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  • Provenance

    Private collection, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    The pioneer of the Political Pop movement in contemporary Chinese art, Wang Guangyi’s works have embraced a wide spectrum of consumer products ranging from M&Ms to Chanel to Enron. The present lot is one of the few Great Criticism works that employ non-brand, art-related names such as Art and Andy Warhol. The artist’s use of the word “Art” deliberately commodifies the subject, but perhaps he merely points out a pre-existing state. In some of his Great Criticism works, Wang juxtaposed the brands alongside the word “No,” thereby introducing a deliberate negation into his iconography that could refer either to the brand in question or his entire “ideological” equation.

    There would have been no “pop” without an identifiably popular iconography from which to acquire motifs. Wang Guangyi’s masterstroke was in alighting upon the choice of words. “Great Criticism” was a tongue-in-cheek reference to all that Mao tried to make the Chinese people reject through relentless criticism of the so-called negative traits of bourgeois inclinations. In the paintings, the clashing ideologies of socialism and capitalist consumerism meet as Wang Guangyi unabashedly appropriated propaganda images depicting China striding towards an ideal tomorrow…

    The compositions concisely invoked the ideological conflicts taunting a socialist society, which in its drive eto modernize was experiencing the first major wave of consumerism and brand-name mania. The visual harmony of the ideological mix juxtaposed in the paintings is heightened by the polarity of their apposition. Here are two incongruous ideologies that ultimately promote the same ends via different means and social values. In the era of opening and reform, these two opposing ideals had begun to co-exist and were swiftly reconciled by Deng’s endorsement that it was acceptable and good for individuals to acquire wealth.

    - K. Smith, “Wang Guangyi: From Mao to Now,” Nine Lives: The Birth of Avant-Garde Art in New China, Zurich, 2005, p. 58

82

Great Criticism - Art No

2005
Oil, silkscreen and graphite on canvas.
117 x 78 1/2 in. (297.2 x 199.4 cm).
Signed and dated "2005 Wang Guang Yi [in English and Chinese]" on the reverse.

Estimate
£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £168,000

Contemporary Art

22 June 2007, 4pm & 5pm
London