Now that its stint in Hong Kong has come to an end, the next stops for the traveling exhibition Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal will be Shanghai and Beijing—sans the vividly colored portraits of Mao Zedong.
Warhol was inspired to paint the iconic portraits of the Chairman after United States President Richard Nixon made his historic visit to China in 1972. So high is the demand for Warhol’s work in Asia today that in 2010, an anonymous Hong Kong buyer purchased a Mao portrait for more than $850,000, the Wall Street Journal reported. The report added that Hong Kong art collector Joseph Lau went further, dropping $17.4 million at a 2006 auction in New York for one portrait of the founder of the People’s Republic.
Despite the omissions of these iconic portraits in the upcoming exhibition – which Bloomberg reported were rejected by China’s Ministry of Culture – the event’s organizer Eric Shiner sees the retrospective as highly relevant for China.
“Warhol is ever-present in Chinese contemporary art,” Shiner, director of the Pittsburgh-based Andy Warhol Museum and one of the event’s organizers, told The Diplomat. “His pop sensibility, color palate, sense of humor and cultural critique have been huge sources of inspiration for Chinese artists from Ai Wei Wei and Xu Bing to Yue Minjun and many others.”
In 1981 Ai Wei Wei swam against the current of Chinese artists making their way to Europe, instead basing himself in New York City “specifically to be in Warhol’s sphere,” Shiner said. “Whereas most Chinese dissident artists moved to Paris or Berlin, Wei Wei moved to Warhol’s world so as to further absorb the Warholian aesthetic.”