Beijing says no to Mao on Warhol's mainland tour

Culture ministry rejects bid to take pop artist’s images of the Great Helmsman to Shanghai

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2012, 4:15am

Andy Warhol's famous images of Chairman Mao won't be part of the biggest travelling exhibition of the artist's works when they go to the mainland next year.

The show includes more than 300 paintings, photographs and films, featuring Warhol's iconic Campbell's Soup cans, Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, as well as 10 Mao paintings Beijing has decided to exclude.

If mainland fans of Warhol want to see silkscreens of the Great Helmsman, they will have to catch the Hong Kong leg of "Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal", which opened yesterday.

"They said the Maos won't work," Eric Shiner, director of The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, said in Hong Kong. "This is disappointing because his imagery is so mainstream in Chinese contemporary art."

A Shanghai official familiar with the show who asked not to be named because of the political sensitivity of the issue confirmed the Mao works had been rejected by the Ministry of Culture.

The Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a requests for comment.

The exhibition opened first in Singapore and runs until March 31 at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, which has extended its opening hours for the duration.

It will then travel to Shanghai, Beijing and Tokyo as part of a 26-month Asian tour to mark the 25th anniversary of Warhol's death.

The show had already been a ''huge" success, said Shiner, who noted that 175,000 people visited the exhibition in Singapore, more than the 120,000 annual visitors to the Pittsburgh Museum.

Even without the Maos, he is hoping for as many as two million will attend the mainland showings.

The Shanghai leg will be held at the Power Station of Art, the city's new contemporary art museum that opened on October 1. Shiner said he was still finalising details on the Beijing location.