Important Prints & Multiples: Part I

Important Prints & Multiples: Part I

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 16. Mao (Feldman & Schellmann II.90 - 99).

Andy Warhol

Mao (Feldman & Schellmann II.90 - 99)

Lot Closed

April 22, 08:16 PM GMT


1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD

Lot Details


Andy Warhol

1928 - 1987

Mao (Feldman & Schellmann II.90 - 99)

The complete set of ten screenprints in colors, 1972, each signed in ball-point pen on the verso and stamp-numbered 8/250 (total edition includes 50 artist's proofs), on Beckett High White Paper, printed by Styria Studio, Inc., and with their inkstamp on the verso, published by Castelli Graphics and Multiples, Inc., New York, unframed (10 prints)

sheets: 914 by 914 mm 36 by 36 in

By the seventies, Andy Warhol had long since risen to the forefront of cultural consciousness with his unique ability to treat anyone or anything, whether it be found in a movie or a supermarket, as a commodity worthy of celebration. 

Recognizable imagery such as Marilyn Monroe and Campbell's Soup had already been memorialized by Warhol when he turned his focus to the famous but more controversial figure of Mao Tse-Tung. Other than his recounting of the JFK assassination or portrayals of Jacqueline Kennedy at her husband's funeral, it wasn't until 1972 that Warhol's printmaking took an overtly political turn, first with Richard Nixon's grimacing visage in Vote McGovern and then with the stoic portrait of Mao, depicted in ten screenprints of varying vivid color schemes. 

It proved a noteworthy year in the political landscape and this was reflected in Warhol's work. Vote McGovern utilized the picture of Nixon featured on a January cover of Newsweek magazine and the print was published as a means of raising campaign funds, a tribute of sorts to the long tradition of using printmaking for publicity. Likewise, Warhol's Mao portfolio adopted as its source material a photograph emblazoned on an edition of Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, first published in 1964. It was also in 1972 that Nixon first traveled to China, heralding a new era of communication between East and West.

Additionally, of note was an aesthetic feature shared by the Vote McGovern print and the Mao portfolio. These marked the first time Warhol's freehand drawing appeared in his printmaking, heretofore compositions created by a compilation of intersecting colors, flattened by the mechanics of the screenprint process. For the first time the overlap was visible, the glossy rather than matte layers could be discerned as they came together on the Beckett High White Paper, a brand name surface. Until then, Warhol's printmaking was simply documented as screenprint on paper. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Mao portfolio is that never before had Warhol executed an editioned screenprint before he executed a painting of the same image. The artist was well known for repetition, and his revisiting of a subject was expected. However, it had always been that a unique work came first, with prints to follow, but with the Mao portfolio, Warhol iconography was conceived initially in editioned form.

The Mao portfolio was a significant project artistically, published in an era remembered for its political and cultural upheaval. Andy Warhol had already become known for his inimitable ability to reduce an icon to a two-dimensional picture or elevate the magnitude of a banal product. The Mao portrait was simultaneously innovative and commonplace as it was Warhol's intention that even the most famous were ripe for mass consumption and that everything was worthy of fame.

Now in a time that feels culturally, politically and technologically unimaginable yet also somehow predictable, we are even more reverential of the defining moments of our past.