SATXplained: What are Moa and Lenin doing in SATX?

This downtown sculpture raised a lot of heads, so we’re sharing some facts behind the artwork.


This 20-ft sculpture downtown is turning heads left and right.

Photo by SATXtoday team

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While many public sculptures and murals in SATX have become beloved additions to parks, walls, and streets, not all art has been received with open arms.

We’re talking about the infamous “Gao Mao” sculpture that keeps turning a lot of heads.

Behind the controversy

A small, feminized version of Chairman Mao Zedong balancing atop a giant polished steel head of Vladimir Lenin now sits in La Zona at 333 W. Commerce Street. The sculpture made its way into SATX’s public art scene last March. At that time it was — and still is — met with much scrutiny.

Titled “Miss Mao Trying to Poise Herself at the Top of Lenin’s Head,” the artwork was originally created for the 2009-2011 Vancouver Biennale exhibition by the Gao Brothers. It wasn’t until last year that developer James Lifshutz, through the help of Centro San Antonio’s Art Everywhere initiative, moved the piece to where it is now — watch the installation.

About the artists

The Gao brothers were born in Jinan, Shandong Province, at a time of great political unrest. Their father, a victim of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, was executed in 1968 due to his “intellectual and bourgeois” tendencies. This traumatic event led to the recurring image of Mao in many of their artworks.

The Beijing-based brothers’ avant-garde approach to art is often scrutinized for being overtly political and even “pornographic.” Learn more about the Gao Brothers.

Explaining the sculpture

According to the artists themselves, the piece can be referred to as a “political narrative” that questions the two figures’ relative stature. Mao is also depicted as a woman throughout much of the Gao Brother’s work, as he was called “the mother of China.”

The sculpture can be read as a commentary on the relationship between the two leaders and their ideologies.

Fact or fiction

Fiction: Tax dollars were used to fund the acquisition of this sculpture.
Fact: The piece is consigned to Lifshutz through December 2023 and will remain in SATX if extended.
Fact: The Gao Brothers’ artwork has blacklisted them in China and has never been publicly displayed there.
Fact: The massive sculpture weighs in at ~8,800 lbs.

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