MADAME MAO'S DOWRY POSTER COLLECTION
Our Shanghai store has collected and sold Chinese Propaganda posters from the Mao Period since 2001. Over that time we have photographed most of the pieces that have passed through our hands as a record of the range of original posters still available and now valued as representations of the art of the period. We display them here as a resource for anyone interested in these works.
We opened our doors in 2001 as a design store that valued design during the Mao Period (1949-1976) and its role in contemporary design in Shanghai. We displayed authentic examples of Mao Period design, (posters, artwork, photographs and objects) in an environment enhanced by individually chosen pieces of antique provincial furniture, setting the scene for the rise of design in China today.
We then invited artists and designers living and working in Shanghai to exhibit and sell their works in this context. Today we have around 25 designers in store.
We chose our name to reflect our connection with modern China and our concentration on the beauty of ordinary things. Mao is a very common name in China and also the name of the most famous character in China's modern history. The infamous last Madame Mao was the heinous head of culture during the revolutionary period whilst her predecessor was a revered heroine of the early years of China's communist history. The word 'dowry' describes the things that parents collect together for their daughter for her wedding day, so that when she leaves she takes the foundations of her new home with her. These items are carefully made and selected for their utility and their beauty.
We selected these three words to create an interaction with people who visit our store, to promote different interpretations and responses.
ABOUT THE POSTERS
All of the posters in our collection are authentic to the Mao Period and were bought by us from cities across China. We began with less than 50 posters that we had bought as a personal collection in the 1980's well before our store was conceived.
By the time we opened our store in 2001 the idea of a Chinese Propaganda Poster held by most people outside of China was largely restricted to the strong red, black and white images of the Red Guard Period of the Cultural Revolution and the artists' work was dismissed as formulaic and political. We set out to collect as wide a selection of styles and content as we could find to celebrate the work of those artists and the ingenuity inherent in the communication of ideas.
The incredible site chineseposters.net created by Stefan Landsberger continues to be the principal resource site for knowledge and images about these posters. His site explores the many themes displayed on the posters and the identities of the artists themselves, providing a wealth of historical, analytical and biographical information.
As a potential adjunct to this work we decided to catalogue our collection by place of their creation. Major art publishing centres existed all over China and whilst centralised rules encompassed them all it could be interesting to see what kind of localised interpretations, styles and themes (if any) emerged.
This choice is largely a pragmatic one to allow us to present images across a number of pages, so we also provide the date, artist(s) and slogan for each print so that you can follow your own research.
We have also included a taste of other strands of Mao Period propaganda. The PLA sets tab includes posters issued by the PLA to educate the militia on warfare and to give guidance in the event of attack. Whilst the Intimates tab shows a collection of small format propaganda prints intended for personal use.