• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1999

    Post -War And Contemporary Art Afternoon Session

    14 May 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 327

    Wang Guangyi (b. 1957)

    Great Criticism Series: BMW

    Price Realised  


    Wang Guangyi (b. 1957)
    Great Criticism Series: BMW
    signed in Chinese and English and dated '2005 Wang Guangyi' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    59 x 47¼ in. (149.8 x 120 cm.)
    Painted in 2005.

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    As a leader of China's avant-garde art, Wang Guangyi built his reputation on his coolly analytical, deconstructivist-informed style, designed to critically reveal China's stifling visual and creative culture. While his works have corollaries with Western Pop art, they emerge from Wang's virulent critique of the Chinese communist legacy and the country's heedless embrace of capitalist consumption.

    Wang culls the motifs of his work from Chinese political propaganda, typically featuring some combination of three ideal revolutionary types: workers, peasants and soldiers. Here a female soldier strides confidently forward, her gaze fixed towards the horizon and her right fist clenched, as if ready to engage any challenge. Typical of the Great Criticism series, two repeating, randomly selected numbers can be found stamped across the composition. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), two licenses were required to produce any image for public consumption: one to produce the image, and another to distribute it. These numbers refer to the extreme restrictions on creative production during Wang's formative years. The logos from Western consumer culture initially had little concrete meaning for Wang. He did not have any specific associations with the BMW brand or any other. Rather, he appropriated the logos to highlight his complex response to China's extraordinary historical changes. The heroic revolutionary spirit confronts the Western Commercialism's crass branding. Wang has stated, "In my view, the central point I want to express in the Great Criticism series is the ideological antagonism that exists between western culture and socialist ideology. The significance of this antagonism has more to do with issues in cultural studies than simply art in and of itself" (Wang Guangyi, quoted in Wang Guangyi, Timezone 8, Hong Kong, 2002, p. 28).

    Wang's appropriation of these two visual styles represents his ironic critique on the failure of the communist project, the restrictive cultural environment it produced, while also revealing his own nostalgia for a time of idealism and activism.


    Acquired from the artist
    Private Collection, Miami