Non-commercial emotion

James Fallows recommends the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center. At least as a web museum it is not as good as Stefan Landsberger’s I did find the introduction (English only, apparently) interesting

Each poster exhibited here is a piece of art with history when all the people in China sacrificed for the greatness of one person. Mao Zedong ruled over China from 1949 to 1976. He turned around a quarter of the globe population in continuous political movements, especially in Culture Revolution, to fight with each other physically or mentally. The traditional Chinese philosophy and morality was abused. The sky and earth turned upside down. Nightmare came to its end at last as Mao died in 1976 and the civilization of China survived. The propaganda posters presented here tell you all these stories.

Today China is on the right track for prosperity again. Shame will it be to forget the recent past. Our purpose and responsibility is to help people understand the process of the rebirth. Long live the great Chinese people and its civilization. From art viewpoint, many of these pieces are great art works created by none commercial emotion. Time is changed and such kind of art could not be repeated. They are so limited and very hard to be found now. The value will be tremendous in the future.

We are very proud to have the best collection of this kind in the world and we are serious to prepare for a special museum in Shanghai for the education of the younger generation as well as being the destination of the foreign visitors.

The one thing that jumped out at me was the point that these were “created by none commercial emotion” but their “value will be tremendous in the future” In China as it lots of other places the relation between Art and Money has long been a complex topic. If for some reason you wanted to say something nice about the Mao period you could point out, as here, that it was less commercialized and money-grubbing than, say, the China of today.


  1. And I’m getting more and more disturbed by the sheer number of Chinese people, including my wife who was born in the early 80s, and others old enough to remember the Mao era, who look back to the Mao era as a time of simplicity with no materialism or commercialism. Of course, any version of Communism without materialism is a contradiction in terms, but I think they’re talking the “acquisition of goods because that’s the only purpose we can find for our shallow, meaningless existences/consumerism” definition of “materialism”.

  2. Chinese posters and history-

    I find the ongoing debate about perceived and real conditions during the Cultural Revolution to be extremely interesting. Given the voluminous thrashing of the GPCR, almost any treatment of that period that suggests positive qualities is dismissed as Maoist apologism. I just finished writing a book on posters of that period, based on a giant collection recently donated to UC Berkeley’s East Asian library, which also has an on-line catalog. I and my co-author suggest that the truth of this period is far more complicated and dynamic than is usually presented as “fact.” In the text I cite some academic settings in which poster scholarship is used to reveal the less-exposed history of positive elements of that period.

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