Great Criticism Series – Pepsi

Great Criticism Series – Pepsi
dated and signed '2005 Wang Guang Yi', and signed in Chinese (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
150 x 120 cm. (59 x 47 1/4 in.)
Painted in 2005
Anon. sale; Christie's Hong Kong, 25 May 2008, Lot 379
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Private Collection, USA
Demetrio Paparoni, Skira, Wang Guangyi: Words and Thoughts 1985-2012, Milan, Italy, 2013 (illustrated, p. 134)

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Jessica Hsu
Jessica Hsu

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Lot Essay

Wang Guangyi's appropriation of images and visual stimulus will most immediately remind viewers of the pop imagery of Andy Warhol. However, it is worthwhile to control the impulse to paint Wang's works in such a light. Beyond Pop's decadent ironies, Wang's works create a visually salient social critique of the identity and ideological crisis that the Chinese society-in-flux underwent after economic

In Great Criticism Series—Pepsi (Lot 210), Wang appropriates the logo of soft drinks brand "Pepsi" juxtaposed against an image with what appears to be a young socialist study group where each figure has a copy of the Little Red Book in hand. The figures are painted in a propaganda style that is commonly seen in local newspapers or large public murals. Even though the capitalist marketing and branding behind the Pepsi logo are ideologically at odds with social realism, Wang shows that they are essentially both promotional strategies—whether in the form of highway billboards or government propaganda.

By associating a scene that is supposedly emotionally stirring with a ubiquitous and banal logo, Wang's painting acts like social commentary that is both witty and highly sophisticated. By coalescing two oppositional motifs, Wang's painting, like the market reforms that were sweeping China at the time, has finally blurred the idea of socialism into comedic self-negation. In fact, in a moment of self-consciousness, Wang even pokes fun at his own painting by repeatedly stamping the same numbers across the canvas to acknowledge that the same all-encompassing power of commodification has extended even to paintings critical of it. As his works show, Wang is more than just an artist, but also an incisive social critic.

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