Mao Portraits Barred from Chinese Leg of Warhol Tour

Speculation that China’s incoming leaders would sweep Mao’s remains from the political stage turned out to be ill-founded, but the Chairman will be missing from a touring Andy Warhol exhibition when it reaches the country in the spring. Bloomberg’s Frederik Balfour reports that the Ministry of Culture has blocked the display of Warhol’s iconic Mao portraits from the Beijing and Shanghai showings. “They said the Maos won’t work,” Eric Shiner, director of The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, said in an interview in Hong Kong. “This is disappointing because his imagery is so mainstream in Chinese contemporary art.” A person familiar with the show, who asked not to be named because of the political sensitivity of the issue, confirmed the Mao works had been rejected by the Ministry of Culture. The Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t immediately respond to faxed questions seeking comment today. […] According to the Christie’s auction website, Warhol chose Mao as “the ultimate star”, using an image of him taken from the portrait photograph reproduced in the Chairman’s so-called Little Red Book. “He wasn’t being disrespectful,” Shiner said. Christies’ Beatriz Ordovas commented that the portraits did “playfully subvert” the original image, its subject, and the personality cult that surrounded him. “These works were considered rare examples of a more political Warhol. However, it is likely that Warhol was drawn to Mao not through any Cold War connotations, but through the image’s mass appeal.” Christies’ notes on a recently auctioned print further explain Warhol’s choice of Mao as the portraits’ subject: Against the background of the Cold War and Nixon’s visit to China, the figure of Mao was one of the most reproduced images in the world. The origin of Warhol’s choice of this picture has traced back to a conversation between ...
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