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Beijing just banned an art exhibition on violence against women, but you can view the work here

Reuters/Joe Chan
Mao and women don’t always go together.
By Zheping Huang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Beijing authorities banned an art exhibition about feminism and domestic violence just before it was set to open, organizers said on Thursday (Nov. 26).

The exhibition, timed for the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, was due to open Nov. 25 at Beijing’s Gingko Space art gallery. More than 60 Chinese artists—half of them women—contributed work to the show. But when they arrived at the venue, they found themselves locked out and the gallery staff absent.

“The reason our exhibition was called off is pressure from higher authorities,” Cui Guangxia, the Beijing-based artist curating the event told the Guardian. Cui, who was detained for more than a month last year for his support for the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, said authorities think the event is sensitive because the focus is on domestic violence and gender equality.

The artists’ works are unlikely to be publicly displayed in China any time in the near future. But photos of them are now spreading online in China, via several Wechat (a popular messaging app) accounts that were promoting the event. Here’s a selection of the art. (Most of the pieces are untitled online, but we’ve described them in the captions):

A woman carried away by three men who look like Mao Zedong, by the “Gao brothers.”
“Angels,” by Cui Youwen.
“Identity Swap,” by Cang Xing.
The writing on the wall says “I love you,” by Wu Di.
A bra sewn on dozens of crumpled Chinese banknotes featuring the face of Mao Zedong, by Chen Guang.
A group of women stare at broken models and a topless man, by Liu Jing.
This painting features a slogan created by netizens for young rape victimes, which reads “Headmaster, take a room with me instead, let the schoolgirl go!,” by Yu Xinjiao.
“Classic of Women,” by Tao Aimin.
A woman with pots, posting like the Statue of Liberty, by Lu Feifei.

The exhibition is titled “Adultery: Cultural symbols of gender violence—HeForShe.” “HeForShe” is a solidarity campaign for gender equality initiated by UN Women. Adultery, one of the posts on Wechat explains, is written as 姦 in traditional Chinese, showing the deeply ingrained  gender inequality in Chinese culture. 姦 is a combination of three 女, or female, characters. A gender symbol shouldn’t have become a symbol of infidelity, the post says (plus, 姦 also means evil and hypocrisy).

China’s government tightly monitors and controls feminist campaigns (as it does other citizen movements) that may spark public challenges or instability. Five feminist activists were arrested by police in March after planning to distribute leaflets and post stickers against sexual harassment. They were released more than a month later after they drew international attention.

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