Mao and then

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 July, 2006, 12:00am

Some might question labelling Mao Zedong a god and, unless he had hitherto unknown J. Edgar Hoover-type leanings towards the wearing of women's underwear, he seems an unlikely hero

of drag-queen decadence. Yet this is how the architect of Chinese communism is being described for the upcoming auction of Andy Warhol's painting Mao, in New York on November 15.

According to Brett Gorvy, deputy chairman and international co-head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's, 'Warhol wryly marries the omnipotent image of a communist god, as propagated by the state-controlled Chinese propaganda apparatus, with the drag-queen decadence of the mass-consumer culture Warhol epitomised and glorified.'

The 1972 piece, considered the best of a series of 10 large-scale portraits, is being sold by the Swiss-based Daros Collection and is expected to fetch more than US$12 million.

The Mao series was radical because it introduced Warhol's sudden and complete return to painting after having been preoccupied with filmmaking for most of the late 1960s. The most striking characteristic of Mao is the broad, loose and gestural brushworks and rainbow colours that ignite the surface of the portrait, says the auction house.

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