Andy Warhol Andy Warhol at the Great Wall, 1982

Finally when we got to the Great Wall it actually was really great…It's like walking up to the Empire State Building.

— Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol arriving at the Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport to meet Alfred Siu and Jeffrey Deitch

27 October 1982: Flying from New York on PAN AM, which at the time was the gold standard of international service, Andy Warhol, along with photographer Christopher Makos, Andy's business manager Fred Hughes and Fred's friend Natasha Grenfell, arrived in Hong Kong.

Thanks to an invitation extended by young businessman Alfred Siu, who had commissioned portraits of Prince Charles and Princess Diana for I-Club, the nightclub he was opening, the small entourage was surprised with a VIP trip to the Chinese capital for a few days. To Warhol, Beijing was like a burst of visual images of graphics. Seeing Chinese characters on his plane, passing signs on the way from the airport, the foreign cars, the different smells, Warhol was acutely aware of what was different or strange about the place. To anyone travelling into China from the West, it must have been a sensory overload, and a stark contrast especially for Warhol. So much so, perhaps, that the artist would attempt to apprise his new experiences by drawing comparisons to more familiar ones.

Climbing up one of the greatest world heritage sites, Warhol likened the Great Wall to a landmark more firmly rooted in his domestic experiences, namely the Empire State Building, highlighting his relatable position as that of a curious tourist. In these instances, we are offered an unobstructed view of Warhol beyond and behind the artist.

Documents and ephemera from Warhol's trip to China, April 1982 © 2017 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London

Snapping away at will while roaming the Great Wall and the Ming tombs, like all tourists do, a Chinon camera in hand, a slight wrinkle in his forehead and focused eyes underneath rounded spectacles, Warhol not only continued his ongoing obsession with looking but also paradoxically became the object viewed. Each photograph presents a record of what Warhol was looking at, but also sometimes of people looking back at him.

His fascination with repetition and patterning comes through, yet his instinctive eye for relaying the everyday detail remains. The endless cobbled grounds, the abstract shapes of Chinese calligraphy, men and women, young, old, all in their Mao suits, curl after curl of coiled incense — to Warhol, this was China, new and hitherto unexplored.

Below, explore a selection of Warhol's photographs from the Great Wall, which comprise the opening portion of our Warhol in China sale on 28 May at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong — the very hotel at which Warhol stayed during his travels.

Andy Warhol The Great Wall of China, 1982. Blindstamp credit in the margin. Initialled 'T.J.H.' by Timothy J. Hunt of the Andy Warhol Foundation in pencil, estate copyright credit reproduction limitation and date stamps on the verso. Gelatin silver print.

Andy Warhol Chinese Stone Lion, 1982 – 1987. Initialled 'T.J.H.' by Timothy J. Hunt of the Andy Warhol Foundation in pencil, estate copyright credit reproduction limitation and date stamps on the verso. Four stitched gelatin silver prints. Accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity signed in ink by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Andy Warhol The Great Wall of China, 1982. Blindstamp credit in the margin. Initialled 'T.J.H.' by Timothy J. Hunt of the Andy Warhol Foundation in pencil, estate copyright credit reproduction limitation and date stamps on the verso. Gelatin silver print.

Andy Warhol Eight works: (i) Two Women; (ii) Young Woman at Great Wall; (iii) Great Wall; (iv) Temple; (v) The Great Wall of China; (vi) Unidentified Woman; (vii) Young Man and Woman at Great Wall; (viii) Bicycle, 1982. Each with blindstamp credit in the margin. Initialled 'T.J.H.' by Timothy J. Hunt of the Andy Warhol Foundation in pencil, estate copyright credit reproduction limitation and date stamps on the verso. Eight gelatin silver prints. Each accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity signed in ink by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Browse more works by Andy Warhol on offer in our spring sales here.