© Andy Warhol / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY.

Andy Warhol: Mao

Andy Warhol modeled his now-iconic portraits of Mao Zedong off of the official state portrait of the Chinese Communist leader. Using silkscreen printing, Warhol was able to produce many versions of the portrait, changing only the color palette. Warhol’s Mao transformed a serious portrait of a world leader into a provocatively playful and colorful image, with some renditions depicting Mao wearing eyeshadow, blush, or lipstick. It was Warhol’s longtime dealer, Bruno Bischofberger, who first suggested that he create a portrait of the most important figure of the 20th century. Fascinated by fame and celebrity culture, Warhol had recently read in Life magazine that Mao Zedong was the most famous person in the world, making him an appealing subject. Mao is among Warhol’s most popular portraits: The auction record for the work is $47.5 million, sold at Sotheby’s in 2015.

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