Andy Warhol - Editions & Works on Paper New York Thursday, June 27, 2024 | Phillips
  • “I have been reading so much about China...The only picture they ever have is of Mao Zedong. It's great. It looks like a silkscreen.”
    —Andy Warhol

    Known as Warhol’s next prolific series after his Flowers of 1970, the Maos returned to the vein of the artist’s images of popular culture earlier in his career, while transforming the infamous politico-cultural icon into one of his Pop images of celebrity. One of Andy Warhol’s most iconic portraits, Mao captures the political and painterly consciousness that preoccupied the artist in the early 1970s. After Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972, Warhol undertook a body of Chairman Mao portraits between 1972 and 1973, creating a series of 10 screenprints and a total of 199 paintings in five scales. Transforming the globally known photograph of Mao Zedong used for propagandic dissemination during the Cultural Revolution in China (1966-1976) into a pop mélange of capitalist product, Warhol’s series of Maos are nonetheless each endowed with unique characteristics. The series showcases Warhol’s painterly touch, the leader’s face framed by black squiggling gestural marks– a frenzy of movement against swaths of bold color, materializing Douglas Crimp’s perceptive statement from 1973: “[Warhol] has given us an image of Mao with such brutal force that, however we formulated our mental picture of the Chinese leader a moment ago, he has supplanted it with his own.”i


    First inspired by Nixon’s televised announcement in July 1971 on his sanctioned visit to China, Warhol’s Maos were conceived over a conversation between the artist and Bruno Bischofberger in 1972 as they were contemplating Warhol’s series of paintings of the same subject. On the genesis of the Mao series, as Bob Colacello recalled, “began with an idea from Bruno Bischofberger, who had been pushing Andy to go back to painting…Bruno’s idea was that Andy should paint the most important figure of the twentieth century.”ii At the time Warhol embarked on the series, the official photograph of the Chinese communist revolutionary was one of the most reproduced images around the world. Although Bischofberger had suggested Albert Einstein for his Theory of Relativity, Warhol replied, “That’s a good idea. But I was just reading in Life magazine that the most famous person in the world today is Chairman Mao. Shouldn’t it be the most famous person, Bruno?”iii For Warhol, the Chinese leader embodied the sensational drives that ultimately fascinated him. “Politics, after all, combines two of the themes that interested Andy most,” Colacello observed. “Power and fame.”iv

    Douglas Crimp, “New York Letter,” Art International, vol. 17, no. 2, February 1973, p. 46.
    ii Bob Colacello, Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Up Close, New York, 1990, p. 110.
    iii Ibid., p. 111.
    iv Ibid., p. 110.

    • Literature

      Dieter Schwarz 1972.07
      Frayda Feldman and Jörg Schellmann 98

    • Artist Biography

      Andy Warhol

      American • 1928 - 1987

      Andy Warhol was the leading exponent of the Pop Art movement in the U.S. in the 1960s. Following an early career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol achieved fame with his revolutionary series of silkscreened prints and paintings of familiar objects, such as Campbell's soup tins, and celebrities, such as Marilyn Monroe. Obsessed with popular culture, celebrity and advertising, Warhol created his slick, seemingly mass-produced images of everyday subject matter from his famed Factory studio in New York City. His use of mechanical methods of reproduction, notably the commercial technique of silk screening, wholly revolutionized art-making.

      Working as an artist, but also director and producer, Warhol produced a number of avant-garde films in addition to managing the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground and founding Interview magazine. A central figure in the New York art scene until his untimely death in 1987, Warhol was notably also a mentor to such artists as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.


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Mao (S. 1972.07, F. & S. 98)

Screenprint in colors, on Beckett High White paper, the full sheet.
S. 36 x 36 in. (91.4 x 91.4 cm)
Signed in blue ballpoint pen and stamp-numbered 64/250 on the reverse (there were also 50 artist's proofs), with the artist and printer's copyright inkstamp on the reverse, co-published by Castelli Graphics and Multiples, Inc., New York, unframed.

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$30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for $44,450

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Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 27 June 2024