At the end of last year, an exhibition opened in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen with a frieze at the entrance depicting former “paramount” leader Deng Xiaoping touring the region that is synonymous with China’s reform era. Over the summer, the gallery closed for renovations. When it reopened in August, a quote from President Xi Jinping in Chinese and English, praising the country’s economic transformation, had replaced the frieze.
In September, the entrance was changed again, to include quotes from Xi and Deng. By November, the gallery had reverted to the original plan and the frieze was back. The hasty series of revamps illustrates the dangers lurking in the staid world of Chinese Communist iconography.