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  • Catalogue Essay

    Swatch (2005), from the iconic Great Criticism series by Wang Guangyi features two classical figures of the revolution standing in unison as they dynamically raise their arms in the air. The logo of the iconic watch brand is firmly anchored in the foreground, juxtaposing communist propaganda with a logo representing Western commercial propaganda. Rendered deliberately kitsch, Swatch explores the tension between the potent legacy of Communist propaganda and the powerful allure of Western advertising, blurring the lines between the visual languages of the two.

     

    The artist’s renowned Great Criticism series was first exhibited at the 45th Venice Biennale in 1993 and is internationally acclaimed for its revolutionary imagery, where the clashing ideologies of socialism and consumerism meet. These large-scale canvases combine famous western brand names with idealised figures of Mao's workers and farmers, which the artist covers with hundreds of little numbers in repetitive sequences reminiscent of barcodes or serial numbers — a reference to the standardisation and numeric symbols of the codifying systems of consumerism — not so different from the Cultural Revolution poster designs themselves. Both designed to be plastered over big billboards, propaganda and brand advertisements diametrically oppose one another in ideology, yet they are not so different in their ways of trying to capture their target audiences. They both want to persuade people to buy into a belief: whether it is the idea of Communist unity, or the market ideology of Capitalism. 

     

    The vast legacy of propaganda that resulted from Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution has greatly impacted Wang Guangyi and other contemporary Chinese artists who are interested in critically examining China's recent visual history. The juxtaposition of socialist propaganda by a logo representing Western commercial propaganda is an embodiment of Wang’s reaction towards the influx of Western luxury goods into the Chinese economy and the polemics of globalisation.

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
      Christie's, London, 21 June 2007, lot 603
      Private Collection, Europe
      Sotheby's, London, 16 October 2010, lot 200
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Ж40

Great Criticism Series: Swatch

2005
signed and dated '2005 Wang Guang Yi [in Pinyin and Chinese]' on the reverse
oil on canvas
120 x 150 cm. (47 1/4 x 59 in.)
Painted in 2005.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
HK$300,000 - 500,000 
€31,700-52,900
$38,500-64,100

Sold for HK$441,000

Contact Specialist

Hin Hin Wong

Associate Specialist, 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Hong Kong

+852 2318 2013

[email protected]

 

Thomas Perazzi

Head of Watches, Asia

+852 2318 2031

[email protected]

 

Charlene Lau

Head of Jewels, Hong Kong

+852 2318 2039

[email protected]

 

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Online Auction 23 - 30 March 2021