Art for the People 毛主席说:艺术为人民
1999

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Exhibited: Give & Take, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Materials: Silk

Commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, this work was created for the Museum's ''Project Series,'' a group of monumental banners designed by international artists to be displayed outside the entrance to the museum. Xu emblazoned his eye-catching red-and-yellow banner, measuring 36ft x 9ft, with the slogan ''ART FOR THE PEOPLE: Chairman Mao said'' inscribed in his own invented system of ''New English Calligraphy'' -- English words deconstructed but then re-configured into forms that mimic the square structure of Chinese characters. With its prominent display above the museum entrance, the banner and its slogan served both as a motto for the museum and as a public airing of one of Mao Zedong's most fundamental views on art. Reflective also of the artist's personal conviction that Mao's concept of art for the people is universally relevant; the work exemplifies the way in which Xu integrates his particular cultural background and life experience into the international context of contemporary art.