Bourgeoisie and Proletariat

Two recent publications consider class structure in contemporary art:

Bourgeoisified Proletariat (RAM, $25, paper) is the catalog to a Shanghai exhibition by Yang Zhenzhong (website), Xu Zhen and Shi Qing, “organized around 12 probing questions (‘State the class background of the last three generations of your family,’ for example, or ‘Summarize your experience of growing up’).” According to the publisher, “Barely 50 years after the despised “bourgeois intellectual” class was ruthlessly crushed by Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Chinese artists are openly exploring the idea of “bourgeoisifying” the previously worshipped proletariat (worker).”

Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie: Class Hegemony in Contemporary Art (Sternberg, $25, wire), edited by Nav Haq and Tirdad Zolghadr, includes contributions from Charlotte Bydler, Neil Cummings, Annika Eriksson, Chris Evans, Liam Gillick, Haq, San Keller, Hassan Khan, Erden Kosova, Suhail Malik, Marion von Osten, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Malcolm Quinn, and Zolghadr. Per the blurb:

Class inevitably raises awkward questions regarding the very participants, their backgrounds, patrons, and ideological partialities. This is perhaps the reason why the role of class structure has been so easily overlooked in the production and presentation of contemporary art, especially so in an era where artists are coaxed into anthropological framings of their practice. What was it that made gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and nationality eclipse the class issue with such ease?

The exhibition toured Gasworks (London), Platform Garanti (Istanbul), Tensta Konsthall (Stockholm), Arnolfini (Bristol) and Townhouse (Cairo). Reviews by Grayson Perry (The Times), Jonathan Griffin (Frieze) and Tomas Nygren. Also see Zolghadr, “Classy!” Frieze 113 (March 2008), and “Kitchen Party: Revisiting Class Hegemony, Ethnic Marketing and the unp Casa Refugio” (online video, n.d.).