After 1964 Warhol significantly reduces his activity as a painter to try to become an idol for others through the show business. It was not his best idea. His trend toward the underground went against such a purpose and his temperament certainly did not favor his acceptance in the jet set.
Pushed by Bischofberger, Warhol is back to painting in 1972. He needs a new star able to match Marilyn. He hesitates on Einstein and chooses Mao.
Mao by Warhol is an American political message. Nixon announced his candidacy for a presidential re-election just before his trip to China. When shaking hands with Mao, Nixon appears as a statesman of the same importance as the Great Helmsman. This does not please Warhol.
As for Marilyn, Warhol chooses an ancient image. Unlike Marilyn, Mao's image was universally known before Warhol reused it : held up since 1949 by millions of Chinese, it illustrates the Little Red Book. It is a thorn to Nixon : watch this undemocratic idol that Americans are now invited to admire. In five sizes and all colors, the Maos of Warhol, in their official dignity, do not express any feeling.
Warhol is still working in screen print and acrylic, but his technique has changed. The brushstroke is visible, contributing to the energy of the artwork. Again, Warhol was wrong. This new process is taking too long and his art is gradually less cared when he extends the series.
The first Mao by Warhol, achieved without the help of an assistant, is indeed the best painting in that theme. This picture 208 x 145 cm is for sale by Sotheby's in New York on November 11, lot 11 (11-11-11). The press release of October 2 announced an estimate in the region of $ 40M.
SOLD for $ 48M including premium