Andy Warhol Exhibit Opens In China, But His Chairman Mao Portraits Are Forbidden

Andy Warhol
The Power Station of Art in Shanghai has opened a new exhibition by Andy Warhol, but the famous pop artist’s portraits of Chairman Mao have been left out of the picture.

Agence France-Presse reports that the Andy Warhol Museum, which created the traveling exhibition, was told by the Chinese government that images of Mao would not be needed. Warhol painted many pictures of the Chinese revolutionary leader, such as this one hanging in Berlin shown here courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

As everyone knows, China has been reinventing itself as a capitalist superpower while still maintaining its Communist leadership. Images of Chairman Mao have been steadily disappearing from public display because the new China doesn’t jive with his idea of a peasant revolutionary Communist state. Bringing up memories of his Cultural Revolution, which saw countless works of art destroyed, also doesn’t sit well with Shanghai’s new image as a center for the arts.

The traveling exhibition, titled “Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal,” has already been to Singapore and Hong Kong and will run in Shanghai until July 28, at which point it will continue on to Beijing and Tokyo.

China’s “red tourism” commemorates 90th anniversary of Communism

red tourismCome up with a wacky tourism concept, and they will come. For the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party’s founding on July first, enterprising operators throughout China are creating a new crop of cultural and commemorative “red” tours.

On the idyllic island province of Hainan, visitors young and old alike travel to rural Qionghai, to visit Pan Xianying. At approximately 95 (Hainan isn’t so great at archiving old birth records), Pan is one of three remaining members of a famed, all-female Chinese Communist army unit. As such, she’s a living attraction on a “red” tour of Hainan, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Pan was about 15 when she joined the unit in 1931; the battalion was formed by a Hainanese Communist to promote gender equality. The unit was disbanded after several years, when Nationalist forces drove local Communists underground. In 1949, the women gained national attention after Chairman Mao overtook China. The battalion is now the subject of several films and a song.

Enterprising authorities in Qionhai are now offering tours of the unit’s former training ground and meeting spots, and offering hikes, during which one can experience the thrill of following a difficult route once used by Red Army soldiers. Adding a further note of authenticity: guides wear era-appropriate green hats adorned with red stars (also available as souvenirs), and hikers willing to cough up an extra 100 yuan can even slog in full soldier regalia. The hikes are said to foster “army-style camaraderie.” Does that mean dysentery is included?

Not surprisingly, there has been official encouragement behind revolutionary tours, although red tourism isn’t new. Mao’s home city of Shaoshan in Hunan province, as well as the Communist base of Yan’an in Shaanxi province attract tourists, and authorities in places like Chongqing encourage the learning of “red songs” printed in local newspapers or on websites.

Chen Doushu, head of the agency organizing the Hainan tours, says red tourism reflects a desire by many to look back fondly on the past, after more than 30 years of focus on the future during China’s rapid recent modernization. “Chinese people cannot forget their history, and the best way to do that is to go and remember it, to study it. That’s where red tourism comes from.”

Apparently, absence does make the heart grow fonder.

[Photo credit: Flickr user xiaming]

Photo of the Day – Chairman Mao Portrait

History is all around us, particularly in a country like China. Whether you’re walking along the magnificent Great Wall or gazing in awe at the Forbidden City in Beijing. Today’s photo, taken by Flickr user Trent Strohm, offers us yet another unique glimpse of China’s remarkable history: Chairman Mao, leader of the Chinese Revolution. Trent’s inclusion of the soldier in front of Mao’s portrait adds an interesting visual story to the photograph. It seems to be telling us the ghosts of China’s past are ever-present, asserting their watchful gaze over the present day.

Have any great photos from your own travels? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.