The Saatchi Gallery in London seeks to build on its successful exhibitions of recent Russian and Chinese art – including 2008’s The Revolution Continues: New Chinese Art and 2012’s Breaking the Ice: Moscow Art, 1960–80s – with a show that combines the two.
While the title of Post Pop: East Meets West suggests the two sides of the former iron curtain joining in a shared appreciation of Pop Art, the selection of works indicates instead the movement of Pop from east to west, with Russian and Chinese artists taking inspiration from and seeking to improve upon art emanating from the United States and the UK.
Pop Art’s satirical exploitation and subversion of familiar visual references to reveal uncomfortable truths about the world in which we live found a second life in communist regimes. The same techniques were adopted by artists to reveal the banality and absurdity of state propaganda and Socialist Realism, from the Sots Art of Komar & Melamid to the Political Pop of Wang Guangyi.
This focus on Pop Art’s legacy means the movement’s heyday of the 1960s and its most familiar names are absent. Instead the exhibition’s chronology runs from the seventies to the present day. Of the 250 works by 110 artists the UK offering is dominated by the YBAs, although Yinka Shonibare is a welcome deviation from the classic east/west bipolarity; the US works are more conventionally Pop, as Jeff Koons and Keith Haring rub shoulders with Paul McCarthy and Cindy Sherman; the Chinese section is more eclectic, from a marble sculpture by man of the moment Ai Weiwei to a human hair installation by Gu Wenda; while art from the former USSR ranges from the big names of the Nonconformist art movement to contemporary collectives AES+F and Blue Noses.
The exhibition suggests a similar obsession with celebrity and commodification in both east and west, but it neglects to go deeper into the political significance of the art, instead offering something of a curiosity cabinet of Pop’s diverse manifestations.
According to The Telegraph is looks “like a bonkers art-department store“. If you’re in London you can go along and decide for yourself until 23 February 2015.
Images: Top – Leonid Sokov, Two Profiles (Stalin and Marilyn), 1989. Bronze, photographic print; Bottom – Wang Guangyi, Great Criticism: Benelton (大批判), 1992. Oil on canvas © Wang Guangyi, 1992