Gao Brothers (Gao Zhen and Gao Qiang) - Contemporary Art Part II New York Thursday, May 17, 2007 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist

  • Catalogue Essay

    Mao’s image has seen countless appropriations by contemporary Chinese artists. In popular Chinese mentality, the former leader’s image is heavily vested with complex and often entirely contradictory connotations. “Many have read in the Maocraze a phenomenon of nostalgia for a totalitarian past of relative economic stability and unblemished ideological zeal, lacking the anxieties and insecurities initiated by the looser atmosphere of recent economic liberalization. In the eyes of the people, especially in extraurban areas, Mao remains the eternal revolutionary subversively used - from within the accepted political discourse - to contest the legitimacy of today's rulers.The image of the despotic and tyrannical Mao (the Bad Mao) is therefore contrasted by popular, superstitious beliefs with that of a Good Mao.” (F. del Lago, “Personal Mao: reshaping an icon in contemporary Chinese art - Chinese political and cultural leader Mao Zedong,” Art Journal, Summer 1999).

    Miss Mao is the hybrid offspring of kitsch imagery that pervades much contemporary Chinese art and, less commonly in this artistic field, animation as commentary on political and cultural themes. Miss Mao simultaneously deifies and parodies Mao; she arouses conflicting crossreferences that are instinctively disquieting, yet alluring. On the one hand, she is the flawless, self-replicating idol of a materialist system; on the other, it is impossible to behold her visage sans its deep-rooted, complex political associations. Although the work infantilizes and transgenders the Great Leader’s image, the new incarnation is not disempowered but, rather, grandly resonates with the cheerful mindlessness of the immortal horror show zombie that walks the earth.

    “Mao’s presence lies at once in the depiction of a merciless and emotionless
    mask dominating a mall, an architectural space long associated with evil. A
    Pinocchio-like portrait and his ever-growing nose denote his lack of honesty.
    Through these means, the Gao Brothers are free to express their anger towards the old dictator and reveal his hidden face.

    I am discovering a new persona. I am mesmerized by the appearance of the
    transvestite despot.

    However, behind his mask, the viewer can sense his absence of humanity.
    Evidently, he is an assassin. The mole is a symbol of his regal attributes.
    …The dictator’s soft and rounded cartoon-like features give him the attributes of a cherub. Mao now looks more like Mickey Mouse than a dictator, but remains in reality more dangerous than Stalin. This alter ego of Mao, half women, half baby boy is unnatural and disturbing. In the duality of this new portrait, Mao becomes a demonic figure.” (R. Krampf, Gao Brothers, New York 2006)


Miss Mao

Painted fiberglass.
85 x 55 x 59 in. (215.9 x 139.7 x 149.9 cm).
Signed, numbered of eight and dated “2006 Gao Brothers” on the reverse of the proper right shoulder in English and Chinese characters.

$50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for $54,000

Contemporary Art Part II

18 May 2007
10am & 2pm New York