Impressionist & Modern Art

Andy Warhol and Chairman Mao

By Sotheby's
“If Warhol can be regarded as an artist of strategy, his choice of Mao as a subject - as the ultimate star - was brilliant. The image of Mao taken from the portrait photograph reproduced in the Chairman's so-called Little Red Book, is probably the one recognised by more of the earth's population than any other - a ready-made icon representing absolute political and cultural power. In Warhol's hands, this image could be considered ominously and universally threatening, or a parody or both.”

A ndy Warhol’s dedication to all famous things in the world and his fascination of reproduction made Chairman Mao’s ubiquitous presence a mesmerizing figure of his art. His portraits of Mao are undeniably among the most influential and enduring of all his images. It was not until President Nixon’s announcement of his impending visit to China in July 1971 that Andy Warhol began to imagine painting Chairman Mao. He even made the stony observation that "Since fashion is art now and Chinese is in fashion, I could make a lot of money… Mao would be really nutty not to believe in it, it'd just be fashion but the same portrait you can buy in the poster store.” A year later, he produced a series of Mao portraits that today has become an icon to be found in many of the most prestigious art institutions and private collections across the globe.

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