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Qiu Jie (b.1961)
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Qiu Jie (b.1961)

Portrait of Mao

Qiu Jie (b.1961)
Portrait of Mao
lead and coloured crayon on paper
94½ x 62in. (240 x 157.5cm.)
Executed in 2007
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 2007.
E. Booth-Clibborn (ed.), The History of the Saatchi Gallery, London 2011 (illustrated in colour, p. 720).
London, Saatchi Gallery, The Revolution Continues: New Art from China, 2008-2009.
Lille, lille3000, La Route de La Soie: The Silk Road, 2010, p. 26 (illustrated in colour on the front cover & p. 27).
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Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord

Lot Essay

Qiu Jie’s Portrait of Mao subverts from its moniker onwards: as well as the name of China’s first communist leader, in Mandarin ‘mao’ is also an onomatopoeic term for a cat. Qiu’s lead pencil drawing, which shows a domestic tabby in the pose and garments of Mao Zedong, is thus a punning collision of two remote subjects. Qiu, who grew up during the Cultural Revolution, became an artist after a childhood spent copying propaganda images, and Portrait of Mao is an irreverent reimagining of this genre. It is also a work of surpassing elegance and refinement, with meticulous shading and floral and calligraphic elements that hark back to the aesthetics of the Yuan Dynasty. Educated in both his native Shanghai and Geneva, Qiu is a masterful weaver of historic processes and modern conceptualism. ‘The Chinese,’ he has said, ‘are attached to the realist aesthetics because for them, quality lies on the mastering of technique. But they also want to escape these limits; this is why different elements come in.’ Portrait of Mao was the centrepiece of the 2008 exhibition ‘The Revolution Continues: New Chinese Art’, the first held at the Saatchi Gallery’s present Duke of York Square home. 

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