Shelving Warhol? London gallery pushes Eastern pop art

By Nabila Pathan |

Pop art has long been associated with the names Andy Warhol and David Hockney. Whilst the pop art movement originated in the UK and is often associated with its fixation on American mass culture, its spread to the East is not so well known in the West.

However, a new exhibition at the London-based Saatchi Gallery aims to examine the relationship between Western Pop Art and its lesser-known Eastern counterparts including “Sots Art” in the Soviet Union and “Political-Pop” or “Cynical Realism”, which has flourished in Greater China since the turn of the twenty-first century.
The “Post Pop: East Meets West” exhibition currently on display at the Saatchi Gallery is a celebration of Pop Art’s global reach and legacy. The collection of pop art has been organized by the Tsukanov Family Foundation, an educational charity with an emphasis on promoting Russian and eastern European post-war art. Their collection of Russian Pop art forms a central aspect of the show.
Whilst the exhibition is a showcase of Pop art emerging from four distinct regions of the world (USA, UK, the former Soviet Union and China), the works are presented in relation to each other through the framework of six themes: Habitat; Advertising and Consumerism; Celebrity and Mass Media; Art History; Religion and Ideology; Sex and the Body.
The pop-influenced works span across the past 40 years. According to the Saatchi Gallery, pop art is “widely regarded as the most significant art movement of the last century, ...[it has] exploited identifiable imagery from mass media and everyday life to reflect on the nature of the world we live in.”
“Although from fundamentally different cultures and ideological backgrounds, the artists in this exhibition play with imagery from commercial advertising, propaganda posters, pictures of the famous as well as monetary and patriotic motifs in wry and provocative works that unmistakably reference the Pop Art movement which emerged in America and Britain in the 1950s and 1960s.”
The familiarity of pop art's critique of mass culture on British and American society is echoed in the collections from the Western region; Whether it's Jeff Koons’s basketball sculptures or the pastiches of Warhol paintings by Gavin Turk.
It's the insight into the unfamiliar, via the art installations from China and Russia which highlight the expansive nature of the pop art movement. According to the Evening Standard, these collections resonate with an “everyday reality... dominated by glorious leaders, hammers and sickles and party propaganda.”
The art installations' connection to pop art may not be instantly recognizable, but they intrigue and provoke curiosity. According to the Telegraph: “The Pop Art spirit is alive and well, and thriving most in territories where those Pop staples, mass-consumerism and advertising, barely existed until recently: Russia and China.”
Andy Warhol, a leading figure of the Pop art movement once stated: “Once you 'got' Pop, you could never see a sign the same way again. And once you thought Pop, you could never see America the same way again”. But through this collection, it's not just America that is seen and nor is it dominating. The Saatchi Gallery’s collection of 256 works by more than 100 artists, is a chance to compare and contrast pop’s influence in the West and the East.
Much of the non-Western exhibits have not been seen before in London. “Post-Pop: East Meets West” will be showcasing at the Saatchi Gallery until 23 February 2015.