I discussed as follows the same piece when it was sold for £ 7.6M including premium by Sotheby's on February 12, 2014 (except that I am introducing in that essay a later result on a bigger canvas).
Andy Warhol gradually stopped painting after three years of frenetic creation, 1962 to 1964, to try the troubled life of a businessman and moviemaker attracted by the underground.
For a successful come back to graphic art in 1972, he needed a theme as bold and as contemporary than his earlier Marilyn and Liz. He chose China and its unique symbol universally prevalent at that time, the official portrait of Mao.
Chance or genius? On that year, through the historic meeting of Mao and Nixon, Americans had their eyes turned to China. Warhol was not a supporter of Nixon and left the figure of the U.S. President totally away from his new project.
Although his Mao's are a pastiche of the official image and may therefore hit the Chinese sensibilities, Warhol is in this series a rather impartial observer of the Cultural Revolution, of Soviet style imaging, of the almost octogenarian face of the Great Helmsman and of the inevitable Mao collar designed as a challenge of the proletarians against the Western tie.
A large size Mao painted in 1972, 208 x 145 cm, was sold for $ 48M including premium by Sotheby's on November 11, 2015.
In the following year, 1973, Warhol multiplied his Mao while reducing the size, executing 28 paintings 127 x 107 cm.
Same as in his earlier themes, the artist demonstrates that different colors can change the message. Mao's images in red tunic are a very close evocation to the official ideology. One of them on a night blue background was sold for $ 13.5 million including premium by Phillips de Pury on November 15, 2012.
On a neutral background, the painting for sale is very similar with Mao also wearing the red tunic. This opus is characterized by the dramatic lighting of the face brimming to the left like a divine halo.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's before the 2014 sale.
SOLD for HK$ 99M including premium