The Hollywood Reporter -- Andy Warhol famously claimed to aspire to banality - and his now near ubiquitous presence in major museum shows and on global auction blocks occasionally flirts with fulfilling that ambition. But it seems the canonical pop provocateur is still controversial somewhere: namely, China.
A major retrospective of Warhol's work, organized by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and now in the first stages of its two-year Asia tour, will be conspicuously absent one of the artist's most recognizable series when it unveils in Mainland China next month. Now showing in Hong Kong (which retained its rights to free expression following the handover from British colonial rule in 1997), "Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal," includes hundreds of Warhol's best known works, along with eight of his iconic, silkscreen Mao portraits. Chinese authorities, however, have made clear the Mao works are decidedly not welcome.
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"We had hoped to include our Mao paintings in the exhibition to show Warhol's keen interest in Chinese culture," said Andy Warhol Museum director Eric Shiner in a statement, according to the Wall Street Journal. "We understand that certain imagery is still not able to be shown in China and we respect our host institutions' decisions," he added.
Despite the fact that knock-off copies of Warhol's Mao works can be found for sale in tourist markets across China, the official line says his garishly vibrant color scheme remains a little too transgressive for the Party iconography.
In February, the Global Times, a state-backed daily, published an op-ed arguing that the paintings were disrespectful, because the bold coloring on Mao's face could be construed as suggesting the Chairman is wearing cosmetics.
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