Arts and Entertainment

Exhibit shows art before, during and after Mao

An oil painting titled "Baby Mao" hangs on the wall of Ming's Asian Gallery on Main Street, in the area known as Old Main of Bellevue. The painting is the work of artist Su Dong, a student of Chinese painter Yue Minyun, best known for his comical interpretations of the Cultural Revolution, laughing figures and other politically sensitive images.

Throughout the month of December, Ming's Asian Gallery will display the exhibit, "China: From Red To Rock - Then, Mao and Now."

The exhibit features Chinese propaganda, posters, collectibles, kitsch, and other objects of art depicting Chairman Mao Zedong and work by contemporary Chinese artists.

The exhibit is being shown at a controversial time, as a new declaration from the ministry of culture in China, along with the State Council and China Customs, has introduced measures to censor Fine Art Works destined to be imported or exported across Chinese borders. The declaration is officially called the, "Interim Provisions for Import and Export Management of Fine Art Works."

The declaration was made in August and states that works for export must be accompanied by a description of content. If the description is not agreeable to the ministry, they can prevent the export.

Such art includes paintings, calligraphy, sculptures, and photography which threaten to violate the basic principals of the Constitution of China, disrupts social order or stability and propagates or publicizes cults or superstitions.

Such art includes the contemporary work of Minyun and his pop-art-like-images created at the hand of his gifted students.

In the 1990s, despite the repression, a new generation in China presented its view on the social developments taking place in the country. Three broad movements were formed: Cynical Realism, Political Pop, and Kitsch Art. Minyun's oil paintings have been classified as part of the Chinese Cynical Realist movement. His painting titled 'Execution' became the most expensive work ever sold by a Chinese contemporary artist with a price tag of $5.9 million at London's Sothey's in 2007.

Minyun disagrees with the notion that his paintings are a veiled criticism of his government or of Chinese society, according to an October 15, 2007 article published in, and he does not believe his work will bring him trouble.

Much of the artwork hanging in Ming's Asian Gallery in Bellevue was acquired over the years by the galleries owners on past trips to China. The gallery displays artwork, new and old, from China, Japan, Korea, Burma, and Thailand.

"This exhibit shows the art of old China then, which is the old pieces and antique paintings," Ming's Asian Gallery manager, Cindy Curren explained. "Then there is the Mao period which was the next transition, and finally the art of now."

The gallery has a number of oil paintings by Minyun's students for sale and Mao propaganda including photographs, paintings, vintage alarm clocks, buttons, and copies of The Little Red Book, published by the Government of the People's Republic of China from April 1964 until approximately 1976.

Ming's Asian Gallery has been in Bellevue for nearly 20 years and is located 10217 Main Street and a second location at 519 Sixth Ave. S. in Seattle. For more information, visit or call 425.462.4008.

Lindsay Larin can be reached at 425-453-4602.

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