Andy Warhol ( United States of America 1928–1987)
No 5 from Mao Tse-Tung 1972
a series of ten colour screenprints
impression 162 from an edition of 250
Collection of the National Gallery of Australia
Gift of the artist 1995
Always keen for new subject matter, developments in American foreign policy presented Warhol with a new celebrity. In 1972 President Nixon made his first official trip to China — a country that had been unrecognised by many in the West ever since the Communist Revolution of 1949. There Nixon met the Chinese Communist leader, Chairman Mao Zedong, heralding a new era of diplomacy. This event and the figure of Mao provided a new icon for the artist – someone who was recognisable to millions, and therefore a sure money spinner. This was a serious consideration for an artist always keen to become richer.
Warhol took his image of Mao from the cover of the Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, produced in millions of copies. He created multiple versions of Mao screenprinted onto canvas of various sizes, which became increasingly painterly. This gestural quality was also evident in the 1972 print version of ten works that feature hand-drawn marks around the head of Mao and unevenly inked colours.