The art movement political pop emerged in China in the 1980s, and combined western pop art with socialist realism to create art that questioned the political and social climate of a rapidly changing China

  • Wang Guangyi Great Criticism – Coca Cola 1994
    Wang Guangyi
    Great Criticism – Coca Cola 1994

Introduction to political pop

Political pop was partly a response to the rampant modernisation of the country, but also was a way of coming to terms with the Cultural Revolution.

With pop’s banality and semi-ironic approach to capitalism, combined with propaganda images from the era of Chairman Mao, artists challenged the prevailing attitudes to art in China. A work like Blue Mao by Li Shan referenced Andy Warhol’s screen print portraits of the Chinese leader, while Wang Guangyi’s Great Criticism – Coca Cola depicted Chinese workers in a socialist realist style painting a sign for Coca Cola.

Critics of political pop have argued that the movement does not fully engage because of its strategy of imitating propaganda and consumerist discourse. The artists have also been accused of using stereotypes to meet the demand of the Western market.

Further reading 

Political Pop: An Introduction
Read the curatorial essay to Tate Modern’s 2015 exhibition The EY Exhibition: The World Goes Pop. The exhibition reveals how pop was never just a celebration of western consumer culture, but was often a subversive international language of protest.