Andy Warhol - Evening & Day Editions London Thursday, June 6, 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

    Andy Warhol’s portraits of the Chinese leader Mao Zedong embody the sensational drives that ultimately fascinated Warhol throughout his career: fame and power. 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. Returning to the vein of his earlier works, Warhol’s Mao transforms the infamous politico-cultural icon into one of his Pop images of celebrity and capitalist product.


    Chairman Mao, c. 1940s. Image: Everett Collection Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

    Warhol utilised the globally-known, official photograph of Mao Zedong that was used for propagandic dissemination during the Cultural Revolution in China (1966-1976), including on the cover of Mao’s “Little Red Book”. The portrait is one of the most reproduced images ever, with more than 840 million copies being printed just from July 1966 to May 1967. Nonetheless, Warhol’s Mao portraits are 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 colour. This materialises 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 was just reading in LIFE magazine that the most famous person in the world today is Chairman Mao.”
    —Andy Warhol

    Warhol’s Maos were conceived following the suggestion of his dealer Bruno Bischofberger that he should paint the most important figure of the 20th century – which Bischofberger deduced must be Albert Einstein. Warhol characteristically shifted the emphasis from “important” to “famous”, responding “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?” Alike Warhol’s other portraits, from those of Marilyn Monroe to Vladimir Lenin, the Mao portraits further erode any sense of the individual beneath the public persona, encouraging viewers to see these political leaders not only as ideological icons but also as celebrities, merely another embodiment of commercial mass culture.

    • Literature

      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.


      View More Works

Property from a Private British Collection


Mao (F. & S. 98)

Screenprint in colours, on Beckett High White paper, the full sheet.
S. 91.4 x 91.4 cm (35 7/8 x 35 7/8 in.)
Signed in blue ballpoint pen and stamp-numbered 216/250 on the reverse (there were also 50 artist's proofs), with the artist's and printer's copyright inkstamp on the reverse, co-published by Castelli Graphics and Multiples, Inc., New York, framed.

Full Cataloguing

£30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for £48,260

Contact Specialist
+44 20 7318 4024

Rebecca Tooby-Desmond
Specialist, Head of Sale, Editions

Robert Kennan
Head of Editions, Europe

Anne Schneider-Wilson
Senior International Specialist, Editions

Louisa Earl
Associate Specialist, Editions

Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 6 - 7 June 2024