Communist kitsch – Mao goes under the hammer

Andy Warhol’s iconic image of Mao Zedong, considered one of his most sensational pieces of the 1970s, is up for sale.

If you have $12m to spare it could be yours. What better for your wall than a bit of Stalinist pop art?


According to various reports, Wall Street investors look set to pounce as they plough their multi million dollar bonuses into the art world. All things considered, Mao hanging from the wall of some banker’s apartment on the Upper Westside is kind of in keeping with China’s state capitalism.

The silk-screen portrait, derived from the cover of the book Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, is one of eight Warhols, including images of Marilyn Monroe and Jackie O, that could push the Christie’s sale, according to The Times.

Mao is considered to be the best of a series of ten large-scale portraits that he made of the Chinese leader in 1972, the year of Nixon’s historic trip to China.

The 81in-by-61in portrait is so brightly coloured that it looks as if Mao is wearing lipstick and make-up.

“In this portrait Warhol wryly marries the omnipotent image of a Communist god, as disseminated by state-controlled Chinese propaganda apparatus, with the drag-queen decadence of the mass-consumer culture that Warhol epitomised and glorified,” Brett Gorvey, of Christie’s, said.

UPDATE: The BBC reports that the sale of Mao set a new record as it sold for $17.36m (£9.19m) at Christie’s in New York.

The Mao picture is sort of ironically going to China. It was bought by Chinese billionaire Joseph Lau, who runs something called Chinese Estates Holdings. He is ranked 451 among The World’s Richest People by Forbes.