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Barnes, Amy Jane. 2014. Museum Representations of Maoist China: from Cultural Revolution to Commie Kitsch. Ashgate (now Routledge).
This book brings together significant first-hand research that highlights a specific and unique period of collecting along with a highly significant political moment of history in China. It brings out debates about collecting practices, curatorship and British “China hands” in an intelligent, thoughtful way which is highly readable. It is a fascinating insight into a very specific relationship that links to broader issues of exhibiting, knowledge production and China-West relations and the politics and power structures of cultural institutions.
Katie Hill, Sotheby’s Institute of Art and OCCA, Office of Contemporary Chinese Art, Oxford, UK
The whole text, and especially the latter half, is illuminated by the author’s familiarity with and enthusiasm for her subject and benefits enormously from conversations and correspondence between the author and some of the “major players” in the field. For the outsider there are some fascinating behind-the-scenes insights into the poetics of institutional collection and display. I very much enjoyed this well-written and highly informative book, and have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone with an interest in the display of contemporary culture and history.
Clint Twist, maozhang.net
This book is an important and engagingly passionate analysis, full of first-hand research with collectors, curators, old China hands, and key museum staff. It gives an invaluable insight into the institutional politics of key British knowledge institutions. It also adds to a growing and healthy re-consideration of the value of the extraordinary creative output of the Cultural Revolution itself, still often viewed as arid propaganda material from an ideological desert. Amy Jane Barnes’ fascinating examination of how contemporary history is presented, and how complex visual cultural material is collected and curated, is an original and rewarding contribution to visual studies, museum practices and to contemporary China studies.
Martin Mulloy, Visual Studies, 2015.
Barnes’ book is a great achievement… the book as a whole is a major contribution both to the study of the limited tunnel vision of China’s “fellow travelers,” of how they were handled, and of how they were able to contribute to a “mind shift” at home, bringing about the introduction of Maoist iconography into the halls of British museum collections and art exhibits.
Magnus Fiskesjö, Museum Anthropology Review, 2015.
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