Pop art has been one of the defining movement of the 20th century, blurting the line between contemporary art and popular culture. With fourteen years down in the 21st century it looks like there’s still no let up on the prolific nature of the genre and the upcoming Post Pop: East Meets West exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery is yet more proof that the artistic style has stood the test of time and is just as celebrated now as it was when flashed into the art scene during the 1950s.
Set to open at the Kensington gallery on the 26th November 2014, the exhibition will run throughout winter to the 23rd February 2014, bridging the East/West divide and presenting a powerful argument against the perceived differences between the two sections of world politics. As ever with the brilliant Saatchi Gallery entrance to the exhibition is free so you’ll be able to ogle the massive display of pop art excellence without worrying about Richard Hamilton, Andy Warhol or David Hockney springing out from behind Marcel Duchamp’s urinal and asking you if you’ve got a quid you can spare for the bus home.
The exhibition itself is made up of a whopping 250 works that have been created by an equally impressive 110 artists from China, what used to be the Soviet Union and slightly randomly Taiwan on the easterly side of the pop art mind meld and the United Kingdom and the States on the westerly front of the canned soup and magazine collage vanguard. The aim is to pull together a massive collection of items from artist in each of the locations to celebrate the sheer weight of the legacy left behind by the movement.
So far reaching has pop art been that it has become established in countries all over the world, without the faintest slow down of global distribution because of the existence of different and sometimes opposing political concepts. With as much activity in the former Soviet Union as there has been in the United States, it’s clear that pop art knows no barriers.
The Post Pop exhibition brings all of the work together from the five different areas of the world and sets out to display them to highlight the relationship between the works, no matter where they originate. To do this the Saatchi Gallery has established six distinct themes – Habitat, Advertising and Consumerism, Celebrity and Mass Media, Art History, Religion and Ideology, Sex and the Body – to contain the massive body of art.
In addition to bridging divides, the exhibition also acts as a great introduction to more easterly artists, who perhaps aren’t quite as well known in the UK as their western counterparts. Pop art has its own adaptations in the east, for example, including Sots Art (short for Socialist Art) in the Soviet Union, which began in the early 1970s as a counteraction against the politically backed Socialist Realism; Political Pop, a contemporary Chinese art movement that blends content from Western capitalist consumer culture with the style of Western pop art to celebrate and criticise the similarities between the power of advertising and the ideological power of propaganda; and Cynical Realism, which consists largely of humourous and ironic paintings that look at the transformation of China since the beginning of Communism to the modern day.
While Duchamp, Hockney, Warhol and Hamilton aren’t included in the long list of artists that will have their work added to the Post Pop gallery display, there are a few key names that you might recognise. From the UK there’s Gary Hume, Tim Head, Paul Morrison, Julian Opie, Marc Quin and Rachel Whiteread; from the US we’ll get to see works by Jeff Koons, Tom Sachs, Cindy Sherman and Mike Bilbo; from China there’s Ai Weiwei, Yu Youhan, Wang Guangyi and He An; and from the former Soviet Union there’s Vladimir Kozhin, Boris Orlov, Oleg Tselkov and Leonid Sokov.
However, the real joy of an exhibition like this is the possibility of finding some new pop art inspiration and thought provocation from artists that you’ve never heard of and probably wouldn’t even get to see if it wasn’t for the excellent work that is championed at the Saatchi Gallery. Equally, the connections between Western artists that you know and love and their Eastern peers will make for fascinating viewing.