Propaganda is a fascinating thing – it’s always eye-opening, and sometimes chilling, to see how governments have sought to influence their subjects through art. The British Museum has been displaying a massive cross-section of its propaganda collection since May, but those who fancy a visit had best hurry – the exhibition is set to wrap up in a little under a month.
Entitled The Art of Influence, the show eschews the 20th century’s more familiar political images – like British and US wartime posters and communist propaganda from the Soviet Union – in favour of rarely seen, unpublished political art from Asia.
Covering the period 1900 to 1976, the exhibition incorporates the vivid posters, prints and drawings you’d usually expect from such a collection. However, there are many more artefacts besides, some of them a little surprising; they include teapots, textiles, money and medals.
“Through these objects, the exhibition sheds new light on propaganda’s collaborative and coercive aspects,” curators claim.
“Its distinctive ability to build nations, defy enemies, construct identities, change minds and educate populations paints a complex picture made from more than just lies and manipulation.”
Spanning an entire continent for a period of history that covers the first rumblings of discord right up to Chairman Mao’s death and the end of the Vietnam war, The Art of Influence’s exhibits are highly diverse.
To help visitors make their way around, the British Museum has divided the displays into five distinct sections – early revolutionary messages, the Asia-Pacific War, post-war reconstruction, new society and key propaganda devices. The final category looks at how propaganda insidiously weaved its way into the fabric of everyday life for the people of Asia.
The exhibition wraps up on September 1st. It’s located in Room 91 of the museum and is entirely free to attend.
Located in the city centre, the British Museum should prove easy to reach from luxury London hotels. Those travelling via the tube should head towards either the Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square or Goodge Street stations.