Ron English’s giant Ronald McDonald and Statue of Liberty figures removed within hours of going up in Shanghai

Works by US contemporary artist ordered removed from a Shanghai street because, at over six metres tall, they were deemed too big; local McDonald’s also complained about one of them, a Ronald McDonald figure

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 May, 2017, 5:09pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 May, 2017, 5:30pm

Two giant figures by American artist Ron English have been removed from outside a department store in Shanghai within hours of being erected.

The works – Liberty Grin and MC Supersized, which are both more than six metres tall – were placed outside the Reel Department Store in Shanghai as part of the artist’s “East Meets West” exhibition, which runs in the city until May 13.

The works were put up on Wednesday morning and removed at 10pm that night.

“Mall management, police and local government officials advised us that the statues had to be removed from the square because they were too large,” said MD Young, tour and exhibition producer for Pop Life Entertainment, the China-based events company that organised the show.

Young said that while he was aware that McDonald’s in Shanghai had complained about the MC Supersized piece, he said that was not the main issue, as the artist had proof of US copyrights for his works. “So the installation became a pop-up,” Young said.

McDonald’s in Shanghai complained to authorities that MC Supersized, based on the yellow and red Ronald McDonald clown character that is the global mascot of the fast-food restaurant chain, was a bad representation of the brand.

McDonald’s China said the company was not in a position to comment on the issue.

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English said the Reel Department Store, which sponsored the event, had obtained the correct licences to stage the exhibition.

“I don’t know [if there was any political motivation]. I’m not familiar, as the situation seemed to be one of the size and scale in the public square, and perhaps things being lost in translation versus anything else,” said the artist after a “long night” dismantling the works.

“In the end they did a great job with the removal, no damage, and obvious respect for the art sculptures that will be shipped to their next destination.”

English is known for fusing street art with pop surrealism and exploring brand imagery and advertising. (He claims to have sabotaged more than 1,000 billboard adverts.)

His “East Meets West” show is being held at PMQ in Hong Kong until May 14. The Asia tour also takes in Seoul, Manila, Bangkok and Jakarta.

English is one of the leaders of “Lowbrow art”, also known as pop surrealism – a movement born out of the Los Angeles’ underground in the late 1970s – and has produced several books and more than 50 figures. He also coined the term “POPaganda” to describe his signature mash-up works.

He had a part in the hit 2004 documentary Super Size Me, which featured his McDonald’s-themed artwork inspired by his beliefs about the effect of fast food chains on American culture.

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“With over 10 years of [Pop Life Entertainment’s] events in China, this was a first one having any issue or notification from the government related to the arts and culture,” Young said.