A breathtaking sculpture of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin by the Gao brothers stands in downtown San Antonio

A giant steel sculpture that has turned heads everywhere it has appeared is set to debut in San Antonio next week.

Titled “Miss Mao trying to stand on top of Lenin’s head”, the sculpture depicts a tiny Mao Zedong balancing on a giant head of Vladimir Lenin.

Developer James Lifshutz acquired the piece indefinitely to display in a yard behind a building he owns in the 300 block of downtown Commerce, across from Texas Public Radio’s new headquarters at the Alameda Theater. . The installation is intended as a marker for the resurrection of a section of downtown that includes the Alameda, which is being renovated, and a new segment of the San Pedro Creek Cultural Park currently under construction.

“It’s a block that’s been dead for 20 or 30 years,” Lifshutz said. “One of the things that inspired me to get a piece there was the fact that this block had been so dreary for so long, and I wanted to point out that it’s slowly waking up from its coma and going to be a really, really amazing block.”

Given the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lifshutz acknowledged that the timing of the installation of a piece featuring a huge depiction of Lenin, a Russian revolutionary, might raise eyebrows. But the acquisition has been in the works for months, he said.

“It’s not pro-Putin, that’s for sure,” he said. “That’s not what he tells me. And if people interpret it as anti-Putin, that’s fine with me. I’m a little anti-Putin right now too.

“I admit that the timing of the Russian aggression and the arrival of a giant head of Lenin is a little weird. If this piece starts a conversation, that’s great. I hope so.”

He said he was drawn to the sculpture because of its beauty.

Two segments of “Miss Mao trying to stand on top of Lenin’s head”, a large-scale sculpture due to be assembled from Saturday, can be seen downtown. The piece will be on display in the 300 block of Commerce Street.

Kin Man Hui / Personal Photographer

“It’s beautiful, and it was available – not easily, but it became available, and I was able to get it and place it here in San Antonio,” he said.

“Miss Mao” was created by the Gao brothers, Beijing-based siblings Gao Zhen and Gao Qiang. Much of their work is politically charged, with the intention of criticizing communism in China, according to Artnet, an international art market website. Their work often features Mao, the Chinese communist revolutionary.

Their works are in collections around the world, including the National Museum of China in Beijing, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Center Pompidou in Paris, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

“Miss Mao trying to stand on top of Lenin’s head” debuted at the 2009-2011 Vancouver Biennale. A guide to the works in this exhibition says, “Through the use of satire, the Gao brothers consciously chose to play the role of critic of the political environment of their homeland. 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.

'Miss Mao trying to stand on top of Lenin's head', a gleaming stainless steel sculpture, will be assembled from horizontal sections.

‘Miss Mao trying to stand on top of Lenin’s head’, a gleaming stainless steel sculpture, will be assembled from horizontal sections.

Kin Man Hui / Personal Photographer

After the Vancouver exhibit, “Miss Mao” was displayed outside the Ace Gallery in Los Angeles until it went bankrupt in 2017, according to a 2017 LAist post.

A column published last year on the Richmond News site about the whereabouts of the sculpture after its stay in Canada reported that it had gone from the Los Angeles gallery to an art collector in the Mojave Desert. .

Lifshutz arranged with the artists and the Deborah Colton Gallery in Houston to take the piece on indefinite shipment.

“Miss Mao” heads to her new home in San Antonio in sections, which will be assembled starting Saturday. The process should be completed early next week, Lifshutz said.

The sculpture will be in a part of the Zona Cultural cultural district that is slowly revitalizing. In addition to the Alameda and San Pedro Creek projects, the University of Texas at San Antonio School of Data Science building is under construction nearby. And Texas Public Radio moved to the Alameda complex.

Responding to a request for comment on his shiny new neighbor, Robert Salluce, Texas Public Radio’s vice president of marketing and communications, noted down everything.

“We are excited about all of the development and public art plans from public and private entities around West Commerce and the San Pedro Creek Cultural Park,” Salluce said via email. “With UTSA and the renovation of the historic Alameda Theater, we look forward to these projects coming together to make the West Side of Downtown a vibrant cultural destination in its own right.”

“Miss Mao” isn’t the only large-scale sculpture that will take up residence in this neighborhood this spring. A work by Fletcher Benton, an American artist known for his abstract geometric works, is set to be installed at the UTSA site in May, said Andi Rodriguez, vice president of cultural venue creation for Centro San Antonio.

Developer James Lifshutz acquired the sculpture on consignment for display at the site of a building he owns.

Developer James Lifshutz acquired the sculpture on consignment for display at the site of a building he owns.

Kin Man Hui / Personal Photographer

Rodriguez helped facilitate the installation of the two sculptures as part of Centro’s Art Everywhere program, which works with the private sector and the city’s Department of Arts and Culture to bring more art to downtown.

After all construction is complete, programming is planned to bring live music and local vendors to the area.

“This once forgotten and unloved region will be reborn,” Rodriguez said. “Two years from now, it’s gonna be like, where is this comes from?”

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