jed perl against mao


There are times when art should be the last thing on an art critic’s mind. The thunderous popularity of a number of contemporary Chinese artists compels a political analysis. Much of the work is powered by a startling and completely delusionary infatuation with Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution. This is more sinister than anything we have seen in the already fairly astonishing annals of radical chic. We are witnessing a globalized political whitewash job, with artists and assorted collectors, dealers, and sycophants pouring a thick layer of avant-garde double-talk over the infernal decade of suffering, destruction, and death that Mao unleashed on his country in 1966. And as we are also dealing with the house of mirrors that is the art world, I have no doubt that somebody is ready to explain that I am confusing appropriation with approbation or that fascism is just another way of spelling freedom. I must say, the theory people have a lot to answer for. But here is the bottom line: the global art world’s burgeoning love affair with Mao and the Cultural Revolution makes a very neat fit with the current Chinese regime’s efforts to sell itself as the authoritarian power that everybody can learn to love.

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