What would you like to see at the first Andy Warhol retrospective in China? The largest pop art exhibit from the “pope of consumerism” to ever hit the road?
If you are thinking about one of the most recognizable series, the iconic screen print of Mao Zedong, you will notice that it was conspicuously missing at the “Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal” exhibition at the CAFA Art Museum in Beijing.
The average Chinese may not know who is Andy Warhol, even though reproductions of the Mao –or Marilyn Monroe- portraits can be found in cafes and tourist markets all over the country. The Communist leader who ruled China from 1949 till 1976 is still revered by many Chinese and the government authorities believed that showing Mao’s portrait would be “too political”. Sarcastic or ironic, maybe, but not political. Warhol visited China in 1982 and the uniformity of the dark blue Mao suits worn by the Chinese people appealed to his obsession with repetition. According to Warhol’s close friend and personal photographer, Christopher Makos, “He was all about multiples…and at the time, China was the ultimate multiple”.
Warhol’s influence on Chinese contemporary art goes back to 1981, when many artists labeled as dissidents fled the country. Among the two who landed in New York are controversial contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, who is known for his printmaking skills and and Xu Bing, best known for installation pieces.
Occupying two floors of the CAFA, the show is wonderfully staged with over 300 pieces including paintings, over 40 photographs by Makos, videos of The Factory scene, screen prints, drawings, 3D installations and sculptures. Visitors linger before “Jackie”, “Marilyn Monroe”, “Campbell’s Soup”, “Silver Liz”, “Mick Jagger”, “The Last Supper”, “Self Portrait”, among others. The exhibition also included a few great pieces that Warhol collaborated with Jean-Michel Basquiat, an American artist best know for his graffiti art and his Neo-expressionist and Primitivist paintings.
“15 Minutes Eternal” makes reference to “15 minutes of fame”, a term coined by Warhol, who thought that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”. Curated by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh on the 25th anniversary of Warhol’s death, it is the largest ever collection of Warhol’s work to Asia and will visit five cities (Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Tokyo) from 2012 to 2014.