The Future Of That Lenin-Mao Sculpture On La Brea Hangs In Limbo
At some point in the last six years, you may have driven down La Brea Avenue and spotted a large metallic bust of Vladimir Lenin with a smaller version of "Miss Mao" on top of his head with a balancing pole. You have probably wondered what it is, why it's there, and to whom it belongs. The first two questions are better left for another time, but the statue, named "Miss Mao Trying to Poise Herself at the Top of Lenin’s Head", was created by the Gao Brothers, and has been on display with the Ace Gallery since 2011.
Here's a closeup shot of the sculpture:
But nothing lasts forever (hey, isn't that why we make art to begin with?) and the Ace Gallery has shuttered its doors. What's left in its wake is a scramble by artists to reclaim their works and any lost profits before it's too late. For the Gao Brothers, however, who are unable to return such a politically charged piece to their native China, this task has been especially challenging. "Through the use of satire, the Gao Brothers have consciously chosen to play the role of critic to the political environment of their homeland," a description of the work by the Vancouver Biennale, where the statue has also been displayed, notes. "This sculpture can be read as a narrative, commenting on the relationship between the two leaders and their ideologies, as well as a reflection on the current nostalgic attitude towards Mao." So, in a public plea on June 11, the artists asked Facebook (re: the world), to help them save their iconic Lenin-Mao statue.
We were told the Ace Museum had gone into bankruptcy court and the bankruptcy judge had sold the Ace Museum building and land to another person. The new owner and the City of Los Angeles want our sculpture Miss Mao on top of Lenin in front of ACE Museum moved in ten days. It is impossible to send the sculpture back to Beijing because of the censorship of China customs. We need more time to arrange the next exhibition grounds for it. We need more time to move the sculpture.
This sculpture has been considered one of LA's most important cultural icons since it was exhibited in front of ACE Museum in 2011.There are people taking pictures with it every day…We don’t like to think Los Angeles is the city which kills the donkey after it has done its job at the mill. We will greatly appreciate if anyone could be able to negotiate with the new owner and the City of Los Angeles to extend the time to 30 days.
"Our works were confiscated by China customs many times," the Gao Brothers told LAist via email. "Because of censorship [by Chinese] customs, no shipping company would like to work on [returning] it."
"There are a few of galleries/museums in the US, even Haifa Museum of Art in Israel, which are interested in showing the statue, but almost all of them asked [the] same question: if there is any foundation or an organization that can help us finance the delivery of the statue," the artists added in the email. "But we don't know any foundation or an organization that can help finance the delivery. You know, disassembling, transporting and installing the statue needs a lot of money. ...we don't want to sell it at too low price [to private individuals] because the statue is one of our most important works. It was exhibited at the Vancouver Biennale and Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art before it was exhibited at the ACE Museum. We prefer to show it in museum or in a good gallery."
When asked what would happen to the piece if no new home was found for it, the artists concluded, "We don't know. They would put it on auction for confiscation or forfeiture? dispose of it... throw it away?"
LAist reached out to the ACE Gallery for comment, but has not heard back at the time of publication.