“Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal”—which has brought “the largest ever collection of Andy Warhol’s work to Asia”—may have been a hit in Singapore with 175,000 visitors, and similar popularity in Hong Kong at present, but it will be a little diminished when it arrives at Shanghai’s Power Station of Art, probably in April, and will remain so for its time in Beijing.
Ten portraits of Mao Zedong, both acrylics and silkscreens, are being omitted from these shows, having been displayed in Singapore and Hong Kong, and “check back for details” remains the line from The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh for the dates and locations of the mainland China showings.
The Andy Warhol Museum, which organized the touring show, has proved unforthcoming as to the reasons behind this decision, merely saying, “Although we had hoped to include our Mao paintings in the exhibition to show Warhol’s keen interest in Chinese culture, we understand that certain imagery is still not able to be shown in China.” Unfortunately its brief exhibition blurb still highlights the “Mao” series as among the “iconic works” to be displayed.
The region is not unfamililar with Warhol’s famous series of the founding father of the People’s Republic of China. In May 2008, Christie’s Hong Kong exhibited a massive 4.3 meter Mao, attempting to ring up a private sale, preferably to a Mainland Chinese buyer. Another Mao, offered by the same auction house in New York in 2006, sold for what was then a record price of USD 17.4 million to Hong Kong real estate tycoon Joseph Lau.
A reappraisal of the dispatch of such rigid, star-name exhibition behemoths across Asia, for reasons both evangelical and commercial, may be overdue. It is to the credit of The Andy Warhol Foundation, a close partner of The Andy Warhol Museum, that it has shown itself willing to extract itself from positions that are proving untenable, launching a series of auctions through Christie’s in November to begin the dispersal of its collection to concentrate on its charitable role, while retreating from the contentious and financially draining world of authentication earlier in 2012.
“Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal” is currently on display at the Hong Kong Museum of Art (December 16, 2012 – March 31, 2013).