Day Trips: Gao Brothers Sculpture, San Antonio

Beijing-based artists spark political discussion


Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Miss Mao Trying to Poise Herself at the Top of Lenin's Head sparkles in the bright San Antonio sun like a new chrome bumper on a baby blue '57 Chevy. The reflection off Lenin's face bends the colors of the surrounding buildings while a small figure of Mao Zedong, with prominent breasts and holding a long pole as if walking on a tightrope, balances on Lenin's head.

The 21-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture was done by the Gao Brothers, Beijing-based artists Gao Zhen and Gao Qiang. It was first shown at the Vancouver Biennale international art exhibit in 2009.


As residents of communist China, the Gao Brothers have taken a brave and controversial stance by satirizing the late Chairman Mao. Blacklisted in their home country, their art has reached a worldwide audience.

In artists' statements, the Gao Brothers have called the sculpture "a political narrative" that questions the two figures' relative stature.


The 4.4-ton head of Lenin was brought to San Antonio by Centro San Antonio in partnership with real estate investor and art collector James Lifshutz as part of a revitalization effort on the west side of downtown. Centro (centrosanantonio.org) has sponsored other art installations, murals, and the Peacock Alley outdoor performance space in the city center.

Miss Mao is at 333 W. Commerce St. in downtown San Antonio at least through December 2023. Centro San Antonio is planning a public unveiling in April when the park around the art is finished. Until then the sculpture is difficult to get to because of road construction. The best way to access the sculpture next to the Texas Public Radio building is from Laredo Street through the gate in a wooden fence.


1,596th in a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at austinchronicle.com/daily/travel.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Chairman Mao, Mao Zedong, Lenin, Gao Zhen, Gao Qiang, Vancouver Biennale, Centro San Antonio, James Lifshutz, Peacock Alley, Miss Mao

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