Gao Brothers continue to rile art world with Lenin-Mao sculpture


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Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong are long dead and buried. But like Jesus Christ, they are continually resurrected by artists looking to get a rise out of curators, collectors, journalists and government censors.

One of the latest incarnations of communism’s most recognizable faces is a large-scale sculpture titled ‘Miss Mao Trying to Poise Herself at the Top of Lenin’s Head,’ on display as part of the Vancouver Sculpture Biennale. The artwork, created by the brothers Gao Zhen and Gao Qiang, features a giant bust of Lenin’s head with a small figure of Mao on top performing a balancing act.


As was reported Sunday by the Vancouver Sun, the stainless steel sculpture has been attracting a great deal of attention since it went on display in public in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. ‘It certainly generates debate,” said one city official. “It is art, and art generates conversation, and remember it’s not going to be there forever.”

The Gao Brothers, as they are often referred to in the art world, have created something like a brand name in repurposing the images of communism’s most prominent historical figures.

Their specialty, however, is Mao. The Beijing artists have created works including a sculpture of the former chairman kneeling on the ground (and with a removable head), a series of torso sculptures of Mao sporting large female breasts, and another sculpture depicting Mao in a submissive sexual position.

One of their best-known works is a sculptural installation called ‘The Execution of Christ,’ featuring the Messiah in front of a firing squad. One member of the firing squad is Mao.

Their work also verges into performance art. On their website, the artists report on one such performance in which they smashed one of their big-breasted Mao sculptures while wearing Mao masks.

-- David Ng

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