The Moral Dilemma of Turning Maoist Propaganda into Camp Décor

In the International Herald Tribune, Richard Bernstein writes about the exhibit of revolutionary art now on at the Asia Society, and the paradoxes of wealthy New Yorkers collecting from the Mao era:

The poster, in other words, was part of the Big Lie of Maoism, a terrible reality covered up by exciting slogans and arresting images created by brilliant artists. Should we collect them?

Well, of course, no harm is done, and, certainly, the posters have both great visual and historical value. McWethy himself told me that he got interested in memorabilia because of the images themselves.

[…] So here’s a question: Would anybody feel the same interest in posters from the Nazi era in Germany calling on people to advance the cause of Aryan racial superiority? Well, O.K., Mao was not Hitler; indeed he was Hitler’s opposite when it came to racism, which Mao opposed. And while he did bad things, as China now officially admits, he did restore Chinese pride and make great strides in public education and health.

What about Stalin then? Would New Yorkers feel comfortable with portraits of “Uncle Joe” in their family rooms or offices? Maybe some would, but probably not very many.

On a related topic, read a critique of contemporary Chinese artists from the New Republic.


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