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mumok APPetizer – Mao

mumok insider

Not only for times when you cannot experience DEFROSTING THE ICEBOX Guesting at mumok: The Hidden Treasures of the Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities of the Kunsthistorisches Museum and Weltmuseum Wien live: a small sample from our mumok APP.

The mumok's multimedia guide can be accessed free of charge via iOS and Android, so you can also take a tour of the exhibitions from home. Have fun!

Free download available in the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store.


Portraits of Mao Zedong are sometimes called “China‘s Mona Lisa.” Like photos of Marilyn Monroe or Che Guevara, his image is an icon of the twentieth century. The portrait of the revolutionary and party leader was disseminated many millions of times, not only in its most famous form as a picture—which Andy Warhol made into a silkscreen print series—but also in many other media. Porcelain busts of the founder of the People’s Republic of China are still produced en masse. They follow the centuries-old tradition of making portraits of rulers—from the image of the emperor that was seen on every coin in Ancient Rome to the pictures of rulers and presidents hung in so many public offices today. The ruler is himself present in his portrait, and the place where it is put thus subject to his power, responsibility, and patronage.

This bust shows Mao without the attributes of power. Facing the front, gazing upward like a visionary, with his typical Mao collar and haircut, but without his cap or other insignia of his status. Recognition of Mao as Mao is ensured by the mass dissemination of his image, and the simplicity here emphasizes the transcendental qualities of the man, making him a universal and super-human figure. Because additional signs of power are avoided and the image underwent only minimal change through the decades, it seems to be immune to the influence of time. Mao appears bound to no specific role but simply as a god-like “leader” high above the masses.

Mao’s image was popular not just In China, but also in the West. It acquired the quality of a souvenir, and in the student movement of the late 1960s it was a sign of left-wing principles. What kind of figures do you have at home?