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Chairman Mao Ready to Swim with the People

After the mass famine and suffering caused by the Great Leap Forward (1958-1962), the Chairman’s power was in decline. Adding to his policy failures were rumors about his frail health, which raised further questions regarding his ability to continue leading the nation. In order to dispel these rumors and to reaffirm his grip on the nation, Mao announced the beginning of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution on May 16th, 1966. Two months later, on July 16th, Mao took a widely publicized swim in the Yangtze river in Wuhan, as he did 10 years earlier, to demonstrate his physical vitality and ability to lead China. This sculpture features Mao, ready to swim, surrounded by cheering supporters playing instruments. This piece celebrates this event and illustrates how even sports and physical fitness were deployed by the Chairman for ideological purposes. Interestingly, the figure of Mao is placed on a pedestal. According to Cultural Revolution image policy, the Chairman always had to be the center of the composition and taller than all the other figures. Because this piece was likely assembled from sculptures created from pre-existing molds, the artist had to deal with the differing sizes of the figures and came up with this clever solution.
early 1980s
55 x 34.5 x 16.5 cm