Wang Guangyi

Coca Cola, 2006

Cataloguing     Summary     Essay     Comparables     Market     Biography

Explore Sydney Contemporary

Wang Guangyi

(Chinese, b. 1957)

Coca Cola (from the Great Criticism series), 2006
signed and numbered 156/199
lithograph on paper
image: 72.5 by 69 cm.
sheet: 88 by 78 cm.
Edition number 156 of 199.

Private Collection, Europe

AUD $ 6,000

Payment over 10 months with Artmoney available

Key Points

  • As the leader of the ’85 New Wave Movement, China’s first generation of contemporary artists, Wang Guangyi occupies a central position in contemporary art history
  • His Great Criticism series is his best known body of work, combining the language of Western advertising with Communist propaganda
  • An image of the original Coca Cola painting was featured on the cover of Flash Art Magazine in 1992, at a time when Chinese artists were hardly known to the rest of the world
  • Another print from the edition has previously sold for the equivalent of AUD 21,000, making this work attractively priced

In Context

As the leader of the ’85 New Wave movement, Wang Guangyi was at the forefront of what has been labelled ‘the birth of Chinese contemporary art’. Following the gradual opening up of China to the West, Wang and his contemporaries were the first generation of artists with access to artistic developments outside of China. In his most famous series, The Great Criticism (1990-2007), Wang Guangyi reflected on the increasing presence of Western capitalism in China by juxtaposing familiar brand logos (such as Coca Cola) with traditional communist propaganda imagery. Although they symbolise polar opposite ideological standpoints (communism vs capitalism), the artist saw both as a form of brainwashing. Wang’s work was part of a development in Chinese art that has been labelled Political Pop.

“The mainland painter Wang Guangyi plunders Pop’s strategy of re-configuring signs, revealing an apposite style on which to pin his Eastern subject matter. In a canvas from his ‘Great Criticism’ series (1993), Wang combines the Coca-Cola logo with Cultural Revolution propaganda posters, but it is only superficially a post-Tiananmen critique of Mao, Socialism and the infiltration of Western commercialism. As the curator has pointed out, these artists knowingly exploit and share the sanctioned mercantile goals of the People’s Republic of China.”

-Jenny Liu in Frieze, 1999

The present work is from an edition that the artist made after one of his earliest and most successful paintings in the Great Criticism cycle, which had been featured on the cover of Flash Magazine in 1992. Contemporary Chinese artists were still relatively unknown at that time, and this prominent placement underscores how important Wang Guangyi is as a figurehead for his generation. The same painting has also been exhibited in ‘Inside Out: New Chinese Art’ at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, in June-August 2000. At the height of the artist’s market in 2008, another example from the edition sold for more than AUD 21,000.

The painting from 1991-94 after which this edition was created, was included in the exhibition ‘Inside Out: New Chinese Art’ at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, in June-August 2000.

“In the early 1990s we witnessed the emergence of a revitalised contemporary Chinese art world that began as a reaction against the government-approved Social Realist style. Zhang Xiaogang, Huang Yong Pei, Ai Weiwei, Yue Minjun, and Wang Guangyi were among the first group of artists to establish a movement that became known as Cynical Realism.” 

– Arne Glimcher

Wang Guangyispainting Coca Cola on the cover of Flash Art Magazine in 1992

Comparable works

Wang Guangyi, Pop (from Great Criticism), 1992
Tate Collection, London

The market

As with most contemporary Chinese art from the 1990s, Wang Guangyi’s market has reached a low point after having peaked in 2007-08 (when many European collectors sold their contemporary Chinese holdings following high demand). As a result, there currently is a large gap between his historical importance and the price levels of his works, which one would expect to close again over time. Whilst historically less important artists such as Liu Ye are currently riding a wave of popular interest, this makes Wang Guangyi – as well as his contemporaries such as Zhang Xiaogang – a very interesting artist for collectors to look at now. Considering that works from this same edition have sold for over AUD 20,000, and the original painting for over AUD 1.6 million, the present work is attractively priced.

Wang Guangyi, Coca-Cola, 2006, lithograph on paper, 88 by 78 cm.
Ed. 199.
Sold for: GBP 11,250 (AUD 21,000)
Sotheby’s London, April 2008
Wang Guangyi, Coca-Cola, 1991-94, acrylic on canvas, 200 by 200 cm.
Sold for: GBP 893,600 (AUD 1,668,000)
Phillips London, October 2007
Wang Guangyi, Coca-Cola No Coke, 2007-08, lithograph on paper,
80 by 80 cm. Ed. 165.
Gallery price: €3,900 (AUD 6,200)
Weng Contemporary, Switzerland

Wang Guangyi at the Venice Biennale, 1993


Selected collections
He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen
Ludwig Forum, Aachen
M+ Collection, Hong Kong
SFMoMA, San Francisco
Tate Modern, London
Ullens Foundation, Beijing
Uli Sigg Collection, Switzerland
Yuz Foundation, Jakarta

Selected solo exhibitions
2019 Xunway Art Space, Shanghai
2012 Today Art Museum, Beijing
2011 Chongqing Contemporary Art
2008 He Xiangning Museum, Guangdong
2008 Louise Blouin Foundation, London
2007 Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris
2004 Galerie Urs Meile, Zurich
2003 Galerie Enrico Navarro, Paris
1994 Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong

Selected group exhibitions
2017 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
2014 Ullens Center, Beijing
2010 National Museum, Korea
2009 Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen
2008 Bellevue Museum, Brussels
2003 National Museum, Jakarta
2003 Centre Pompidou, Paris
2000 National Art Gallery, Beijing
1999 SFMoMA, San Francisco
1998 Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin
1997 Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
1996 QAGOMA, Brisbane
1994 Sao Paolo Biennale
1993 Venice Biennale
1993 MCA, Sydney
1993 Museum of Modern Art, Oxford
1992 Guangzhou Biennale
1990 Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena
1989 National Art Museum, Beijing
1988 Museum of Fine Arts, Tokyo
1984 National Art Gallery, Beijing

ILEANA at Explore Sydney Contemporary

Walead Beshty, Louise Bourgeois, Dorian Büchi, Michael Craig-Martin, Melissa Gordon, Richard Hamilton, Rachel Howard, Louise Lawler, Tony Lewis, Sol LeWitt, Tim Maguire, Takesada Matsutani, Edda Renouf, Bridget Riley, Peter Schuyff, Stansfield/Hooykaas, Wang Guangyi, Christopher Wool

Presented at Explore Sydney Contemporary (11-21 November 2021)

All artworks © the artist.