Badiucao art exhibition opens in Brescia, Italy amid Chinese embassy protests

Written by Oscar Holland, CNNBen Wedeman, CNNBrescia, Italy

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At a museum in Brescia, northern Italy, Shanghai-born artist Badiucao is making last changes to an exhibition that has enraged Chinese officers.

Images of President Xi Jinping and Winnie the Pooh — a tongue-in-cheek comparability now broadly censored on Chinese social media — hold alongside a tribute to Wuhan whistleblower Li Wenliang and an outline of riot police pursuing a protestor. Mock posters for the forthcoming Winter Olympics present a snowboarder sliding throughout a CCTV digicam and a biathlete pointing a rifle in direction of a blindfolded Uighur prisoner.

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Badiucao’s provocative new works might be unveiled to the general public on Saturday, regardless of protests from Chinese diplomats. In a letter to Brescia’s mayor, the nation’s embassy in Rome mentioned the artworks are “full of anti-Chinese lies,” and that they “distort the facts, spread false information, mislead the understanding of the Italian people and seriously injure the feelings of the Chinese people,” in line with native newspaper Giornale di Brescia.

For the dissident artist, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Australia since 2009, the spat comes as little shock.

“It’s almost impossible (to) avoid offending the Chinese government these days,” he says, displaying CNN across the exhibition forward of its opening. “Anything could be sensitive; anything could be problematic.”

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"Xi's going on a bear hunt" by Badiucao

“Xi’s going on a bear hunt” by Badiucao Credit: Badiucao

Since the embassy lodged its criticism final month, museum officers and native politicians have framed the present — titled “La Cina (non) è Vicina,” or “China is (not) near” — as an emblem of free speech.

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“I have to say, I had to read the letter twice because it surprised me,” Brescia’s deputy mayor, Laura Castelletti, recounts, calling it “an intrusion on a city’s artistic, cultural decision.” The request to cancel the present, she provides, has solely “attracted more attention.”

The Brescia Museum Foundation’s president, Francesca Bazoli, in the meantime says that going forward with the exhibition “was a matter of freedom of artistic expression.”

The Chinese embassy in Rome has not responded to CNN’s repeated requests for remark.

Ongoing censorship

A thorn in the Chinese Communist Party’s facet for greater than a decade, Badiucao has established a popularity for poking enjoyable at politicians and prodding at delicate matters, from the 1989 Tiananmen Square bloodbath to the remedy of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo.
Last month, outspoken basketball star Enes Kanter — who has known as out the Chinese authorities for alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet — was pictured sporting a number of pairs of customized sneakers designed by the artist. The sneakers, controversially worn on court docket throughout numerous NBA video games, carried messages together with “Free Tibet” and “Made with Slave Labor.”

The once-anonymous Badiucao got here to prominence in 2011, when he started posting cartoons about China’s dealing with of Wenzhou high-speed practice crash to the microblogging web site Sina Weibo. The pictures had been repeatedly censored, and regardless that he’s now an Australian citizen, the nation’s authorities have clamped down on his work ever since.

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In 2018, a deliberate exhibition of his art in Hong Kong was canceled as a consequence of “safety concerns.” Organizers attributed the choice to “threats made by the Chinese authorities,” and the artist later revealed that members of his household in China had been contacted by officers forward of the present. Admitting that his cowl “had been compromised,” he unveiled his identification in 2019 after years of anonymity,
Artist Badiucao

Artist Badiucao Credit: Badiucao

Badiucao says he’s usually harassed — and infrequently threatened — online, the place he posts a daily stream of searing cartoons to Twitter and Instagram. “It’s like a battleground and that’s how you can use visual language and internet memes and that’s how you can dissolve the authority of censorship,” he says.

Given the political and business pressures dealing with his collaborators, the choice to proceed with the present makes Brescia “a role model for the rest of the world,” he provides.

“As an artist I have experienced censorship so many times, for so many years and in so many places — not just in China or Hong Kong, but also in Australia and in many other countries,” he says. “I not often have a possibility like this, to indicate (my work at an exhibition), as a result of all of the galleries, curators and museums fear that in the event that they showcase my art … then they’re jeopardizing their Chinese market.

“China is very good at using its capital and money to control, manipulate and silence people’s criticism — and this is how it’s reflected in our world, the art market.”

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