singular aesthetic. This compounding of cult literature and knickknacks give a strange feeling of a sort of library of history in which Mao is the main character.

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The Long March, 2004, C-print, 120 x 230 cm, edition of ten. Courtesy of Pace Gallery


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Hong Wai ć´Şć…§

(born 1982 in Shanghai)

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ong Wai, born on mainland China raised in Macao, she is a ink transmedia artist based in Paris and Macao. Hong Wai understands the dual side of culture so thoroughly that she successfully blends the cultural themes and objects of East and West, portraying them with traditional black ink and cutting edge digital media, exploring pop art in her own way. She is interested in the perception of icons in contemporary society. In her works, it is clear that there is a specific engagement with contemporary expression and contemporary content as the elements of the series are being displaced from their own initial function and are presented by means of painting highlighting unexpected hybrid cultural dichotomies.

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Idole, 2013, 33 x 33cm, ink, colour paint and digital print on xuan paper. Courtesy of the artist

Hong Wai

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Idole, 2013, 33 x 33cm, ink, colour paint and digital print on xuan paper. Courtesy of the artist

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Hong Wai


Idole, 2013, 33 x 33cm, ink, colour paint and digital print on xuan paper. Courtesy of the artist

Hong Wai

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Idol Icon II, Posca and acrylic on digital print mounted on aluminium, 100 x 50cm, Edition of 5 + 2 A.P. Collection of Pierre Cornette de Saint-Cyr, Paris

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Hong Wai


Huang Rui 黄锐

(born 1952 in Beijing)

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uang Rui is one of the founders of Chinese contemporary art as well as the 798 art district also called Dashanzi. He was also part of the Stars Group (Xing Xing) with Wang Keping, Ai Weiwei, Ma Desheng and Li Shuang, which broke new ground in China in 1979 when they held the first ever spontaneous and illegal art exhibition in Communist China at a park near the China Arts Gallery, now the National Museum. The exhibition was quickly shut down by police. Huang Rui was also part of the founding of the literary journal Today (Jintian), which featured works of prose and poetry by writers such as Bei Dao, Mang Ke and others, one of the most avant-garde publications of the Cultural Revolution period. This political and cultural activism was intertwined with the Democracy Wall movement (Xidan mingzhu qiang, 西單民 主牆), a long brick wall on Xidan street, in central Beijing, which became an authorized place to voice political dissent. Beginning in October 1978, Deng Xiaoping launched a movement to “seek truth from facts” and anyone and everyone could write their complaints and ideas on the wall, often in the form of dazibao, big character posters. In December of 1978, Huang Rui bicycled with poet and artists friends in the dead of night to Xidan to post the hand-mimeographed first issue of Today magazine, featuring a man and a woman, in blue, leaning forward expectantly. Blue represented freedom but also ironically the Mao outfit. Huang Rui also put up his own poster at this time at the base of the Monument to the People’s Heroes on the square and recited his poem The People’s Grief (Renmin de daonian) to the crowds gathered for what was called later the “Beijing Spring.” In 1984, Huang Rui left China for Japan, shortly after the Stars group disbanded, facing renewed political criticism.

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Democracy Wall, 1981, 157cm x 194cm. Courtesy of the collection of the artist

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Huang Rui


In the drawing Democracy Wall, dated “79.3.14”, everyone’s fists are raised. Huang Rui painted Democracy Wall, a commemoration of the Xidan Democracy Wall in 1980. In November 1979, the government formally closed the Xidan Democracy Wall, the primary vehicle for free expression by Beijingers. Huang Rui called Democracy Wall his “final political work.” The figures in this painting are all Huang Rui‘s friends. There are the poets Bei Dao, Gu Cheng, Zhao Nan, as well as Today editors Yingzi and Xiaoyu, and Liu Qing. The work was painted entirely in cool colors, as if he mourns the loss of the beautiful time that he once shared with these friends. The colors in the figures are almost dull, as if forever frozen in an old photograph. Democracy Wall is an elegy for the Xidan Democracy Wall and the short lived art group; it is also a poem in which Huang Rui says goodbye to past creations. The pressure of external social circumstances gave Huang Rui the ability to focus more energy on personal artistic creation, which in turn led to the most productive and mature periods in Huang Rui’s Stars work. In the installation Chairman Mao, 10,000 yuan (2006), Huang Rui uses bank notes to spell out the slogan “Long Live Chairman Mao”, a sardonic view on Deng Xiaoping policy of liberalization and the use of Mao to promote a certain form of capitalism, shouldered by Communism. The traditional Chinese way of “bidding long life” is to wish the person “ten thousand” (wan sui) years of long life. The slogan is a composed of bank notes bearing Mao’s portrait representing a total worth of 10,000 RMB. The point of this piece is unequivocal: on one hand the all-powerful market that is making China a great world power, on the other, Communist China, dominated by the figure and romantic idea of Mao Zedong disinterested in money.

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Long live Chairman Mao 10,000 RMB, 2007, Renminbi and Plexiglass, 94 x 138 cm, courtesy of the artist

Considered on a conceptual level, this piece becomes consistent with the previous work of Huang Rui as a conceptual artist. Huang is not representing Mao so much as artistically translating a currency which is widely acknowledged. This work featuring Mao face is one of Huang Rui’s rare depictions of the Great Helmsman. Although Mao’s face appears at official venues and isreproduced on tourist souvenirs, he is not often depicted in modern-day official propaganda. Bank notes have become the primary representation of the Great Helmsman, the face the Chinese people meet everywhere and every day.


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Democracy Wall, 1979, charcoal on paper, 58.5cm x 85.2cm. Courtesy of the artist

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Huang Rui


Huang Yan 靄岊

(born 1966 in Jilin)

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uang Yan works in tandem with his wife Zhang Tiemei, a calligrapher who draws landscapes in chalk and pastel on faces and bodies, inventing a new artistic language, the Chinese Landscape Tattoo Series, while her husband photographs them, renewing the age old technique of shanshui hua or mountain and water landscapes. The body, moving, living flesh transforms the ink and chalk into a real landscape. These Mao portraits were forbidden to export from China due to what was deemed their disfigurement of an iconic figure.

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Oil on canvas, diptych, 220 x 180cm each work. Courtesy of the artist and Albert Benamou Gallery, Paris


Huang Yan

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Mao diptych, oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, courtesy of Ethan Cohen Fine Arts

IMAGE STILL MISSING .154.

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Huang Yan


Ji Dachun 季大纯

(born 1968 in Nantong)

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graduate of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Ji Dachun is an individualist and is noted for his strange and surrealist humour. He enjoys a private joke and combines elements of the everyday, often a play on words, with Chinese symbols, dragon, cranes, and historical figures, Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Marx, Lenin, Picasso and others. All of his works often done on primed white canvasses in pencil and ink are cartoon like in their simplicity, evoking also traditional literati shanshui painting. Ji Dachun floats between East and West in his cultural allegiances. His works refer to Western icons and Chinese tradition simultaneously, bringing him into the global art fold. His Maonainai or Miss Mao looks like a cartoon figure, Mario Mario from a video game, reducing Mao to a representation, a doll.

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Mao Nainai, 2008, pencil and oil on canvas, 60 x 50cm. Courtesy of the artist

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Ji Dachun


Fengmajian, 2008, pencil and oil on canvas, 150 x 150cm. Courtesy of the artist

Ji Dachun

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Jin Shanyi靳尚谊 (born 1934 in Jiaozuo, Henan)

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in Shanyi is now a professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (he was once acting president) where he completed his degree in in 1953. In 1955, he studied oil painting under the Soviet master Konstantin Maksimov. He was famous for such socialist realist paintings as “Mao Zedong at the December Meeting 1961” and other portraits of minorities such as Tajik Bride, “Plateau Love” and “Old Farmer from Yanan”. He also painted his fellow painters Zhan Jianjun and Huang Binhong. He is one of the most influential painters of modern China.

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Portrait of Mao, 1966, oil on canvas, 262 x 137cm. Courtesy of the artist and Taikang art space

Jin Shangyi

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Kimiko Yoshida (born 1963 in Tokyo)

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imiko Yoshida left Japan for France in 1995, and became a feminist artist. She decided to embark on a series entitled Bride. Questioning the transformation of self, the absorption of other cultures, she decided to explore the traditional marriage around the world. She dressed in these bridal outfits herself, imagining a sort of cultural transformation through clothes. The Red Bride, like the nun, is not committed to a man but to an ideal. She has become completely red, transfigured by her love of Communism. This work is particularly interesting when you think of the “red revival” of “red sentiments” (hong qing) going on in China in the new millennium.

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The Mao Bride (Red Guard Red), Self-Portrait (2009), C-print mounted on aluminium and plexiglass, 120 x 120cm. Courtesy of the artist and Albert Benamou Gallery

Kimiko Yoshida

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The Mao Bride (Blue Guard Blue), Self-Portrait (2009), C-print mounted on aluminium and plexiglass, 120 x 120cm. Courtesy of the artist and Albert Benamou Gallery

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Kimiko Yoshida


The Mao Bride (Green Guard Red), Self-Portrait (2009), C-print mounted on aluminium and plexiglass, 120 x 120cm. Courtesy of the artist and Albert Benamou Gallery

Kimiko Yoshida

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Li Haifeng 李海峰

(born 1963 in Shanghai)

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i Haifeng’s Maos are humorous renditions of the Great Leader. In his depictions, Mao wears gaudy, embroidered, padded jackets, gives handshakes or dances with his double, or rides a centipede tandem in an undershirt, with various versions of himself: one dressed as a grandfather on tour, another in a red t-shirt, another in a Mao cap and red t-shirt and yet another in a peasant’s straw hat. The graduate of Shanghai Normal University and Dijon National Fine Art College thus joins the pop art brigade. In the Bottle painting series, Li Haifeng brings back an old Chinese tradition, inserting one’s deepest wish into a bottle and throwing it into the ocean for others to find.

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Floating bottle, oil on canvas,200 x 170cm. Courtesy of the artist

Li Haifeng

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Li Haifeng, Floating bottle, oil on canvas, 200 x 170 cm, courtesy of the artist

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Li Haifeng


Li Haifeng, We are going on a voyage, oil on canvas, 170 x 200 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Catto Gallery

Li Haifeng

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Li Haifeng, I Trust You, 2006, oil on canvas, 111 x 144cm. Courtesy of the artist and Catto Gallery

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Li Haifeng


I am pleased with what you did, 1994, oil on canvas, 112 x 145 cm, courtesy of the artist and Catto Gallery

Li Haifeng

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I Trust You, 2006, oil on canvas, 114 x 144cm. Courtesy of the artist and Catto Gallery

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Li Haifeng


Li Shan 李山

(born 1942 in Lanxi, Heilongjiang)

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n Li Shan’s work, Mao is often depicted with a lotus flower in his mouth. The hehua or lotus has a double meaning in Chinese, it also means the courtesan. Li Shan is also flaunting the feminine side to Mao, his beautiful eyes, beauty mark and feminine charm. Doing so, he is deconstructing the icon of Mao, light-heartedly, even coquettishly. Li Shan is part of the first wave of artists in the 1990s in Shanghai to take part in an unofficial political pop (zhengzhi popu) art movement in Shanghai, alongside artists like Yu Youhan, Liu Dahong and Pu Jie, which happened contiguously with the political pop art movement in Beijing (including Wang Guangyi, Liu Wei, Luo Brothers). Li Shan is a major figure whose naïve and whimsical work hides a much deeper political meaning. He is part of a generation whose teenage years were spent in Maoist limbo, regurgitating slogans. Li Shan is also considered part of the ’85 New Wave art movement. More recent works in oil include many works in which even human figures appear to be non-human, insects, plants, organisms of all sorts. His work has always presented a hidden sexuality with subtle references to desire.

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Li Shan, Rouge Series: No. 8, 1990, acrylic on canvas, 105.4 x 149.9cm. Courtesy of artist and the Farber Collection


Li Shan, Rouge Flower, silkscreen and oil on canvas, 51 x 72 cm, courtesy of Uli Sigg collection

Li Shan

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Li Shuang 李爽

(born 1957 in Beijing)

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he only female artist of the Stars Group, Li Shuang’s imprisonment forced the artists to disband. An admiring French diplomat secured her release after much pressure on the government. Her imprisonment made her into a more devout Buddhist, drawing on her own Tibetan Christian heritage of fervour. Often representing a woman which resembled herself at the time of her imprisonment, a beautiful young woman with two plaits framing her perfect oval face, Li Shuang’s works have become more and more spiritual over the years, lapsing into another world of meditation, cabalistic numbers and Buddhist philosophy. The young woman in the paintings has developed a more the face of an enlightened Boddhisatva with long ears and a cleft chin. She is more often than not represented with flowers, sometimes lilies, a sign of divinity. Following her French exile, Li Shuang retreated more and more into her own world, leaving behind many of her fellow artists on the road to fame. However, in recent years, she is making a return into the public eye. Her depiction of Mao is violent. The young woman appears to be simply having a meal but this representation of Mao reminds us of Salomé who calmly asked for the head of St-John the Baptist as a wedding gift. The painting once more depicts a young, beautiful, quasi-virginal woman engaging in an act of barbarous cruelty, sitting down to a meal of her enemy. It has all of the suppressed violence of incarceration and a life subjected to propaganda. Li Shuang felt crushed by the regime and stated that the day of her arrest, she painted a traditional courtyard with many eyes on it, like the many people who might have denounced her and spied on her in her youthful years.

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Li Shuang, Mao and I, 2004, oil on canvas, 130 x 130cm. Courtesy of the artist

Li Shuang

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Li Shuang, Mao and I, 2004, oil on canvas, 130 x 130cm. Courtesy of the artist

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Li Shuang


Li Songsong 李松松

(born 1973 in Beijing)

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i Songsong paintings are mostly inspired by photographs dealing with Chinese historical events from the founding of the PRC to the Cultural Revolution. He sources the photographs from newspapers, magazine clippings or the internet. But instead of using the photograph as a simple inspiration, he studies the details of it obsessively, finding aspects hitherto unnoticed. His very blurred brushstrokes sometimes seem to want to erase elements of the story and make others more vibrant. He paints his works in sections putting them together at the very end. Fifteen refers to the First National Congress of the CCP held in 1921 in Shanghai. The CCP was composed at that time of 57 party members. From left to right, in the first row of the picture one can glimpse Li Da and Li Hanjun, the delegates of Shanghai; Zhang Guotao and Liu Renjing, for Beijing; the Chairman himself, Mao Zedong, He Shuheng, for Changsha; Dong Biwu, Chen Tanqiu, for Wuhan. The delegates in the second row from left to right are Wang Jinmei and Deng Enming for Jinan; Chen Gongbo for Guangzhou; for residents abroad, and Japan: Zhou Fohai; Bao Huiseng, the personal delegate of Chen Duxiu – founder and party secretary of the CCP and Maring, the delegate from Holland. The painting is created in 2011 for the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist party of China. The artist added the Russian delegate Nokoliskny to the painting. He did not appear in the original photograph.

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Li Songsong, Fifteen, 2011, oil on aluminium panel, 120 x 330cm. Courtesy of Pace Gallery Beijing


Li Song Song

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Li Xiangqun

(born 1961 in Heilongjiang)

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graduate of the Lu Xun Fine Arts Academy in Shenyang where he was also a professor of painting from 1978 to ’82, and then turned to sculpture teaching that art at Xinhua University in Beijing. He is also director of the Zero Field Art Center in Beijing. His depiction of a whimsical Mao walking playfuly along is a reminder of the naïve spirirt which inspired Mao’s followers.

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We walk on the boulevard, 2013, cast bronze, 50 x 46 x 115 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Yang Gallery

Li Xiangqun

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Lin Gang 林岗

(born Zhang Guansheng in 1925 in Ningjin)

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s a boy, in the 1940s, Lin Gang fled the Japanese with his younger sister in Shandong and was no stranger to hardship. It was only after arriving in the PLA liberated area that he was able to study painting. A student at Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1950, Lin Gang painted his masterwork a year later entitled “Zhao Guilan at the conference of outstanding workers.” It depicted the entire CCP leadership including Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De and Liu Shaoqi meeting with a model worker, a sweet young girl, a factory worker probably. (A poster of the painting was made in 1952). In the mid fifties, Lin Gang went to the USSR to study at the Repin Institute of Fine Arts in St Petersburg. He returned to China in 1960 and became a professor at the Central Arts Academy. He was married to Pang Tao, an artist who often collaborated with him, especially in later years, including for such works as “Eventful Years”, 1979.

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Poster from the work, Zhao Guilan at the Heroes Reception, 152, ink and color. Courtesy of the National Museum of China

Lin Gang

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Top : Joining of the Forces at Jinggang Mountain, 1975. Courtesy of the Collection of China National Museum Bottom : Sketch No.1 for “Joining of the Forces at Jinggang Mountain�, 1975, Charcoal on Paper, 22 x 27.5cm, courtesy of the artist and Hadrien de Montferrand Gallery

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Lin Gang


Top : The Long March (aka Our Glorious Years), 1979. Courtesy of the Collection of China National Museum Bottom : Sketch for “The Long March” (Also known as “Our Glorious Years”), 1978-1979, Charcoal on Paper, 27 x 39cm, courtesy of the artist and Hadrien de Montferrand Gallery

Lin Gang

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Liu Bolin 刘勃麟

(born 1973 in Shandong)

K

nown as the “The Invisible Man,” Liu Bolin paints himself into the landscape, first at his newly demolished Beijing studio and then everywhere from dazibao walls to the Forbidden City to the Olympic Nest stadium, the Great Wall; to a graffiti wall in New York and a telephone booth in London. He began doing these labour-intensive performances in 2005. His works are more commercial and less searching than the ’80s generation, as he came of age in an era of capitalism and change. But his performances also question the place of the individual in society; to what extent the individual melts into the collective and becomes a part of the masses.

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No.120, Portrait, 2012, C-print, 135 x 180cm, edition of 8, Š the artist; courtesy of Paris-Beijing Gallery

Liu Bolin

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Liu Chunhua 刘春华 (born 1944 in Tailai)

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hanks to the Maoist propaganda machine, Mao zhuxi qu Anyuan (毛主席去安源) became the most famous painting in world history. Liu Chunhua was a Red Guard studying at the Central Academy of Industrial Art in Beijing when he painted it, but the painting was modified by a group of several artists in order to please Jiang Qing or Madame Mao who thought it a ‘model painting’. The advancing figure, resembling a Messiah; seems to bring hope to the people. The traditional weathered umbrella he carries signifies he has travelled far in order to listen to his people’s demands. He also has long hair and is wearing a traditional Chinese outfit. He is the embodiment of revolutionary ideal, a young dreamer who strides fearlessly towards his goal.

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Poster from work of Liu Chunhua, Mao en route to Anyuan, oil on canvas, 220 x 180cm, 1967

Liu Chunhua

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Reinterpretation of LIu Chunhua’s iconic piece

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Liu Chunhua


Liu Dahong 刘大鸿

(born 1962 in Qingdao)

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student of Zao Wouki, Liu graduated from the China Academy of Art in 1985, making him part of the first wave of Chinese contemporary artists. Liu Dahong’s works re-imagine Communist China with the brightness of comic books and propaganda posters. His works seemingly make light of harsh times, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the lynching of the Gang of Four and Mao’s rise to power. He recounts his childhood in scenes taken from those years 1966-76, the height of the Cultural Revolution. The meticulous paintwork reminds us of religious paintings, perhaps echoing the political fervour of that period. In Twelfth Month, Liu imagines a world in hundreds of Lilliputan figures soldiers or simple people engaged in street battle, dancing, or doing mundane things, cooking, cleaning, hanging banners, seem to be part of a medieval, Brueghel-like landscape. One can make out the hero revolutionary Lei Feng reading the LIttle Red Book, the cowherd and the girl weaver, figures of Chinese mythology, and Mao appearing as a sort of sun radiating from the upper corner of the fresco. One can also make out the Workers Palace, Gaotang Road, Liaocheng Road, Shicheng 3rd Road in Shanghai where the artist grew up and went to school. He calls the characters in his works the “scummy dregs of the old society,” “spies,” “rightists,” “running dogs of the imperialists” and “evil henchmen” citing insults common during the Cultural Revolution. In this half-fantasy world, peopled by real and imaginary characters, one can feel a true artist’s sensibility and consciousness that transforms the horrors and routine of the everyday into artistic inspiration.

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New World, (Sixteen National CCP congresses), oil on canvas, 320 cm diameter. Courtesy of TZ Chang Hanart Gallery

Four Seasons Spring is part of a series of four works which in a traditional style depict the seasons. Mao appears as the saviour of the world (note the audience of international disciples) with a halo. The sky is filled with dragons, and he stands beneath a «heroic» pine tree. The four seasons refer to the four seasons of Mao’s life as a young proselytiser, a recognized politician, and an old man under grey skies.

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Liu Dahong


Four Seasons, Autumn, 1991, (a series of four paintings of Mao in the seasons) oil on canvas, 70 x 40cm, courtesy of TZ Chang, Hanart Gallery, Hong Kong


The work refers in its composition to the painting “Mao on the road to Anyuan� by Liu Chunhua. The red umbrella reminds us of the original painting.

The Twelfth Month, 1987, oil on canvas, 98 x 160cm. Courtesy of TZ Chang, Hanart Gallery, Hong Kong

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Liu Dahong


Liu Wei 刘韡

(born 1965 in Beijing)

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iu Wei is often thought of as the founder of the cynical realist movement with fellow Beijinger, Fang Lijun. Liu Wei uses garish colours to portray the reality of life in a Communist country after the liberalization of Deng Xiaoping, in a climate of blind allegiance to the party, generalized corruption and social instability. The cynical realist movement recognized the absurdity of a life intertwined with politics and the impossibility of escape, except through humour. Liu Wei enjoys depicting the vulgar, rotting flesh; the erotic, sensual and fleshy women. He is much like modern-day Soutine, painting crude, almost ugly portraits of soldiers, workers, peasants and the new class emerging under the Deng Xiaoping, the businessmen. His works have often been called ”gaudy art” or as he calls it himself “rotten art”. His depiction, the perfect Maoist soldier family is ironic. The colours are gaudy, the clothes unfashionable, the people overweight and ugly.The painting might also refer to his own background as the son of a general. This portrait of Mao swimming with its handmade and hand painted frame is reminiscent of the gaudy style of the Maoist period. The peonies, mudan, are also known as fuguihua, the flower of wealth and riches, the flower of kings. Another hidden meaning of the peony may be passion, referring to Mao’s philandering. In a show of virility and political supremacy, Mao swam across the Yangtze river on July 16th, 1966. He was 72 years old and he decided it seemed, spontaneously to join the thousands of swimmers in Wuhan’s annual river crossing competition. The river was adorned with two floating platforms, one with his portrait and the other with the characters Mao

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Zhuxi wansui or Long Live Chairman Mao. It was a grossly over staged event in the cult of personality. It was also done at moment when Mao felt himself to be losing power and he needed to demonstrate vigour as he was launching the Cultural Revolution to retain power through the Red Guards. For this purpose, he also used young people trained in revolutionary tactics wielding the little Red Book which they used as a reference to lynch his political opponents and dissidents against the regime.

Swimming Mao crossing the Yangtze river, Revolutionary Series, oil on panel and frame, 31 x 38cm, 1991. Š Liu Wei; courtesy of ChinaToday Gallery, Brussels

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Liu Wei


Mao Generation, 992-99, oil on canvas, with carved wood frame, 102 x 85cm, Photo Patrick Goetelen/Mythos Dynasty Collection

Liu Wei

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Long March Project/Qin Ga 琴嘎 (born 1971 in Inner Mongolia)

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riginally a sculptor and performance artist, living in Beijing, Qin Ga is one of the many artists who participated in the Long March initiative started in June 2002. The idea of the Long March was to reproduce one of Mao’s greatest journeys, the journey of the Communist Red Army to power, from Luding Bridge to Yanan, while creating unique artwork. Qin Ga decided to have tattooed upon his back, a map recording the journey. At each new pit stop, a tattoo artist and film maker would record his progress by adding each new city on the route to his skin. He called this the “Miniature Long March.”

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The Miniature Long March 21st-Yanan, 2005, C-print Š of the artist, courtesy of Feizi Gallery, Shanghai/Bruxelles

Qin Ga

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Lu Feifei 鲁飞飞

(born 1980 in Shandong)

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n actress and muse of Gao Brothers, Lu Fei Fei (her real name, Zhao Yaliang) has become an artist in her own right. Her series on Zhuyuan Township in the Yimeng mountains where she grew up is a touching reflection of how Mao has shaped her own life. Lu Fei Fei came from a large rural family of a brother and four sisters and was not registered at birth due to Mao’s one-child policy. Her parents registered her when she was five years old (presumably when they were able to afford the fine) allowing her to go to school and have social security. The images are of two girls, a niece named Xuan Xuan, and her classmate Zhi Zhi or Wisdom. Both are affected by the one child policy and are undeclared at birth; as well as affected by the patriarchal society in which it is better to have a boy and therefore girls are most likely not to be registered at birth. The girls stand in front of the Maoist slogan “To have a girl first is as good as a boy”. Lu Feifei also works as a sculptor, often in the form of self portraits.

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The Story of Zhuyuan Series no.5, 2009, C-print, 80 x 120 cm, edition of ten. Courtesy of the artist

Lu Fei Fei

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The Story of Zhuyuan Series no. 4, 2009, C-print,80 x 120 cm, edition of ten. Courtesy of the artist

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Lu Fei Fei


Luo Brothers 罗氏兄弟

(born 1963, 1964 and 1972 in Guilin)

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n the early 1990s, a number of artists decided to make a go of art, living their comfortable factory jobs for the uncertainty of the artist squat of the Yuanminyuan and possible harassment from the police and government. The Luo Brothers were part of this movement. The three brothers Luo Weidong, Luo Weiguo and Luo Weibing began working together in 1996 in Beijing after coming there from Guangxi. They subverted the traditinal woodcarvings belonging to the artisan tradition, transforming them into more contemporary, shiny plastic-like billboards. Their political pop art incorporates famous brands such as Coca Cola, and McDonalds and more traditional Chinese symbols such as peonies, lotuses, peonies, etc. and uses traditional techniques such as lacquer and ink painting. They are also part of the “gaudy art movement”, using garish colours to portray icons of the Cultural Revolution. Their creations often bring up the theme of the “100 children” or the idea of renao “noisy and happy”.

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Welcome Welcome – Red Era, 2009, oil on canvas, 200 x 155cm. Courtesy of Yang Gallery

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Luo Brothers


Welcome, welcome series, carved wood with lacquer, 40 x 50 cm, courtesy Jean-Michel Timsit collection

Luo Brothers

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Maleonn 銏良

(born 1972 in Shanghai)

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aleonn is one of the new experimental photographers in Shanghai. His Studio Mobile was a way of inventing worlds. Before setting off, he spent half a year organizing the sets and backdrops and decorating them with personal memorabilia: notebooks; toys, puppets, banners. plants, clocks, lampshades and armchairs from the 1950s, and other objects. He then set upthese decors in a trailer which drove from Shanghai to Beijing, in which he created photo scenarios or photos romans inviting one hundred and forty people, from all walks of life, to participate. The subjects were often given the photos as gifts. His nonsensical, dreamlike world in which Chinese mythology (the Journey to the West, and the peach of longevity), and Maoist mythology (in particular inspired by Lei Feng, Mao’s invented self-sacrificing Communist hero) colide. The result was pure magic.

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Amber no1, 2008, C-print, Š Maleonn. Courtesy Galerie Paris-Beijing

Maleonn

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Maleonn, Amber no5, 2008, C-print, ŠMaleonn. Courtesy Galerie Paris-Beijing

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Maleonn


Pan Dehai 潘德海

(born 1956 in Siping, Jilin)

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an Dehai is part of the 1980s Southwestern Art Group with Mao Xuhui, Zhang Xiaogang and Ye Yongqing. Pan Dehai figures are called corn men, composed of eyes of corn, representing the simple mindedness of peasant folk. They are painted completely in red, the colour of the revolutionary times. By depicting the corruption of modern life, and the revolutionary ideal; Pan Dehai joins other painters such as Liu Wei in their critique of society.

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The Red Era, 2012, oil on canvas, 200 x 170 cm, courtesy of the artist and Yang Gallery

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Pan Dehai


Untitled, 1997, 130 x 150 cm, courtesy of the Uli Sigg colection and M+ museum

Pan Dehai

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The Founding Ceremony, 2012, oil on canvas, 200 x 170 cm, courtesy of the artist and Yang Gallery

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Pan Dehai


Pan Yue 潘钺

(born 1968 in Beijing)

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an Yue’s parents were both painters and as a result, he received a classical education. However, his work is infused with humour due to his growing up during the Cultural Revolution. Making light of political propaganda has become his own trademark. n his aptly titled “Revolutionary Ballet,” the dancers from the infamous ballet, The Red Detachment of Women, and the White Haired Girl, the only two operas performed during the Cultural Revolution by order of Jiang Qing, Mme Mao herself; dance with costumes and rifles and then in the next frame, dance unclothed. Pan Yue reveals that this was the secret fantasy of every young man watching the propaganda ballet, that the dancers would suddenly appear, bare-breasted and voluptuous on the stage, distracting the bored audience. In Chairman Mao’s train, the “red iron rooster” as Paul Theroux called it, is coming straight out of Mao’s official portrait, spewing black coal smoke. In “Thomaos,” Pan Yue redraws the cartoon character Thomas the tank engine endowing him with Mao’s smiling face.

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Revolutionary Ballet, C-print, 126 x 84 cm, edition of 30

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Pan Yue


Pan Yue

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Chairman Mao’s Train, 2010, 3D artwork, C-print, edition of 8

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Pan Yue


“Thomaos?!” 3D work by computer, c-print, 2010, 180 x 119cm, edition of 3

Pan Yue

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Pop Zhao 赵子老

(aka Zhao Jianhai 赵建海, born 1963)

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xiled in San Francisco, Pop Zhao left China due to the lack of political freedom. His first performance works when he was a student at the Beijing Academy of Fine Arts incorporated dancing and screaming, taboo in the early 1980s. It was the birth of Concept 21, a performance group which staged events at famous destinations: the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs, Beijing University campus (the first in in 1986). Other artists from this group include Sheng Qi, Kang Mu, Zheng Yuke and Xi Jianjun. But Mao was his obsession. In 1993, Pop Zhao launched the first ever information art project “MAO 4253,” a global compilation of the “People’s view of Mao,” he polled 36,500 people regarding their general opinion of Mao, in San Francisco, New York, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Taiyuan. The poll was published in Art in America and Artweek magazines. Then, on the first day of the new millennium, 2000, Pop Zhao and two thousand farmers unveiled a five thousand meter long banner printed with Mao’s Little Red Book at the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. The Mao Just Do It series was a natural derivative of this installation, questioning propaganda systems, portraying Mao wearing a Ferrari or Nike logo t-shirt. Pop Zhao is also famous for imagining the longest artwork in the world, a 10,000-meter long dragon, exhibited at Liberty island (New York) and on the Great Wall.

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Mao banner, Great Wall installation, 01.01.2000

Pop Zhao

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Mao banner, Great Wall installation, 01.01.2000

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Pop Zhao


Pop Zhao

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Mao banner, Great Wall installation, 01.01.2000

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Pop Zhao


Chairman No. 2, Ferrari, 2005, C-print, 150 x 200cm

Pop Zhao

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Poster art

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oster art in the Mao period was the most incredible and aesthetic propaganda tool. They were most often based on paintings or photographs. The themes of choice were Chairman Mao at work, the historic Mao, Mao in his guerrilla headquarters at Yanan, or on the Long March. Posters were also used in campaigns to combat illiteracy, promote agricultural growth during the Great Leap forward, champion acupuncture, encourage the move to the countryside of the intellectuals, promote the cultural minorities, and even eliminate sparrows and flies. Mao appeared on propaganda posters from the 1940s, however the movement heightened in the 1960s. The Little Red Book was published in May 1964 and used by Mao and Lin Biao, and the army for indoctrination. One billion copies are said to have been printed. The poster made from the eponymous image of Mao (see page 233, with the original photograph alongside) was taken by his American friend, journalist Edgar Snow and soon became a favourite of the Great Leader who used it to bolster his cult of personality, as an image hat would promote his own cut of personality. He is considered the first person to interview Mao Zedong in the Communist guerrilla headquarters of Yanan, a meeting he documented in his 1937 book titled “Red Star Over China�. He married Helen Foster, also an American, who wrote under the pseudonym of Nym Wales. They were Marxists and well acquainted with the Chinese Communists in Beijing where they moved in 1933 after their honeymoon.

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Posters from the Uli Sigg collection featuring Mao at various ages and times carrer

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Portrait of Mao Zedong in Yanan by signed by Mao Zedong and photographed by Edgar Snow (born in Kansas in 1905, died in 1972)

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Poster art


Pu Jie 浦捷

(born 1959 in Shanghai)

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Shanghai pop artist obsessed with city life, Pu Jie represents here the iconic Mao of Edgar Snow’s official portrait. The red colour seems almost blood stained, a sort of ink wash, reminiscent of traditional Chinese techniques. His collage portraits with texts, are often done in bright colours and in particular the colour yellow which has been associated with prostitution. He generally depicts the city a chaotic landscape of businessmen and prostitutes, and in the background, political slogans from Maiost times. The “Paris of the East” is Pu Jie’s backdrop, a city long associated with debauchery and Westernization due to its early opening as a treaty port to the foreign powers. Pu Jie’s work is like caricature, reminding us of the aesthetic of comic strips.

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God is Coming-21, 2006, Acrylic on paper, 99 x 71cm. Courtesy of ShanghArt Gallery

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Pu Jie


Qi Zhilong 祁志龙

(born 1962 in Inner Mongolia)

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graduate of China’s most elitist art school, the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 1987, Qi Zhilong is also one of the artists who participated in the 1993 iconic exhibition, Chinese Avant-Garde at the, then young, Hanart Gallery in Hong Kong. Qi Zhilong is a painter of beauty. In the political uncertainty of the Mao period, he depicts young smiling women in Mao outfits, idealized to the extreme. In Maoist times, this type and size of portrait was only done for the Chairman himself. Qi never reveals the names of his models, sometimes celebrities, rendering them anonymous. The models are wearing a Mao outfit/uniform or sometimes more stylish Westernized clothing but seem to yearn for the Communist past. Qi Zhilong flirts with the idea with idea of pop art, making one model into a sort of brand, a trademark for Communist China.

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China Girl 3, 2009, silkscreen in 104 colours, 49 x 40.25 cm, Courtesy of Ethan Cohen Fine Arts

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Qi Zhilong


“The Idea of Workers No.2,” 2009, oil on canvas 162 x 129.5cm. Courtesy of the artist and AW Asia

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Qiu Jie 邱节

(born 1961 in Shanghai)

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he Two Swallows is part of Qiu Jie’s dazibao or “big character poster” drawings which represents two Chinese working class heroines taken from a famous work by socialist realist painter of the Communist period. His drawings, which he started doing in the late 1990s, are small poster size (due to his limited studio space at that time), but he pastes them together to form giant murals. Qiu Jie signs his paintings with a pen name, “the man who comes from the mountains”, meaning the foreigner as he divides his time between Geneva and Shanghai. In the background is the sinuous Yangtze River, where Qiu Jie grew up in the home of his grandparents as his own family had been sent to laigao. His father and uncle worked in the ship business, a recurring theme in his work. Qiu Jie is part of a lost generation, having been subsumed by Communist culture and ideals in his youth; he emigrates later to Switzerland on a scholarship and discovers the rich, decadent capitalist culture of the West. He later changes his artist names to Qiu Jie meaning the foreigner or “the man who comes from the mountains” or wild man. Qiu combines elements of Communist iconography with traditional Chinese images of nature and culture. “Two Swallows” (see page 246) portrays two young women in Maoist garb (cloth shoes and Mao jackets) scaling an electricity pole to do some repairs. They hover above the landscape, smiling, happily working, and incarnating the modern, emancipated Chinese woman as idealized by the Communists. They are, in fact, a copy of famous Communist painting entitled Two Swallows. But these women also represent Old China. Their beauty, their light heartedness, their grace reminds us of an image of yesteryear, of Chinese beauties in a pagoda landscape with its red-tinted plum blossoms.

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The swallow is a harbinger of spring, happiness and good fortune in the Middle Kingdom. In the background, a teahouse, a cherry tree in blossom, acrobats and dumpling vendors, acrobats, majiang players and families gather in a park that looks vaguely like the Yuyuan gardens in Shanghai. The Yangtze river is almost a character in the work, a waterway Qiu Jie knew well as a child, as he was brought up by an uncle in a shipyard. The Chang Jiang or Long River portrayed here with ships and junks, gives movement to an otherwise still, almost frozen composition. Qiu Jie’s dazibao drawings are almost the works of a diarist, recording childhood memories of the Cultural Revolution and episodes of modern Chinese life, sewn together with his daily inspiration from advertising slogans, music or even what he choses to eat. “Woman and Leader” (see page 243) represents a sort of Chinese Olympia reclining on a divan in front of a representation of the great leftist leaders, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao; the latter appears as his homonym, a cat, one of Qiu Jie’s quirks. She holds in her hand a guide to etiquette at the Shanghai Expo, a sort of new little Red Book ironically entitled “Guide to Liberation”. The grande horizontale wears a Western cocktail dress, a porcelain cup and a silver teapot, a bunch of grapes, assorted with pomegranates, the symbol of Chinese fertility on her bedside table. Her tiny feet or lotuses are clad in Chinese embroidered slippers and are offset by a vase full of blooming peonies, the most evocative of Chinese flowers representing good fortune and happiness. The intricacy and luxurious setting of the drawing contrasts with the leftist messages above the courtesan. The beautiful odalisque seems like a cigarette advertisement from old Shanghai, a starlet advertising for the new millennium in the Paris of the East.

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Woman and leader, fusain and gouache on paper, 179 x 249 cm, courtesy of the artist, Cynthia Copper-Benjamin collection


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Qiu Jie, Mao in Winter, 2011, Charcoal on paper, 140 x 100 cm Š of the artist, Cynthia Benjamin collection, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

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The Chinese word for cat is also mao, making this drawing play on words. In the background, a famous poem by Mao Zedong on the subject of plum blossoms, alludes to the beauty of women. Even in this wintry traditional Chinese landscape, the plum blossoms are “red, happy and bright” according to the Communist aesthetic. The cranes , flying over the stone bridge in the background represent longevity. This representation of Mao, his hands behind his back, wearing a trench coat flung open by the breeze, was taken by one of Mao’s propaganda team, the woman photographer, Hou Bo, who photographed Mao at Beidahe, the seaside resort in 1954.

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Qiu Jie, Two Swallows, 2008, charcoal and gouache on paper, 240 x 166cm, courtesy of the artist

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Qiu Jie


Qu Lei Lei 曲磊磊

(born 1951 in Heilongjiang)

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u Lei Lei is considered one of the founding members of the Stars group. He is a modern Chinese calligrapher, ink painter and writer who emigrated to England in the 1980s. His family were branded as capitalists during the Cultural Revolution and he worked as a barefoot doctor in Manchuria. It was only after Mao died in 1976, that he was able to take up his ink brush, having suffered too much during the Maoist years. His ink drawing Lei Feng, the hero Mao invented to egg on the masses, is dressed as a terracotta warrior, a sort of symbol of the need of an army to unify the country as Qinshihuangdi did during the Han dynasty. His drawings are an ironic take on China’s rise to world power and pre-eminence, referring to history as a reminder of how fragile empires can be. Qu Leilei is a visiting tutor at Ruskin College, Oxford and a teacher of traditional Chinese painting techniques at the Christies/soas Institute in London.

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Lei Feng, 2011, Chinese ink and Xuan paper, 170 x 91cm. Courtesy of Hua Gallery,


Dedicated Study of Mao’s Book , 2011, Chinese ink on Xuan paper, 170x91cm. Courtesy of Hua Gallery


We are Invincible, 2012, Chinese ink and Xuan paper, 91x170cm. Courtesy Hua Gallery


Qu Lei Lei

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Ren Rong äťťćˆŽ

(born 1960 in Nanjing)

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en Rong is one of the older artists in Beijing, part of the 85 new wave movement. His running figures, arms outstretched, what he calls the people plant- organic figures that seem to hark back to an earlier Chinese tradition of paper cutting and are mildly inspired by engraving. Sometimes, he does collage work, inspired by the French painter Henri Matisse. Sometimes he simply reproduced the paper cut effect in oil. The combination of the people plant figure and Mao, the free figure juxtaposed with the never changing image of Mao seems to evoke the individual weighed down by the Communist past, yet alive and full of hope. Like in the paintings of Yu Youhan, Mao has become a joyous advertisement, a gaudy brand, a sort of rabbit foot of the Chinese tradition, a symbol of happiness and stability. However, the running figures make these Mao pictures a more subtle critique than they appear.

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Mao Zedong – Eyes series n°1, 2009, oil on canvas, 200 x 150cm. Courtesy of the artist

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Ren Rong


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Mao Zedong – The big wave, 2009, oil on canvas, 200 x 150cm Courtesy of the artist

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Ren Rong


Mao Zedong – The big conference 2009, oil on canvas, 200 x 150cm Courtesy of the artist

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Mao Zedong – Flower no 1, 2009, oil on canvas, 100 x 150. Courtesy of the artist

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Ren Rong


Mao Zedong – Flower no 4, 2009, oil on canvas, 100 x 150. Courtesy of the artist

Ren Rong

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Mao Zedong – Flower no 5, 2009, oil on canvas, 100 x 150. Courtesy of the artist

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Ren Rong


Mao Zedong – Flower no 6, 2009, oil on canvas, 100 x 150. Courtesy of the artist

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Ren Zhenyu 任震宇

(born 1976 in Tianjin)

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en Zhenyu has always been a portraitist, using bright colours and a heavy brush to cast light and shadow on his subjects such as Elizabeth II, Diana, Princess of Wales, Barack Obama, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Deng Xiaoping, Lee Kwan Yew and Damien Hirst. The layering of paint in Ren Zhengyu’s work signifies the complexity of the man portrayed. To remember Mao with bitterness or nostalgia is the real question.

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Mao no 2, oil on canvas, 2008, 150 x 150cm. Courtesy of Herman Heinsbroek

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Ru Xiaofan 茹小凡

(born 1954 in Nanjing)

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n exile for the past thirty years in Paris, Ru Xiaofan has had the perspective from which to reflect on China’s consumerism and on the vagaries of a society, which purports to be liberal minded. His series of genetically manipulated, almost virtual, extremely erotic flowers based on Mao’s campaign for a more open, freer culture called the One Hundred Flowers Campaign (which started in 1956 and was supported by such writers as Ding Ling, Wang Shingwei, who openly criticized Mao’s politics and then were imprisoned or forced into exile) was done during 1996-2000. As Mao ambiguously said, “The policy of letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend is designed to promote the flourishing of the arts and the progress of science.” The irony is that Ru Xiaofan, himself in exile, should chose to figuratively portray these flowers as unreal, almost obscene, objects. From 2004 to 2009, Ru Xiaofan started the series Bubble Game, inspired by a recent return trip to China in 2005. Toys, cheap jewellery, lipsticks, artificial flowers, balloons, festoon a pastel landscape: tasteless, colourless, representing the emptiness of modern globalized society; a society built on consumerism. Everything ends up on the rubbish pile, unused, untasted, consumed almost as soon as it is produced, or “Made in China,” a “Toy story’ landscape of discarded rubbish, a trash paradise.

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Tous sont des jeux, no. 3, oil on canvas, 100 x 80cm. Courtesy of the artist

Ru Xiaofan

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Tous sont des jeux, no. 4, oil on canvas, 100 x 80cm. Courtesy of the artist

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Ru Xiaofan


Shao Yinong and Mu Chen 邵逸农和慕辰 (born 1961 in Xining and 1970 in Dandong)

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hao Yinong and Mu Chen are a couple, in life as in art. One of their landscape portraits series is focused on all of the assembly halls in which Mao Zedong gave speeches during his rise to power. Some are humble classrooms, even barns, still marked by his passage, with wall graffiti, posters, flags. Mao was a politician who traversed China, campaigning in order to rally the peasants and the proletariat into a unified force. The assembly rooms seem still full of the ghosts who turned Mao into the hero leader. The rooms have also changed with the times, like China itself, transformed and sometimes scarred by modernity. In the background of the Xibaipo assembly hall, the portraits of General Zhu De and Mao still hang side by side, as they did on Tiananmen Square in 1949, the founding of the republic. The Bonjour Monsieur Richter series makes the waving Mao statue almost a sort of circus figure in a fantasmagorical world. He seems to be waving as if all the world were in a whirl around him. The blurriness of the photographs is a reference to the German painter Gerhard Richter.

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Bonjour Monsieur Richter! Fuzhou, 2002, C-print, 122 x 188cm. Courtesy of the Courtesy of the artists

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Shao Yinong & Muchen


Bonjour Monsieur Richter! Guiyang, 2002, C-print, 122 x 188cm. Courtesy of the artists

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Bonjour Monsieur Richter, Lijiang, 2002, C-print, 122 x 188cm. Courtesy of the artists

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Shao Yinong & Muchen


Bonjour Monsieur Richter, Shijiazhuang, 2002, C-print, 122 x 188cm. Courtesy of the artists

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The Assembly Hall Series, 2002-06, chromogenic print, 88 x 120cm. Courtesy of the artists


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The Assembly Hall Series, 2002-06, chromogenic print, 88 x 120cm. Courtesy of the artists

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Shao Yinong & Muchen


The Assembly Hall Series, 2002-06, chromogenic print, 88 x 120cm. Courtesy of the artists

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Zhongshan Square, Shenyang, 2004, hand-dyed colour photograph, 118 x 310 cm. Courtesy of the artists


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The Assembly Hall Series, 2002-06, chromogenic print, 88 x 120cm. Courtesy of the artists

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Shao Yinong & Muchen


Shen Jiawei 沈嘉蔚

(born 1948 in Shanghai)

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hen Jiawei is one of China’s most famous propaganda artists. His oil painting Standing Guard for our Great Motherland (1974) was chosen as a slogan painting by Mao’s wife Jiang Qing, and reproduced as a poster distributed throughout China. She regarded the work as upholding the revolutionary aesthetic, depicting heroic figures standing tall. The painting, which featured three soldiers patrolling the Heilongjiang border, the border with Russia, in order to prevent a Soviet attack, was a patriotic triumph. Shen Jiawei was living at Heilongjiang at the time, as a student from Zhejiang province sent to xiaxiang, be educated in the countryside. But he was not studying art at that time. It was only in 1982 that Shen Jiawei was finally allowed to study art at the Central Academy in Beijing, a taboo subject during the Cultural Revolution. Shen JIawei has since left China and joined the Chinese artistic diaspora. He has been living in Australia for more than thirty years. But he continues to focus on Chinese revolutionary history. His 12-metre-long painting, “Red Star Over China” (1987), includes portraits of numerous figures associated with the days of the Long March and the Red Army. After the Tiananmen incident, he left China, disillusioned with Communism and the Party, and went into exile in Australia. In the Brothers and Sisters series (see end pages), Shen Jiawei broaches the subject of the Long March in the years 1936-37, creating two murals with all the three hundred keys figures of the Chinese revolution. In the second part of the mural, Mao appears looking askance, in a white shirt and blue jacket, as a sort of young intellectual. Shen focuses on this year because it was the year

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Chiang Kai-Shek was kidnapped by his own general (with secret Communist sympathies) Zhang Xueliang at Xian who by this act, forced him to join the Communists in a united front against the Japanese army. American journalist Edgar Snow also penned his book about the Communist rebel stronghold of Yanan entitled Red Star Over China that same year. Many of the 128 figures in the painting are Chinese Trotskyists, including Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) himself, others are foreigners such as Hendricus Sneevliet/Maring (1883-1942), a Dutch Communist who helped establish the CCP, and other leaders less known today Li Lisan (1899-1967), one of the first leaders of the CCP who died during the Cultural Revolution. and his Russian wife, or the more well-known Chen Duxiu (1879-1942) first CCP general-secretary as well as Chiang Kaishek’s son’s Jiang Jingguo (1910-88) and his Russian wife Faina Vahreva.

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Shen Jiawei


Beijing Jeep 1966, painted in 2002, oil on canvas. Courtesy of the artist

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Shen Jiawei


Standing Guard for our Great Motherland, 1974, oil on canvas, 190 x 160cm. Courtesy of the artist (preparatory drawing facing page: Private Wang Shujia, 1974, charcoal on paper, 39 x 72. Courtesy of the the artist)

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Crossing the Great Snowy Mountain, 1977, oil on canvas, 148 x 120 cm, courtesy of the artist

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Shen Jiawei


Sheng Qi 盛奇峰

(born 1965 in Hefei)

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heng Qi is a rebel and an artist expelled in the early years from the Beijing Central Academy because of his radical use of performance art. After the Tiananmen incident, he cut the little finger off his left hand, with a handsaw, symbolizing the end of his allegiance to socialism. He planted the amputated finger into a flowerpot outside his old home. He then left China for Europe in a self-imposed exile of ten years. In 1998, a decade later, he started a series of photographs based on this act of dissidence, transforming personal history into art history. The resulting works featured a hand missing its little finger with photographs of the Maoist past glued unto it, nostalgic sepia-toned, small format photos from the 1960s and ’70s. His oil paintings of Tiananmen Square are often painted in red and black, the colours of an era, but also the colour of blood. His painting also often feature Mao, soldiers or police in corrupt poses, holding bundles of renminbi money. His painting and photography seem to present certain nostalgia for the Maoist period of egalitarianism and point a finger at a more money-obsessed, corrupt society.

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Blue Mao, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 120 x 100 cm. Courtesy of Hua Gallery

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Sheng Qi


Snow, 2013, acrylic on paper, 42 x 59 cm, courtesy of the artist. Courtesy of Hua Gallery

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RMB vs Euro, 2013, oil on canvas, 200 x 300cm. Courtesy of the artist


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My left hand, 2006, C-print, 16 x 23cm. Courtesy of Hua Gallery


Shi Lifeng 石立峰

(born 1968 in Shijiazhuang, Hebei)

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n Shi Lifeng’s works, little red men like ants are trying to clamber unto an uncertain edifice, dictatorship combined with democracy while Chairman Mao strikes a match and lights the American icon, the Statue of Liberty. Perhaps he is trying to uncover one of the strangest truths, that Mao unwittingly opened the way for a certain democracy in the world’s most populated nation. This painting decorated the cover of the American rock band Guns ’n’ Roses, titled Chinese Democracy.

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Guns ’n’ Roses for the album “Chinese Democracy” Cover, 2009, oil on canvas, 150 x 200cm. Courtesy of Somo Fine Arts

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Shi LIfeng


Shi Xinning 石心宁

(born 1969 in Liaoning)

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hi Xinning is the master at inserting Mao in various seminal photographs of the twentieth century featuring Marilyn Monroe, Sofia Loren, Andy Warhol and Peggy Guggenheim, and then transforming them into paintings. Born into a PLA soldier family, Shi Xinning started this humorous Mao series late into his career, ten years after graduating from the Shenyang Lu Xun Arts School. One such work portrays the Chairman and colleagues inspecting Marcel Duchamp’s famous ready-made art work, an installation of a urinal (the urinal entitled Fountain was rejected for exhibition of the Society of Independant artists in New York and subsequently photographed by Alfred Stieglitz). The work is a humorous anachronism, which also recalls the routine Communist inspection of factories for national goods. If it were not for the signature on the urinal (R. Mutt, 1917), and the composition which refers to Stieglitz’s photograph, this could simply be another « Mao inspecting factory » propaganda work. At the Anonymous Mountain” is inspired by a piece of performance photography executed in 1993 at Miaofengshan outside of Beijing called “Add One Meter to Anonymous Mountain” in which nine avant-garde artists participated including Zhang Huan, Ma Liuming and Rong Rong, a performance Mao would have frowned at, which hinted at personal freedom of expression. The artists lay nude, piled one upon the other, forming yet another summit in the mountain landscape.

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Visit, 2008, oil on canvas, 185 x 284 cm. Courtesy of ARNDT Gallery


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Dialogue, 2001, oil on canvas, 89 x 151cm. Courtesy of Uli Sigg Collection, Switzerland and M+ museum

Shi Xining’s work also refers to the isolationist policy of Mao, which began in 1949, which kept China free of foreign influence for more than sixty years. As an artist brought up during the Cultural Revolution, his references are often political ones, events that shaped his childhood memories. The black and white or sepia tones of the canvas often give them a cinematographic or photographic likeness.

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Shi Xinning


Duchamp Retrospective Exhibition, 2000-2001, oil on canvas, 100 x 100cm. Courtesy of Uli Sigg Collection, Switzerland and M + museum

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At the anonymous mountain, 2006, oil on canvas, 179 x 359 cm, courtesy of Arndt Gallery


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Sui Jianguo 隋建国

(born 1956 in Qingdao)

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ui Jianguo was a true child of the Revolution. He went to work in a factory alongside his parents at the age of ten. Schooled in Maoist thought, indoctrinated by Maoist propaganda, he only started to paint age eighteen when a broken arm prevented him from working in the factory. His first works were commissions : socialist realist propaganda posters. It was only in 1976 at the death of Mao that he dared to complete his first painting, a landscape. With the liberalization of China, Sui Jianguo switched to more conceptual installation art. He began his Mao Suit series in 1997. Drawing on this piece of clothing, which was obligatory, and the only outfit available during Maoist times, Sui Jianguo is commenting on freedom and memory. Standing alone, the Mao jacket can have the appearance of a straight jacket. The jacket also signifies a lack of individualism. Everyone who wears the jacket is the same, it is faceless. Today, it is seldom worn and yet is universally recognized as a symbol of power. In 2003, Sui JIanguo executed a sculpture entitled “Mao’s Right Arm » which evoked the famous painting of Mao saluting to unite the masses. Detached from the body, the Gargantuan arm signifies nothing, just like the Commmunist discourse, empty and desuet.

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Sleep of Reason, 2005, multi material installation, 510 X 705 x 100 cm, © of the artist. Courtesy Pace Gallery

In Sleep of Reason Sui Jianguo did an installation with the help of local Beijing artist Wang Wenhai, using toy figurines, made in China. The “Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters” is a series of etchings created by Francisco Goya in the 1790s. Goya imagined himself, dreaming and beset by monsters. Mao is asleep, perhaps a beautified corpse as he is on Tiananmen Square but he is made up of toy figurines. It is possibly Mao’s own worst nightmare coming true, the opening of China to the West and mass manufacturing. In another series he did “Made in China”, Sui Jianguo is reflecting on the growth of China as a superpower and a manufacturing giant, for things like toys. The red dinosaur series is part of this series.

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Legacy Mantle, 1997, cast aluminium, 244 x 179 x 122 cm, Š of the artist, courtesy Pace Gallery In situ,

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Sui Jianguo


Legacy Mantle, 1997, cast aluminium, 240 x 160 x 90 cm, Š the artist, courtesy of Pace Gallery In situ

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Sun Guoqi 孙国歧

(born 1942 in Dalian)

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his painting is pone of the icons of the Maoist period. Still in its original frame, with markings, it stands as a testimony to the period when only Mao or his peons was considered a worthy subject of painting. Indeed, in Maoist times, it was considered rightist to have one’s portrait painted a certain size, a privilege for apparatchiks of the Party. Sun Guoqi was responsible for many classics of the period including premier “Zhou Enlai in Xu Beihong’s studio” and “Divert Water from the Milky Way Down”. The red and gold flag has five stars was originally designed by Zheng Liansong inspired by a Chinese proverb, “longing for the stars, longing for the moon,” (Pan xing xing, pan yueliang). The four stars represented the four social classes with Mao as their leader, the fifth star. The stars rise above Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City which is itself surrounded by a crown of wheat and flanked by a dramatic red curtain.

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Chairman Mao with New National Emblem, 1973, oil on canvas, 196 x 145cm, courtesy of Uli Sigg collection and M + museum

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Sun Zixi 孙滋溪

(born 1929 in Shandong)

“I

n Front of Tiananmen Square” (1964) seems to be a family portrait, a newly wedded couple in front of the portrait of Mao and the Forbidden City. Oil painting was considered by Mao to represent a new, more modern way of thinking and therefore, an ideal medium to promote the revolutionary ideal. There was at this time a very definite way of portraying reality as Mao wanted to promote the agricultural classes and the re-education of the elite. From 1968 until 1975, a hundred million young educated people were sent to xia xiang ( to the countryside) to do revolutionary work. It is possible that this portrait is a wedding portrait of a young girl who found her husband in the countryside. It is clear that the original drawings that the bearded grandfather, very Chinese and traditional;, patriarch in the center of the portrait, was not accepted by the propaganda bureau. He was replaced in the painting with a swarthy, younger looking old man in a Mao cap and white jacket, a Little Red Book sticking out of his pocket. The numerous babies in the first draft have also been censored as have the peasant farmers with towels on their heads to keep the sun off, who have been replaced by women and men in more modern, Maoist garb. In the oil painting, Mao is the real centre of the portrait, depicted on the portrait hanging over Tiananmen Gate. The final version presents the husband perhaps, an intellectual or bureaucrat, smart in a blue Mao jacket; his brother, a soldier or Red Guard; the mother and daughter, (the bride) holding hands, and to their left, the grandfather, the only vestige of the old world, an old Uighur peasant. The Uighur man holds a little boy by the hand, a still unreformed country youth with

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a bamboo flute in his pocket. The family seems joyous and thriving, educated and modern thinking. One might even think that it is a mixed marriage, the Uighur minority and the Han, exemplifying a unified China. “Ten thousand years of Long Life to the CCP, Ten thousand years long-life to the Internationale!,� the character banner across the square proclaims. As in the original drawing, a Tibetan group are having their picture taken. And to the right, navy cadets pose. Sun was educated at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 1955-58 and somehow escaped the maelstrom of the Cultural Revolution. He was obviously adept at changing with the winds of the time.

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In Front of Tiananmen Square, 1964, oil on canvas, 153 x 294cm. Courtesy of the collection of National Museum of China

Sketch No.1 for “In Front of Tiananmen Square”, 1964, pencil on paper, 37.5 x 26cm. Courtesy of the artist and

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Sun Zixi


Tang Hui ĺ”?ć™–

(born 1968 in Wuhan)

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ang Hui was a video artist and installation artist and a teacher at the Central Academy of Fine Arts inn Beijing in the 1990s, but has more recently turned to painting. His works show the urban reality of a modernized China, close to science fiction. His characters are cartoon-like, unreal. His vision of Mao with a bomber jet above his head, replacing the radiant sun that usually characterizes political propaganda art, is ironic in its statement about China today. The politics of China have not changed and yet the fabric of society, the mentality of society has been transformed, like the rapper and the young girl in tight jeans, breaking through the old framework. Traditional China still lingers, a woman in a qipao; a PLA soldier, a taiqi master and a Taoist monk in the background.

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Worker’s sculpture no. 1, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 100 x 120cm. Courtesy of Ethan Cohen Fine Arts

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Tang Hui


Collective Images Various colours, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 264 x 169 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Ethan Cohen Fine Arts

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Blazing Sun 2008, acrylic and medium on canvas, 160x110cm. Courtesy of Ethan Cohen Fine Arts

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Tang Hui


Tang Muli 汤沐黎

(born 1947 in Shanghai)

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ang Muli is one of the older and more famous painters of the socialist realist style. He painted as a child and was sent out work on a dairy commune as a teenager; but eventually came back to art. He graduated in 1980 with an MA from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and won a scholarship abroad to study at the Royal College of Art in London. From 1985 to 1989 he was resident artist at Cornell University. He now lives in Montreal, Canada. His first well-known work was “Acupuncture Anesthesia” (1972), featured young women and men practising acupuncture to soothe a patient before an operation. The white scarved medical team in the brightly lit blue room was considered an avant-garde approach to propaganda painting. Its message was simple and clear, making the surgery look almost inviting and modern. “On the March” (1977) was commissioned by the Shanghai government to mark the first anniversary of Mao’s death. It is is a dramatic portrayal of Mao on horseback, presumably on the Long March. It is a heroic scene, Mao surrounded by smiling troops, who are trudging through the loess. One man holds a wrapped red flag, he seems ready to unfurl at the hour of victory.

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Tang Muli, On the March, 1976, oil on canvas, 118 x 232cm. Courtesy of the artist

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Tang Muli


Tang Zhigang 唐志冈

(born 1959 in Kunming)

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ang Zhigang learned to paint as a soldier and graduated from the PLA Institute of Arts. He is one of the few wellknown painters to live in the south, in Yunnan with others such as painters Mao Xuhui and Ye Yongqing. His series “Children Meeting Room” portrays children most often dressed in soldier uniforms doing business or conducting plenary government meetings in official-looking dining halls with gaudy red curtain in the background. In the army, he was a propaganda chief and wrote slogans, took photographs and taught children how to paint. He often uses red in his work symbolizing power. The children re portrayed as adults. This refers to the importance of propaganda and officialdom in China as well as the youth of the generation now in economic power, the 50-somethings.

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Tang Zhigang, Children in Meeting, oil on canvas, 114 x 146 cm. Courtesy of the artist and TZ Chang, Hanart Gallery


Tang Zhigang

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Tian Taiquan 田太权

(born 1960 in Chongqing)

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ian Taiquan’s photographs have always revolved around the Cultural Revolution and a particularity of history, the female Red Guards, often very young, who died in Sichuan during the Cultural Revolution. Totem Recollection is a series of large-scale nude photographs. These heroines, portrayed by actresses, their faces often hidden, lie in dark, mossy cemeteries or drowning in an ocean of Mao badges, scarred and bleeding, a testimony to China’s lost youth. The cemetery of Red Guards is located in Chongqing’s Shapingba district. The Red Guards were used as Mao’s revolutionary force, to unleash a terror on intellectuals and anti-party sentiment and reinforce the party morale, ousting dissenters. In 1966-68, two competing Red Guard factions fought in Chongqing, battles involving guns, mortars, tanks and even gunships on the Yangtze river. The casualties of this ‘Red Guard’ war were buried at a dozen or more locations, but most of the cemeteries were demolished. Some of the girls buried there were as young as 14.

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Memory of Time no 1 and 2, diptych, C-print, 224 x 119cm, courtesy of the artist and Gibsone Jessop Gallery

Tian Taiquan

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Totem Recollection no 8, 110 x 185cm and no 10, 110 x 337cm. Courtesy of the artist and Gibsone Jessop Gallery.


Tian Taiquan

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Sacrifice no 25, C-print, courtesy of the artist and Gibsone Jessop Gallery

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Tian Taiquan


Lost no 25, C-print, courtesy of the artist and Gibsone Jessop Gallery

Tian Taiquan

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Fluttering, C-print, courtesy of the artist and Gibsone Jessop Gallery


Tian Taiquan

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Wang Guangyi 王广义 (born 1957 in Harbin)

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ang Guangyi is one Beijing’s first political pop artists combining Western brand names, Chanel, Coca Cola, Rolex, etc. with Chinese Communist iconography in his work. He challenges the notion of ideology and competing ideologies, which may be similar in that the same propaganda machine, government or advertising is instrumental in shaping the individual’s consciousness. He often uses well known posters of political propaganda featuring soldiers and Red Guards generally in combat positions. He called this series the Great Criticism. Wang was a child of Mao, forced to work for three years in the countryside as a young man, he became a railway engineer and enrolled at the Zhejiang Fine Art Academy only later in life. His early works including Mao, Ao (1988) deconstructs the Mao icon, making him into a paint-by-numbers, cartoonish character.

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Mao Grid, 1990, oil on canvas, 80 x 60.5cm. Courtesy of TZ Chang, Hanart Gallery

Wang Guangyi

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Mao Zedong: Red Grid No. 2, 1988, oil on canvas, 150 x 130cm. Courtesy of Uli Sigg collection and M+ museum

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Wang Guangyi


Elle: Da Pipang, Great Criticism series, 1997, oil on canvas, 149 x 120cm. Courtesy of Herman Heinsbroek collection

should be 2X bigger Wang Guangyi

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Wang Keping 王克平 (born 1949 in Beijing)

“Every artist is a star. Even great artists are stars from the cosmic point of view. We called our group “The Stars” in order to emphasize our individuality. This was directed at the drab uniformity of the Cultural Revolution.” – Ma Desheng, artist

T

he sculpture Idol (1979) was one of the first officially and unofficially exhibited deviations of Mao’s official portrait and therefore a politicallly dissident work. The « Idol » whose name seems to be a distant reference to Paul Gauguin and also a facetious take on the Mao cult, looks vaguely like a Buddha with its hanging ear lobes and prominent chin. The cap on Mao’s head with its deformed Communist star could also be a subtle clin d’oeil to the Stars group of which Wang Keping was a founding member before his Parisian exile. Wang Keping and fellow artists Ai Weiwei, Huang Rui, Li Shuang, Ma Desheng, Qu Leilei, Yang Yiping, Li Yongcun (Bo Yun), Li Shuang, Yan Li and Zhao Gang and woman artist, Li Shuang, decided to mount the first Stars exhibition in September 27, 1979 on the outside gates of the Beihai park, close to National Arts Museum, previously the China Art Gallery, specifically to coincide with the Fifth National Art Exhibition of that year. The Stars wanted to distance themselves from propaganda art under Mao and draw inspiration from the West and late 19th- and early 20th centuries art movements including Impressionism, Expressionism, Fauvism, Dada, Cubism and Surrealism. They were also part of a historical wave of liberalization that had started unofficially with the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 and the death of Mao that same year. The first exhibition was done without a permit. But, the

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authorities closed it down the following day. The Stars responded by announcing a protest march on October 1, the 30th anniversary of the founding of the PRC. «We want political democracy, we want freedom of art», they chanted as they marched. Post-demonstration, they were allowed to exhibit a second time with official support on 23 November in The Huafang Studio in nearby Beihai Park until 2 December 1979. The third exhibition of the Stars took place at the China Art Gallery in 1980, a real victory for the artists as it also attracted ten of thousands of visitors. In 1989, the year of the Tiannamen incident; the Stars organised a large group show in Hong Kong and Taipei (with Hanart Gallery) for the tenth anniversary of their first Beijing exhibition. The 20th anniversary exhibition Demand for Artistic Freedom was held in Japan at the Tokyo Gallery, and a Stars Group retrospective exhibition, Origin Point, was exhibited at the Today Art Museum in Beijing in November 2007. Wang Keping is a sculptor who works principally in wood. He draws his subjects first in large tree trunks and then cuts them into shape with various tools and an old-fashioned chisel. He then subjects his sculptures to a flame, giving them a rich, dark mahogany colour. Originally in the theater, acting for the state army troop, Wang Keping was a self-taught sculptor who was adopted by the Beijing artist cliquein the late 70s as a sort of Douanier Rousseau figure, an outsider with a vision of truth, beauty and the female form. His work has now been shown in various retropectives around the world including the musée Cernuschi, the Centre Pompidou, the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art and the musée Zadkine in Paris.

Wang Keping

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Idol, 1979, birch wood, height 57 cm, Š the artist; courtesy of 10 Chancery Lane Gallery

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Wang Keping


Wang Ningde 王宁德

(born 1972 in Liaoning)

W

ang Ningde is part of a new generation of photographers using black-and-white and staged effects to obtain a certain feeling of nostalgia in his work. A graduate of photography at the Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts in Shenyang (a school founded by Mao in Yanan in 1938) he lives in the south of China between Shenzhen and Guangzhou. His series “Some days” is based on growing up during the Cultural REvolution. His characters are often portrayed eyes shut, and head leaning to the side, as if in a dream. Freud believed repressed memories could be brought back through hypnosis. There is a certain sadness to the figures in Wang Ningde’s portraits. Are they happy to remember or happy to forget? About 99 per cent of the photos have people with their eyes open; but when there are closed eyes, it can raise a whole set of questions: is the subject dreaming, or happy or remembering something? (From an interview with the artist and Berwin Song in Time Out)

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Some Days no.01, 2001, C-print, 123 x 160cm, Courtesy of Wang Ningde and Galerie Paris-Beijing

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Wang Ningde


Some Days no.19, 2001, C-print, 123 x 160cm, Courtesy of Wang Ningde and Galerie Paris-Beijing

Wang Ningde

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Some Days no.30, 2005, C-print, 123 x 160cm, Courtesy of Wang Ningde and Galerie Paris-Beijing

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Wang Ningde


Some Days no.36, 2009, C-print, 123 x 160cm, Courtesy of Wang Ningde and Galerie Paris-Beijing

Wang Ningde

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Some Days no.63, 2009, C-print, 123 x 160cm, Courtesy of Wang Ningde and Galerie Paris-Beijing

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Wang Ningde


Wang Tong 王彤

(born 1967 in Shanghai)

I

n his series “Re-enactment”, Wang Tong revisits historical moments of the Mao era. The artist takes on the Great Leader’s role but this attempt of realism contrasts with the contemporary background of the picture. Even though the posture of the character is different in “Re-enactment in Shanghai,” the outfit definitely evokes “Mao on the way to Anyuan.” Mao is standing in front of the Yangtze River holding the newly signed founding scroll of the CCP which he signed with Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao at the Chinese Communist Party Congress in Shanghai in 1921, (now located in the restored area of Xintiandi). We can make out Pudong behind the haze. The background of the picture makes the scenery almost unreal. In this work, Wang Tong questions the relevance of Mao’s thought for present-day China, allowing the past and the present to collide. Wang Tong also photographed graffiti/propaganda from the Cultural Revolution surviving in the urban and rural landscape. The dazibao or big character graffiti of Mao’s slogans can still be seen in country towns and even in the big cities, a remnant of a bygone era.

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Xincheng, Henan district old graffiti of Mao, hand-coloured, b/w photograph, courtesy of the artist and Magda Danysz Gallery

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Wang Tong


Re-enactment, Inkjet print on fine art paper, 176 x 130cm. Courtesy of Magda Danysz Gallery

Wang Tong

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Wang Xingwei 王兴伟

(born 1969 in Shenyang)

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very unusual artist, a sort of founder of a new form of surrealism, Wang Xingwei lives between Shanghai and Beijing. Very influenced by Marcel Duchamp, he often paints works inspired by him. As he says of himself, “I consider the artist as a postman. He should not be overly curious about what is inside the envelopes he delivers.” The Oriental Way is another take on Liu Chunhua’s famous work, Mao on the Way to Anyuan. Except, the man’s back is turned and it is evident that the artist has taken himself as a model. He is also wearing Western clothes and carrying an umbrella. The original painted in 1966-76 showed the young Mao striding confidently, umbrella in hand, to talk to an angry mob, the miners striking at Anyuan. Liu Shaoqi, the head of the miner’s strike was subsequently branded a rightist and it was forbidden to talk about his role in rallying the miners. Mao became the man known for uniting the strikers, although he most certainly had a peripheral role. Ninety billion posters were made from the painting, making it the most reproduced painting in history.

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The Oriental Way, The Road to Anyuan, 1995, 147 x 186cm. Courtesy of Galerie Urs Meile

Wang Xingwei

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Wang Yidong 王沂东

(born 1955 in Yimeng Mountain, Shandong Province)

W

ang Yidong is one of the realist painters most appealing to traditional sensibilities. He joins the ranks of Yang Feiyun and Ai Xuan, part of the Beijing realism group, subsequently called the China Realism group after Chen Yifei from Shanghai became a part of it. Originally from Sichuan, born in the Buddhist pilgrimage site of Leshan, he is a graduate of Beijing’s Central Academy (1982). His classical training and remarkable realist technique is part of his generation’s legacy to contemporary art, marking the schism with socialist realism in favor of a more intimate form of portraiture. It is not surprising that his lovely muses, dressed like Gong Li in Zhang Yimou’s first movies in red, padded jackets, their hair plaited, carrying baskets of dumplings or fruit, are so endearing to a generation reared in the Communist fold. They seem to bring back an entire, simpler time when life revolved around simple pleasures, living in the countryside, striving to be a good Communist and support one’s fellow man, eating traditional food and falling in love. Wang Yidong’s oils seem to capture more than any other painter of the period the simple aesthetic of life under Mao, in a country closed off to the world, living its dream of humanism.

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Wishes, oil on canvas, 50 x 60cm. Courtesy of Yang Gallery

should be 2X bigger Wang Yidong

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xx Courtesy of Yang Gallery

should be 2X bigger

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Wang Yidong

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Wang Ziwei 王子卫

(born 1963 in Shanghai)

W

ang Ziwei is a Shanghai artist, one of the main figures of the pop art movement in Shanghai. As a child of the Cultural Revolution his work has often focused on bringing humour to the figure of the Great Leader. In one sculptural work, he reworks the waving cat figure found in most Chinese restaurants, a caishen or money god and makes him into a waving Mao face (mao is a homonym for cat). He has also taken most of the great American paintings and peopled them with Mao figures, such as the Roy Litchenstein girl who instead of dreaming of her man, finds herself dreaming of Chairman Mao. The Mao paintings are often peopled with other figures of American pop culture, Mickey Mouse, the Simpsons, Donald Duck and Snow White.

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Hopeless, acrylic on canvass, 35.5 x 45.5cm, courtesy of the artist

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Wang Ziwei


Hopeless, Acrylic on canvas, 50 x 50cm, courtesy of the artist

Wang Ziwei

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Triple Mao or Down with the East, oil and acrylic on canvas, 200 x 200cm, Š the artist, courtesy of ChinaToday Gallery, Brussels

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Wang Ziwei


XX

Wang Ziwei

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?

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Wang Ziwei


Andy Warhol (born 1928 in Pittsburgh; died 1987 in New York)

T

he “first American pop artist,” Warhol worked on a series of portraits of Mao after US president Richard Nixon’s remarkable visit to China in 1972, marking the opening up of the country and the first American president to visit since Mao’s takeover. Andy Warhol visited China for the first and only time in 1982 Warhol and only met one artist a calligrapher named Chang Ku-Nien. The story goes that Chang gave Warhol a piece of calligraphy inscribed with long life and Warhol drew him a dollar sign in magic marker. Ai Weiwei has remarked that Warhol could never like a country in which “there was no McDonalds.”

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Andy Warhol


Andy Warhol

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Andy Warhol


Andy Warhol

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Andy Warhol


Wu Junyong 吴俊勇 (born 1978 in Fujian)

W

u Junyong experiments with oil, animation, paper cut and installation works but his focus has always been political. He often portrays men in dunce caps, daigamao, a feature of the Cultural Revolution and its self-criticism sessions. “To wear a tall hat” in China meant original to flatter people, but Wu Junyong criticizes a society that is too much involved in flattery. Wu’s various representations of Mao, as a hairy man, refers to the homonym for Mao, which is “hair”. To portray a hairy Mao nude or in boxers in an easy chair is also a taboo in China. The portrait of Mao in profile is also satirical. The wuya or black crow is a founding myth. The world originally had ten suns represented by crows which all flew into the sky at one time. The crops then failed due to too much sun and the gods sent an archer to shoot all down except one. As for the portrait “I see Nothing,” it represents the back of Mao’s head, perhaps turning his head symbolically on his own people, in his quest to look ahead into the future, thus provoking mass deaths such as during the Great Leap Forward.

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Fragments, 2008-10, oil on canvas, 40 x 40cm. Courtesy of the artist

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Wu Junyong


I See Nothing, 2008, oil on Canvas, 100 x 80cm. Courtesy of the artist

Wu Junyong

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The Crow’s Portrait, 2009, oil on Canvas, 115 x 66cm. Courtesy of the artist


Fragments, oil paintings series, 40 x 40 cm. Courtesy of the artist


Mao & Hair, 2008 acrylic on canvas,60 x 40 cm. Courtesy of the artist


Mao & Hair, 2008, ink on paper, 50 x 32.5cm. Courtesy of the artist

Wu Junyong

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Xiao Bo 小波

(born 1977 in Hangzhou)

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iao Bo’s paintings are part of the realist school, inspired by historical photographs of events in Chinese history. Mao often appears in the blur of action, smiling and shaking hands, changing the country’s destiny forever with one gesture or action. Come and visit refers to George Marshall’s visit to China post-second world war with Chinese leaders including Chiang Kai-Shek, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, Zhang Zhizhong and Mao Zedong, in China, in March 1946. Marshall apparently even went to Yanan, the mountain hideout, to meet Mao. America was against a Communist victory but gave aid to China in a similar way than the moneys given to Europe to aid reconstruction. However, they did not expect Mao to declare the PRC on October 1st, 1949 and did not recognize he country officially until Richard Nixon’s visit in 1972. The negotiation could refer to the last time Chiang Kaishek and Mao met, during the Chongqing negotiations, at which they seemed quite friendly in October 1945, discussing land reform and the place of the army. Sharing cigarettes is a Chinese way of being diplomatic.

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Come to visit, 2006, Acrylic on Canvas, 90 x 70 cm x three. Courtesy of Platform China

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Negotiation, 2006, oil on canvas, 200 x 140 x 4cm. Courtesy of Platform China


Xiao Bo

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Visiting, 2006, oil on canvas, 200 x 120 x 4cm. Courtesy of Platform China (p 218)


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Visiting, 2006, oil on canvas, 150 x 190 cm x four. Courtesy of Platform China (p 220)


Xiao Bo

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Xiao Feng and Song Ren 肖锋和宋韧 (born 1932 in Jiangdu and Rongcheng)

T

his painting was painted by the painterly couple of Xiao Feng (born in Yangzhou) and his wife Song Ren (born in Rongcheng, Shandong), official propaganda painters of some renown before the Cultural Revolution. Treating soldiers of the Eighth Route Army, in the midst of the Sino-Japanese war, Bethune, the doctor portrayed, succumbed to a finger infection in 1939 and became one of the foreign heroes of the Maoist lexicon, immortalized in an essay penned by Mao himself (In Memory of Norman Bethune, 紀念白求恩). The couple tackled the painting years a decade after the husband was beaten and suffered brain injuries (almost dying) during the political struggles surrounding the Gang of Four, when the government forbid the husband from painting for ten years. Xiao Feng and Song Ren used this work as a therapy in order to recover both from their mental and physical injuries sustained during the Cultural Revolution and in order to learn to paint again. This was the first painting accepted by the regime after their political banishment. They used a Chinese model for Bethune, unaccustomed to drawing or painting except with live models.

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Norman Bethune, 1975, oil on canvas, 134 x 137cm. Courtesy of the artists

Xiao Feng & Song Ren

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Xu Bing 徐冰

(born 1955 in Wenling, Zhejiang)

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u Bing is one of the artists to have emigrated to New York in the 1990s, joining the ranks of Cai Guoqiang, Zhang Huan and Gu Wenda. He studied printmaking at Beijing’s Central Academy in the 1970s in Beijing before turning to painting and installation, each one of his works developing a precise theme meticulously, often replete with Chinese philosophy. In 1999 Xu Bing was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in recognition of his contributions, particularly in printmaking and calligraphy. He has shown at museums all over the world and in public spaces, recently showing his Phoenixes, male and female, made of discarded building material at St John the Divine Cathedral in New York a reflection of the rapid urbanization of the China and its rebirth. His tiger skin made of half a million cigarettes, his poems on tobacco leaves devoured by beetles and other tobacco-related objects dubbed the “ Tobacco Project” at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was also a monumental exhibition done in collaboration with other artists. The “Book of the Sky” (Tianshu) at Kansas’s Spencer Museum was a calligraphic tour de force, four thousand invented characters, which were used to print a nonsensical book. In the “the Background Story” at the British Museum, he did a faked landscape painting, seemingly painted in ink, which in reality was the shadows of real shrubbery and trees set in a light box. He has also had retrospectives at the Katonah Museum, the Today Art Museum, the He Xiangning Museum and the Taipei Museum of Fine Arts. Xu Bing was appointed the new vice president of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 2008.

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Xu Bing. Redbook, 2000. Zhonghua cigarettes, rubber-stamped with various English texts from “Quotations by Chairman Mao” (Little Red Book) in original metal case,7.6 x 9.5cm (closed); variable edition of 130. Courtesy of Xu Bing studio

Xu Bing

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Xue Song 薛�

(born 1965 in Shanghai)

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ue Song makes collage works out of newspaper and burnt magazines creating works that are bold and urban. The idea of sing burnt paper originated in the blaze that devoured his first studio in Shanghai. The charred paintings and remains of that studio, he decided to paste on canvass and use for his newer work. The figures he makes out of glue and ash, either big characters or people contrasts with the glazed collage background. Xue Song has acknowledged inspiration from ink artist Feng Zikai (1898-1975), considered the originator of the cartoon. Many of his works incorporate calligraphy, showing what he owes to the Chinese literati tradition.

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Untitled, Red Mao, 1996, oil and charred paper on canvas, 120 x 100cm. Courtesy of the Sigg Collection and M+ museum

Xue Song

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Yan Heng 闫珩

(born 1982 Jinzhou, Liaoning)

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graduate of the Shenyang school of Fine Arts, Yan Heng is a narrative artist. His paintings are reference to films, science, and modern brands and objects. The Hongqi (Red Flag) limousine was first manufactured under Chairman Mao’s supervision in 1958 and became a symbol of the apparatchik. It even featured a spittoon. The Hongqi car has recently made a comeback in capitalist China. In this oil painting, the car, ostensibly without a driver, is welcomed unto the red carpet by a throng of foreign paparazzi, echoing China’s arrival on the scene as a nation, in great pomp.

The Hongqi limo, 2010, oil on canvas, diptych, 100 x 200cm x two. Courtesy of the artist


Yan Heng

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Yan Peiming 嚴培明

(born 1960 in Shanghai) Yan Peiming is probably the most famous contemporary portraitist of Mao. His large white, black and red canvases concentrate on his three father figures: Bruce Lee, Mao and his deceased father. His bold brushstrokes make the painting seem like a seascape from close-up, agitated and choppy; but far away, the figure always emerges from the painting as though the artist himself has had a long battle in order to create him. Brought up during the Cultural Revolution, his admission to the Shanghai design school rejected, Yan Peiming was unschooled and therefore started painting entirely on his own. He emigrated to France in 1980 where he later enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, graduating in 1999. He shares his time between Dijon and Shanghai. Since then, his works have since graced the halls of the Louvre and the Venice and Istanbul Biennales. Claude Hudelot, author of The Last Maos of Yan Peiming, compares Yan Peiming’s Mao to: ... that of a defunct emperor in his coffin at Tiananmen. The artist has come to this vision of Mao not only in black and white as is his usual, but in a more colourful way, in shades of white, grey, yellow, black, red, pink. This summarizes the painting entitled Mao’s Remains (2001). The body of a giant, covered partly in a red flag, which seems to be have been just thrown over him. The contrast between the red shining, shimmering cloth and the immobile body is vivid.

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Mao au balcon, 2000, oil on canvas, 250 x 250cm. Photograph: André Morin; © Yan Peiming, ADAGP, Paris, 2013

Yan Peiming

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Mao Zedong’s Remains 2001, oil on canvas, 150 x 300cm, Photograph: André Morin, © Yan Pei-Ming, ADAGP, Paris, 2013


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Mao 2005, oil on canvas, 300 x 300 cm, Photograph: André Morin, © Yan Peiming, ADAGP, Paris, 2013

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Yan Peiming


Tête de Mao 1999, oil on canvas, 290 x 290cm. Photograph: André Morin, © Yan Peiming, ADAGP, Paris, 2013

Yan Peiming

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Yin Xiuzhen 尹秀珍

(born 1963 in Beijing)

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in Xiuzhen like other female artists such as Lin Tianmiao has always used fabric as the basis of her installations. “Dress box” is an installation work made from a pile of her clothes from childhood to adulthood, one item chosen for each of the past thirty years. The clothes are stacked and piled into a small trunk her father made for her as a child, during the Cultural Revolution. She then set the ensemble in cement. The cement contrasts with the soft, pink Mao shirt on top of the pile. This type of shirt was a traditional young girl’s shirt in Maoist time. This work shows a certain nostalgia for an earlier Communist time, when things were simpler, clothes handmade and boxes hand-hewn. The trunk itself seems to be replete of the dreams of a young woman. When a woman marries in China, it is traditional that she sets out from her father’s home with a trunk of clothes and jewellery. Yin Xiuzhen is married to performance artist Song Dong. This work was exhibited at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2013.

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Dress box installation, 1995, clothes of the artist worn in the past thirty years, an old home made trunk, concrete, copper plate, courtesy the artist and Pace Beijing

Yin Xiuzhen

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Yu Youhan 余友涵

(born 1943 in Shanghai)

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n this work, Yu Youhan represents Mao in a famous Henri, dit Le Douanier Rousseau painting of Forêt Tropicale avec les Singes (1910). Yu Youhan shares the naïve style of Douanier Rousseau at times like another Shanghai painter, Li Shan. But instead of copying the original, Yu imagines Mao sitting on a horse followed by two of his acolytes on the Long March. Mao in this posture could well have been taken by a photograph of the period. Yu Youhan had a Maoist period in his youth and set out in the 1970s to retrace Mao’s steps on the Long March. He was joined by fellow artist Zhang Hongtu. The Long March started in October 1934 when the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) left its guerrilla headquarters in Jiangxi to escape the Kuomintang Nationalists led by Chiang Kaishek. The one hundred thousand followers of Mao, soldiers joined by many poor, starving peasants, often wearing unsuitable winter attire, headed north by a circuitous route. The Long March took a year and the straggly troops covered 10,000km, and they traversed mountain ranges and rivers, with the original 100,000 dwindling to 30,000 survivors. They ended their journey at the edge of the Gobi desert, in the Yanan caves where they set up a temporary republic. In 2008, it is said there were 500 Long March survivors. Van Gogh’s Potato Eaters (1885) was revolutionary when it was painted because it depicted the peasant way of life in a crude, realist manner. By injecting Mao into the picture, Yu Youhan brings him to the masses, the proletarian mass of workers. Yu Youhan is considered by many to be the founder of political pop art in Shanghai, bridging the East and the West and inventing a new artistic language. Yu Youhan’s Mao

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portrait series is perhaps the best known of all the works deconstructing the Great Leader. His use of flowers, peonies, symbol of happiness and good fortune, and almost part of the gaudy aesthetic of the Chinese countryside (almost like the pattern on some hua bu fabrics produced during the Cultural Revolution) make Mao appear more of popular icon and cartoonish figure. Despite the Cultural Revolution in full swing, Yu managed to graduate from the Central Art Academy in Beijing in 1973. As he says of himself: Why did I paint Mao? I did so in part as a memorial to my past political life. I borrowed the method of Pop art and elements from Chinese folk art to represent an ordinary Mao in a way of resilience, a little humour, and few critical remarks, all mixed with a little admiration. I am proud that he is no longer a sacrosanct god in my paintings; he becomes an ordinary person.

Yu Youhan is probably the most prolific of all contemporary artists with regards to reinterpreting the figure of Mao. He is also an older artist who experienced the Cultural Revolution in his teens. In the decade from 1989 to 1998, he did a complete series of Mao paintings. These were all decorated with flower patterns, as though the artist wanted to improve on the harsh realities of the Communist era by creating a fanciful, wallpaper-like background. Lorenz Helbling of Shanghai produced a catalogue of the artist at this period. The flower patterns he used resembled the patterns used in folk art and on popular printed fabrics, and sometimes even the block print indigo dyed fabric found in Shanghai itself. Mao himself loved these prints and encouraged the populace to adorn their homes with bright and happy peony patterns despite the obligatory Mao blue and grey uniforms. So, it is ironic that Yu Youhan re-uses the same patterns to demystify the

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Great Leader and render him a more happy and endearing figure. Yu Youhan’s depiction of Mao covered in flowers, as though covered in laurels, or even dead, is a wonderful reminder of the ambiguous legacy of Mao. Many intellectuals followed in his footsteps, drawn in by his idealism and dream for his country and yet it was those very people he so often betrayed and even killed.

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Yu Youhan, Untitled (Chairman Mao), 1996, oil on canvas, 160 x 118cm. Courtesy of Uli Sigg collection, M+ collection

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Serve the people, 2006, acrylic on canvas, 113 x 145cm. Š of the artist, courtesy, ChinaToday Gallery, Brussels

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Yu Youhan


Talking with Hunan Peasants, 1991, acrylic on canvas, 167 x 119cm, courtesy of the artist and Shanghart Gallery

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Yu Youhan, Caufield, 9. 2005, 11, 10-26, oil on canvas, 149 x 66.5cm. Courtesy of the artist

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Yu Youhan


Ross Bleckner, 2005, acrylic on canvas, 148 x 105cm. Courtesy of the artist

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Untitled (Tiananmen), 1997, oil on canvas, 107 x 154cm. Courtesy of Uli Sigg collection, M+ museum

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Yu Youhan


Smiling Among the Green, 1996, acrylic on canvas, 115 x 116cm. Courtesy of TZ Chang, Hanart Gallery

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Pop Mao, 1992, oil on canvas, 120 x 90cm. Photograph Jean-Marc Decrop/Yu Youhan Collection, Hong Kong

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Yu Youhan


Untitled (Tiananmen), 1997, oil on canvas, 107 x 154cm. Courtesy of Uli Sigg collection and M + museum

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Van Gogh: Mao and the Potato Eaters (2002), acrylic on canvas, 126 x 101cm. Courtesy of the artist

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Yu Youhan


Douanier Rousseau: Mao on the Long March (2005), acrylic on canvas, 140 x 114cm. Courtesy of the artist

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Mao and models, 1993, 218 x 200cm, painted for the Venice Biennale. Š the artist, courtesy of ChinaToday Gallery, Brussels

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Yu Youhan


Mao, acrylic on canvas, 109.5 x 86cm. Courtesy of Herman Heinsbroek collection

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Mao Warhol series 2006, acrylic on canvas, 131x110cm, courtesy ChinaToday Gallery, Brussels

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Yue Minjun 岳敏君

(born 1962 in Daqing, Heilongjiang)

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ue Minjun is an artist who has pioneered the theme of the individual. His work, almost uniquely self-portraits, with a too wide, faultless grin/smile, with shining, white teeth is part of the “cynical realism” movement of the 80-90s in Beijing. Disillusioned with politics, the cynical realist artists decided to re-interpret reality in a sardonic way. Cinematographers such as Zhang Yimou with the film “To Live” were also a counterpart of the movement. This painting is an incredible statement, showing Mao swimming in the cranium of the artist, who is foolishly grinning. It highlights the absurdity of an individual life plotted against history, with the propaganda machine dictating his/ her every thought and act. Yue Minjun claims that his smiling faces were inspired by a painting he saw of fellow artist Geng Jianyi (born 1962) in 1990, painting of a man smiling that he saw when he was still a student and still worked in the oil fields (his parents worked in the oil fields). The first major exhibition in Europe dedicated to the artist was at the Fondation Cartier in Paris in the fall of 2012 and was called “L’ombre du four rire.”

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Yue Minjun, Founding Ceremony, 1997, oil on canvas, 65.4 x 110cm. Courtesy of the artist

The stage is clear. Nobody holds court. Yue Minjun’s re-interpretation of The Founding Ceremony of the Nation by Dong Xinwen is sardonic. Dong Xiwen (1914-73), a student of the Chinese master, Xu Beihong, witnessed and painted the founding of the nation event on Tiananmen Square in 1949. He painted the 4m by 2m canvas in 1952. The painting became a propaganda poster. He joined the party that same year. However, in the original, Mao reads out a proclamation while his disciples, standing centre left, the tallest man.

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Dong Xinwen, The Founding Ceremony. Courtesy of the Collection of the National Museum of China

The artist erased the people around Mao as subsequent political pogroms made them into enemies of the nation. The first to go was Gao Gang, the vice-president of the CCP, then Liu Shaoqi, former head of state, then Lin Boqu, former secretary general and so on for years until the artist himself became too frail to modify his painting himself and gave the work to his assistant. This work is therefore a humorous commentary on the continuous political transformation of China. Mao-less, without subjects, the painting becomes almost insignificant, leaving only the stage and red pillars of the Forbidden City, modified in the original to make the scene appear more grand. Without politicians, with everyone eliminated, there is no battleground.

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Watercolour and pencil sketch for Look, the World is Being Turned Upside Down, 1977, oil on cardboard, 18.5 x 26.5cm. Courtesy of Hadrien de Montferrand Gallery

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Zhan Jianjun 詹建俊

(born 1932 in Liaoning)

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han Jianjun is one of the many socialist realist painters in Mao China who made people dream. His idealized vision of Five Heroes of Mount Langya (1959), five soldiers who leapt off a cliff to their deaths after defending the Red Army and helping them escape, fuelled people’s imaginations. A student at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1948, he was selected to study oil painting with the Russian master, Konstantin Maksimov. Look the World is Being Turned Upside Down (1977) is striking in that Mao, who has been the leader of the country since 1949, and just gone through the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution, looks victorious and calm, stylishly dressed, his shirt open. He holds a cigarette nonchalantly in his right hand and gazes sideways at the viewer. Zhan Jianjun is still teaching the Central Academy of Fine Arts.

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Sketch for Look, the World is Being Turned Upside Down, 1977, Oil on Cardboard Paper, 18.5 x 26.5cm. Courtesy of Hadrien de Montferrand Gallery

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Zhang Dali 张大力

(born 1963 in Harbin)

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hang Dali is one of the first graffiti artists in Beijing. His photographs of the graffiti of his own shaved head (over 2,000 of them) and the character chai (for demolish) have become extremely well-known. He has shown his work internationally, including at museums such as MOMA and ICP in New York and London. He is also well-known for his AK-47 portraits, which depict migrant workers who have died in the modernization and urbanization push which started in the 1990s. However, he has also doe some AK-47 portraits of Mao. Zhang Dali’s series of photographs about Mao propaganda are fascinating. Zhang Dali shows how Mao’s most important propaganda photographs were always altered. «A Second History» pairs historical photos before and after the intervention of the censors. People are airbrushed in and out; slogans are changed. Zhang Dali has invented his own history, with splashes of ink like blood. One such picture shows Mao at Yan’an walking alone on a dirt road. Changing the colour of the image, Zhang Dali changes the meaning; rosy pink for hope, ominous red for blood. Zhang Dali covers it in red ink. However, the initial background, a pagoda, with a throng of peasants, has cut out. In another modified photograph, Mao and Stalin appear side-by-side. The actual photograph (of Stalin’s 70th birthday in Moscow in December 6th, 1949) featured many other world leaders including the premiers of Mongolia, East Germany and Bulgaria, as well as a crowd which was doctored out. Zhang says of these images:

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Zhang Dali, AK-47, acrylic on vinyl, 149 x 115cm. Courtesy of Magda Danycz Gallery

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Zhang Dali


Zhang Dali, Second History Book series, 2009, C-prints painted negatives. Courtesy of Magda Danycz Gallery “I started this research because I was wondering how to explore what is not clearly visible. I was wondering how to get into the head of someone else—the censors, in this instance. My photographic project has revealed some unexpected things: the main one, that propaganda is much more complex than it seems; it encompasses more than simply making a political point. What the censors were doing was not simply faking documents but also obeying the aesthetic requirements of the time. Unattractive faces become beautiful, short people become tall, narrow eyes are widened, people looking too scruffy in countryside scenes are deleted altogether”.

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Zhang Dali, Second History Book series, 2009, C-prints painted negatives. Courtesy of Magda Danycz Gallery

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Zhang Dali


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Zhang Dali, Second History Book series, 2009, C-prints painted negatives. Courtesy of Magda Danycz Gallery

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Zhang Dali


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Zhang Dali, Second History Book series, 2009, C-prints painted negatives. Courtesy of Magda Danycz Gallery

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Zhang Hongtu 张宏图

(born 1943 in Pingliang)

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hang Hongtu painted Communist murals as a teenager for his school, after he moved with his family from Xian to the capital during the Great Leap Forward. Shortly afterwards, he was accepted as a student of painting at the Beijing Central Academy. It was soon closed down by Jiang Qing, Mao’s wife, intent on clamping down on individualism and artistic dissent. Zhang’s interest shifted with the times, from art to politics. During the Cultural Revolution, he and his friends, including artist Yu Youhan, started a journey across China on foot, following in the footsteps steps of Comrade Mao on the Long March, setting on foot from Jinggang Shan, the founding place of the Communist party, to Shaoshan where Mao was born; all the while carrying flags and a portrait of Chairman Mao and using their art along the way for “political purposes.” Zhang was part of a generation whose lives were completely transformed by Mao and whose veneration of Mao turned to disillusionment when they realized the harsh effects of his policies including the famine during the Great Leap Forward and devastation wrought by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. Zhang himself was forced to self-criticize his own work and negate his family, who were Muslim government officials, part of the hei or black ruling class. He soon started working in the rice fields and was allowed to paint on Sundays after two years of hard labour. Their work unit called themselves the “Dung Basket School of Painting” as they stored their materials and brushes in baskets used to collect cow dung. Zhang emigrated to New York in 1980. The Quaker Oats box was a simple case of spontaneous inspiration when Zhang noticed the resemblance between

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the puritan figure on the logo and the Great Leader and transformed his breakfast cereal box into one of the first pieces of “political pop art.�

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Zhang Hongtu


“Grass Mao� from Material Mao series, 1992, grass, soil and wood, 104 x 101 x 14 cm, courtesy of the artist

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Untitled, Long Live Chairman Mao series, 12 works, acrylic on paper collage mounted on wood board, 54 cm x 70.9 cm, courtesy of the artist

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Zhang Hongtu


Ping-Pong Mao, 1995, Mixed media installation, 76 x 152 x 274 cm, courtesy of the artist

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Last Banquet, 1989, laser prints, pages from the Little Red Book, and acrylic on canvas, 152 x 462 cm. Courtesy of the artist


This work was done shortly after the Tiananmen incident and was based upon Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper. However, unlike its Italian counterpart, each disciple is one and the same. Indeed, Mao did manage to evince most of his political opponents, Lin Biao, Zhou Enlai and others and become the “Great Helmsman”. The deification of Mao and the will of his disciples to resemble him, even today, make the Last Banquet into one of the subtlest critiques of Chinese politics.

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Mao, After Picasso, 2012, ink and oil on rice paper and photo collage mounted on canvas, 111.8 X 89.9 cm, courtesy of the artist

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Zhang Hongtu


Long live Chariman Mao, acrylic on Quaker Oats box, 25 x 12cm, courtesy of the artist


Zhang Huan XX (born 1965 in Shanghai)

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hang Huan was one of the first artists to live in the Yuanminyuan artist squat outside of Beijing with Rong Rong, Cang Xin and others. At that time he did a series of performances, which thrust him into limelight as a key figure of China’s burgeoning art scene, including 12 Square Meters (1994). He moved to New York in 1998, continuing his art performances in which he always played a key role, his shaven and striking head, almost an icon. After his return to his hometown of Shanghai in 1998 he had a spiritual illumination. He started to think about ash and its significance in Eastern culture. These two Mao portraits are based on photographs of Mao as a young man, one taken by his friend the American journalist Edgar Snow and another during a meeting in the 1920s with the rival Kuomintang party. Zhang collects the ash from twenty or more Buddhist temples in Shanghai and carts it to his Minhang studio in order to separate it into colours for use in his sculptures and paintings. The ash symbolizes the blessings, hopes, dreams and prayers of the individuals visiting the temple complexes who purchase the incense sticks to burn. As Zhang Huan said, “Everything we are, everything we believe and want are within these ashes.” (Zhang Huan: Ash Paintings and Memory Doors, AGO, Toronto, 2012).

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Zhang Huan, Spiritual leader no 8, 2010, cowskin, 250 x 190 x 40cm, Š Zhang Huan studio; courtesy of Pearl Lam Gallery


Student Leader Mao Zedong, ash on linen, 100 x 80cm. Courtesy of Zhang Huan studio

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Zhang Huan


Mao Zedong portrait no 2, 2008, ash on linen, 250 x 200cm, courtesy of Zhang Huan studio,

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Zhang Xiaogang 张晓刚 (born 1958 in Kunming)

Z

hang Xiaogang is the Sichuan-born painter who singlehandedly invented the movement of “scar art”. He is one of the best known of the Chinese contemporary painters on the international scene. His Big Family series featuring mother, father and children, often inspired by his own family, wear grey uniforms and sit pale-face and expectant, transfixed by the camera, as if frozen in time. A thin red bloodline runs between them, representing the past and the difficulties of life in the Cultural Revolution and in the Maoist period. His portraits are thinly painted with almost no perspective, like works from the Quattrocento period, religious icons of the Virgin Mary by Giovanni Bellini, for instance. This lack of perspective makes them very Chinese, the aesthetic as flat as a Chinese ink landscape or a the earliest portraits known to the Chinese, those of Giuseppe Castiglione, the Jesuit painter of the court of emperor Qianlong in the 18th century. Oil painting is a recent development in China and started with painters of the Shanghai school such as Guan Liang.

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Bloodline-Big Family: Comrades with Red Baby, 1995, oil on canvas 150 x 180cm. Courtesy of Pace Gallery, Beijing

Zhang Xiaogang

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Bloodline-Big Family: Family No.1, 1993, oil on canvas 100 x 130cm. Courtesy of Pace Gallery, Beijing

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Zhang Xiaogang


Bloodline-Big Family: Three Camarades, 1995, oil on canvas, 150 x 180cm. Courtesy of Pace Gallery , Beijing

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Zhong Han 钟涵

(born 1929 in Pingxiang)

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rossing the Yellow River Eastward (1978) is considered one the great epic portraits of Mao. For Mao, during the Long March (at Chuankou in 1948) crossing the Yellow River was a milestone in his ascension to power. There even exists a photographic record of this crossing with Mao at the helm of a large wooden boat much as the painting depicts. Mao is said to have remarked on seeing the choppy, icy waters of the Yellow River or Huang He: “You can despise anything except the Yellow River, If you despise the Yellow River, you despise the Chinese nation”. However, he and his generals felt that if the river was not crossed and the PLA did not penetrate into KMT territory and spread the revolution, all would be lost. The Yellow River Song was often chanted by the Red Army: “The wind is moaning, The horses are neighing, The Yellow River is thundering, The Yellow River is thundering, Troops laden with weapons charge forward, So many heroes fighting the Japanese, We’re protecting China, protecting the Yellow River…” The Yellow River was considered the end point of the Long March since it symbolized crossing over into Nationalist-held territory and bringing the revolution to the rest of China. Only two thousand people survived the Long March of a reported one hundred thousands troops, many who joined in bouts of idealism, keen on resisting the Japanese invasion and the Nationalists who seemed not to care if China starved. Many lost their lives on the Yellow River Crossing.

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Sketch for Crossing the Yellow River Eastward, 1977, charcoal on paper, 35.5 x 79.5cm. Courtesy of Hadrien de Montferrand Gallery

Crossing the Yellow River Eastward, 1978, oil on canvas. Courtesy of National Museum of China

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Zhong Han


Zhou Tiehai 周铁海

(born 1966 in Shanghai)

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reak is an early work which echoes the order Mao via Jiang Qing gave to the Red Guards, “to smash,” one’s cultural inheritance, the past. Zhou Tiehai is better known for his later works, which are more conceptual and focus on the art market and its vagaries. His most famous invention is an appropriation of the camel on the Malboro cigarette packages whose head he has used to replace the faces in important portraits such as the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, the Maya by Goya and others. This series dubbed the Placebo Series (2006) is painted with an airbrush technique, like a graffiti artist, making light of artistic technique. The idea is that the work, like a placebo, will induce the same sensorial experience as paintings by one of the great Masters. He also did a series of Time magazine covers in which he made himself “man of the year” and imagines China in UN-style talks. There is a certain struggle against Eurocentrism in his work and a need to shine the light on his own culture and people.

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Break, 1991, mixed media on paper, 212x360cm. Courtesy of ShanghArt Gallery


Zhou Tiehai

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Zhou Yilun 周轶伦

(born 1983 in Hangzhou)

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his young artist from Hangzhou uses frames, newspapers, adverts, photographs, pornography, landscape painting, historical references and sketches in his work. His small paintings and collage are generally reflections of what is happening in the contemporary world. Too much green, add some red seems to refer to the landscape, which is dotted with political meaning, red flags. A graduate of the China Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou, he is part of a new generation questioning the legacy of nationalism and the Communist philosophy.

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Too Much Green, Needs A Little Red, 2011, Acrylic on wood board, old frame, 76 x 66cm. Courtesy of Platform China

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Too much green needs to add some red (2), 2011, Acrylic on paper, old frame, 29.5 x 24cm. Courtesy of Platform China

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Zhou Yilun


Zhuang Hui 庄螉

(born 1963 in Yumen, Gansu)

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huang Hui is performance artist. His scroll photographs copies from the photographs of factory workers, school employees, the Politburo in Maoist times, are memory of communitarianism at its peak. Zhuang Hui grew up in Henan in the midst of the Cultural Revolution. His group portraits are a study of the portrait itself inasmuch s the portrait generally is more of n individual experience. He uses a rotational lens such s the ones used in the 1900 to take photographs at 180 degrees of groups of as many as 350 people sitting standing or squatting. The elongated prints can be rolled like Chinese scrolls. The artist always appears in the photograph, either at the far left or far right. Zhuang Hui often photographs the work unit, or danwei, a Maoist legacy by which a classless society is divided up into factions.

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Group Photo of the First Teachers College, Graduating Class of 1997. Luoyang City, Henan province, 1997/03, 18 x 119 cm, 4/10. Š the artist; courtesy of Pace Gallery, Beijing


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List of artists Ai Weiwei 艾未未 (born 1957 in Beijing) Dmitry Baltermants (born 1912 in Warsaw) Tommaso Bonaventura (born 1969 in Rome) Cang Xin 苍鑫 (born 1967 in Baotou, Inner Mongolia) Chang Lei 常磊 (born 1977 in Jinan, Shandong) Chen Jiagang 陈家刚 (born 1962 in Chongqing) Chen Longbin 陈龙斌 (born 1964 in Taipei) Chen Yanning 陈衍宁 (born 1945 in Guangzhou) Chen Zhuo and Huang Keyi 陈卓和黄可一 (born 1978 and 1980 in Hunan) Cui Xiuwen 崔岫闻 (born 1970 in Harbin) Dai Guangyu 戴光郁 (born 1955 in Chengdu, Sichuan) Fang Lijun 方力钧 (born 1963 in Hebei) Feng Mengbo 冯梦波 (born 1966 in Beijing) Feng Zhengjie 俸正杰 (born 1968 in Sichuan) Gao Brothers, Zhen and Qiang 高兄弟 (born 1956 and 1962 in Shandong) Gao Xiang 高翔 (born 1971 in Kunming) Gao Zengli 高增礼 (born 1964 in Langzhou) Geng Jianyi 耿建翌 (born 1962 in Zhengzhou) Guo Jin 郭晋 (born 1964 in Chengdu) Guo Wei 郭伟 (b. 1960 in Chengdu) Hai Bo 海波 (born 1962 in Changchun) Han Bing 韩冰 (born 1974 in Jiangsu) Han Lei 韓磊 (born 1967 in Kaifeng) Robert van der Hilst (born 1940 in Amsterdam) Hong Hao 洪浩 (born 1965 in Beijing) Hong Wai 洪慧 (born 1982 in Shanghai) Huang Rui 黄锐 (born 1952 Beijing) Huang Yan 黄岩 (born 1966 in Jilin) Ji Dachun 季大纯 (born 1968 in Nantong) Jin Shanyi 靳尚谊 (born 1934 in Jiaozuo, Henan) Kimiko Yoshida (born 1963 in Tokyo)

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Li Haifeng 李海峰 (born 1963 in Shanghai) Li Shan 李山 (born 1942 in Lanxi, Heilongjiang) Li Shuang 李爽 (born 1957 in Beijing) Li Songsong 李松松 (born 1973 in Beijing) Lin Gang 林岗 (born Zhang Guansheng 1925 in Ningjin) Liu Bolin 刘勃麟 (born 1973 in Shandong) Liu Chunhua 刘春华 (born 1944 in Tailai) Liu Dahong 刘大鸿(born 1962 in Qingdao) Liu Wei 刘韡 (born 1965, Beijing, China) Lu Feifei 鲁飞飞 (born 1980 in Shandong) Luo Brothers 罗氏兄弟 (born 1963, 1964 and 1972 in Guilin) Maleonn 马良 (born 1972 in Shanghai) Pan Dehai 潘德海 (born 1956 in Siping, Jilin) Pan Yue 潘钺 (born 1968 in Beijing) Pop Zhao 赵子老 (Zhao Jianhai 赵赵赵, born 1963 in ????) Pu Jie 浦捷 (born 1959 in Shanghai) Qi Zhilong 祁志龙 (born 1962 in Inner Mongolia) Qin Ga 琴嘎 (born 1971 in Inner Mongolia), (see under Long March) Qiu Jie 邱节 (born 1961 in Shanghai) Qu Lei Lei 曲磊磊 (born 1951 in Heilongjiang) Ren Rong 任戎 (born 1960 in Nanjing) Ren Zhenyu 任震宇 (born 1976 in Tianjin) Ru Xiaofan 茹小凡 (born 1954 in Nanjing) Shao Yinong and Mu Chen 邵逸农和慕辰 (born 1970 in Dandong and 1961 in Xining) Shen Jiawei 沈嘉蔚 (born 1948 in Shanghai) Sheng Qi 盛奇 (born 1965 in Hefei) Shi Lifeng 石立峰 (born 1968 in Shijiazhuang, Hebei) Shi Xinning 石心宁 (born 1969 in Liaoning) Sui Jianguo 隋建国 (born 1956 in Qingdao) Sun Guoqi 孙国歧 (born 1942 in Dalian) Sun Zixi 孙滋溪 (born1929 in Shandong) Tang Hui 唐晖 (born 1968 in Wuhan)

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Tang Muli 汤沐黎 (born 1947 in Shanghai) Tang Zhigang 唐志冈 (born 1959 in Kunming) Tian Taiquan 田太权 (born 1960 in Chongqing) Wang Guangyi 王广义 (born 1957 in Harbin) Wang Keping 王克平 (born in 1949 in Beijing) Wang Ningde 王宁德(born 1972 in Liaoning) Wang Tong 王彤 (born 1967 in Shanghai Wang Xingwei 王兴伟 (born 1969 in Shenyang) Wang Yidong 王沂东 (born 1955 in Yimeng, Shandong Province) Wang Ziwei 王子卫 (born 1963 in Shanghai) Andy Warhol (born 1928 in Pittsburgh; died 1987 in New York) Wu Junyong 吴俊勇 (born 1978 in Fujian) Xiao Bo 小波 (born 1977 in Hangzhou) Xiao Feng and Song Ren 肖锋和宋韧 (born 1932 in Jiangdu and Rongcheng) Xu Bing 徐冰 (born in Wenling, Zhejiang in 1955) Xue Song 薛松 (born 1965 in Shanghai) Yan Heng 闫珩 (born 1982 Jinzhou, Liaoning) Yan Peiming 嚴培明 (born in 1960 in Shanghai) Yin Xiuzhen 尹秀珍 (born 1963 in Beijing) Yu Youhan 余友涵 (born 1943 in Shanghai) Yue Minjun 岳敏君 (born 1962 in Daqing, Heilongjiang) Zhan Jianjun 詹建俊 (born 1932 in Liaoning) Zhang Dali 张大力 (born 1963 in Harbin) Zhang Huan 张洹 (born 1965 in Shanghai) Zhang Hongtu 张宏图 (born 1943 in Pingliang) Zhang Xiaogang 张晓刚 (born 1958 in Kunming) Zhong Han 钟涵 (born 1929 in Pingxiang) Zhou Tiehai 周铁海 (born 1966 in Shanghai) Zhou Yilun 周轶伦 (born 1983 in Hangzhou), Zhuang Hui 庄辉 (born 1963 in Yumen, Gansu)

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