About This Artwork

Andy Warhol
American, 1928-1987

Mao, 1972

Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas
448.3 x 346.7 cm (176 1/2 x 136 1/2 in.)
No inscription.

Mr. and Mrs. Frank G. Logan Purchase Prize and Wilson L. Mead funds, 1974.230

© 2018 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The most influential of Pop artists, Andy Warhol cast a cool, ironic light on the pervasiveness of commercial culture and contemporary celebrity worship. Early in his career, he began to utilize the silk-screen process to transfer photographed images to canvas, creating multiple portraits of celebrities including Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Jacqueline Kennedy, as well as duplicated images of mass-produced products such as Campbell’s soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles. In this example from his Mao series, Warhol melded his signature style with the scale of totalitarian propaganda to address the cult of personality surrounding the Chinese ruler Mao Zedong (1893–1976). Nearly fifteen feet tall, this towering work mimics the representations of the political figure that were ubiquitously displayed throughout China. Warhol’s looming portrait impresses us with the duality of its realistic qualities and its plastic artificiality. In contrast to the photographic nature of the image, garish colors are applied to Mao’s face like makeup. The gestural handling of color in the portrait shows Warhol at his most painterly.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Paris, Musee Galliera, Andy Warhol Mao, Feb. 23–Mar. 18, 1974, no cat.

Art Institute of Chicago, Seventy-First American Exhibition, June 15–Aug. 11, 1974, cat. 91 (illustration is of a different version).

Art Institute of Chicago, Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, June 3–Aug. 13, 1989, cat. 347 (partial view), Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1989 (not shown at additional venues).

Pittsburgh, Andy Warhol Museum, long-term loan for inaugural installation, Jan. 1994–Mar. 1997.

Mexico City, Fundacion Jumex Arte Contemporaneo, Andy Warhol. Dark Star, June 1–Sept. 17, 2017.

Publication History

Nick Baldwin, 'Super-Realism’ at Chicago,” Des Moines Register, July 7, 1974 (ill).

Douglas Davis, “Summing Up the Season,” Newsweek, July 1, 1974, p. 73 (ill.)

J. A., “American Art ’74: It Defies Classification,” Milwaukee Journal, August 4, 1974 (ill).

Bill Marvel, “Today’s Trend Is No Trend—Fun for Artists, if Not Critics,” Art Picture, August 17, 1974.

Hilton Kramer, “Art: Esthetic Smorgasbord in Chicago,” New York Times, July 6, 1974 (ill.)

Alan G. Artner, “Cabbages, 'Curve,’ and Warhol’s Mao in American Closeup,” Chicago Tribune, Aug. 4, 1974.

Anne Rorimer, Andy Warhol’s Mao, 1973, (Bulletin of Art Institute of Chicago, 69, 3 (May–June 1975), pp. 4–7 (ill).

“Big Maoist Influence at the Art Institute,” Chicago Magazine, July 1978, p. 16 (ill).

Hilton Kramer, “Art: Whitney Shows Warhol Works,” New York Times, November 23, 1979.

Art Institute of Chicago, Master Paintings at The Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago/ Little, Brown, 1988), p. 191. 2d ed. (Art Institute of Chicago/Hudson Hills Press, 1999), p.158.

Charles Stuckey, "Warhol in Context," in The Work of Andy Warhol, Discussions in Contemporary Culture, 3, ed. Gary Garrels (Seattle: Bay Press, 1989), p. 4.

David Bourdon, Warhol/David Bourdon (Harry N. Abrams, 1989), pl. 248 (partial view).

Lisa Stein, “Seeing Beyond the Must-sees,” Chicago Tribune, April 18, 2003 (ill).

Ownership History

Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, and Knoedler Gallery, New York, by 1974; sold, Castelli Gallery, to the Art Institute, 1974.

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