Hong Kong museum removes Tiananmen painting

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Written by Stephy Chung, CNN

A version of this story was published in CNN’s “On the other hand, the Chinese Newsletter.” Updated three times a week, it explores what you need to know about the rise of the country and its impact on the world. Please sign up here.
For the past three months, Hong Kong’s art galleries have not been open to the public as part of a failed effort to reduce accusations of Omicron variants in the city. However, as Thursday’s restrictions were relaxed, visitors returned to a museum and found that some of its contemporary Chinese art collections were significantly missing.
Among the items removed from the exhibition at M +, a major new art institution, was the provocative oil painting “New Beijing” by Chinese artist Wang Xingwei. Created in 2001, the satirical work depicts a bloody emperor penguin lying on a bicycle cart. This is a hint of the death of an opposition to democratization, mostly students, in the Tiananmen Square Incident in 1989.

This painting refers to an image by Hong Kong photographer Liu Heung Shing, who recorded the Associated Press protest. The penguins replace the two injured young men Liu captured in the original photo.

An image released Thursday by the local media Hong Kong Free Press shows that another painting is drawn in the place where the king’s work was previously displayed. Both the original image of Liu and the parody of the King are owned by M + and continue to be posted in the museum’s online archive.

Eight other works of art have also been removed from view, including a depiction of Mao Zedong’s painter Wang Mitsuyoshi, a former Chinese leader covered in a grid of red lines. Not all withdrawn works have explicit political content. In a statement emailed to CNN, West Kowloon Cultural District authorities, the organization that oversees M +, said the removal of paintings was part of the everyday “rotation” of the exhibited art. I did.

“It was always M +’s plan to rotate more than 200 artworks in the first year after opening,” the statement read, citing maintenance related to “the state of the artwork and the need for preservation.” He added that further work is expected to be rotated in the coming months.

The organization did not directly mention whether the work was deleted for political reasons, but said the exhibition was curated “in full compliance with relevant laws and regulations.”

Hong Kong M + Museum. credit: Li Zhihua / China News Service / Getty Images

The paintings form part of 1,500 powerful Chinese contemporary art pieces donated to M + by Swiss collector Uli Sigg in 2012. All items were created during the 1970s and 2000s when China underwent political and social changes in the earthquake.
Many observers were more flashy in the collection when the museum opened in November 2021, less than 18 months after Hong Kong’s radical National Security Act effectively curbed political objections. Works (including works by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei) are on the day. Prior to the opening of M +, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warned authorities that the museum’s exhibitions were “very careful” to ensure they did not violate the new law.

The infamous image of Ai Weiwei, who has the middle finger in Tiananmen Square, has been excluded from M +’s first exhibition. However, with the inclusion of various depictions of “Shin Pekin” and Mao Zedong, the art world in Hong Kong hopes that the curator will enjoy some freedom when exhibiting politically sensitive works. I left a part.

M + has the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of Chinese contemporary art.

M + has the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of Chinese contemporary art. credit: Keith Tsuji / Getty Images

In Hong Kong, which was once the only place in China’s soil where people were free to commemorate the victims of bloody crackdowns in the last six months, several famous Tiananmen-related works of art I was out of sight. (Candlelight vigil in memory of the victims of the slaughter was held annually for 30 years until it was banned in 2020.)

Among them was the famous “pillar of shame,” a long-standing mass of writhing bodies and screaming faces on the University of Hong Kong campus. The sculpture was demolished at midnight when the student was absent during the winter vacation.
Shortly thereafter, two other universities removed a replica of the “Goddess of Democracy,” the first statue built by students on Tiananmen Square in 1989, from the campus.

Image of “New Beijing” (2001) by Wang Xingwei at M + on November 11, 2021.

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