Warhol's Mao painting to make $15.5m?

An Andy Warhol portrait of Chairman Mao is coming to auction on April 2.

The 1973 work, which Warhol based on a photograph from Mao's Little Red Book, is one of 200 the artist produced of the Communist leader.

Chairman Mao Warhol

Warhol produced 200 Mao artworks

It is estimated to achieve $15.5m when it sells at Sotheby's in Hong Kong.

It last changed hands in 2014 when it achieved £7.6m ($9.4m) in London. The higher estimate this time around is an indication of the continuing momentum of pop art, and Warhol in particular.

Warhol's auction totals surpassed all others for three consecutive years, between 2012 and 2014. Although he has since been superseded by Picasso, Warhol remains among the foremost figures at global art auctions.

Warhol's decision to use Mao as his muse was controversial in both China and the West. China was concerned the artist was mocking the leader, while many in the US felt Mao's appearance was incongruous with Warhol's other subjects, such as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

 “If Warhol can be regarded as an artist of strategy, his choice of Mao as a subject - as the ultimate star - was brilliant," argues Sotheby's.

"A ready-made icon representing absolute political and cultural power. In Warhol's hands, this image could be considered ominously and universally threatening, or a parody or both.” 

The Modern and Contemporary Art Evening Sale will also feature a work by Chinese artist Zao Wou-Ki, Bateaux au Clair de Lune. It's expected to make $3.6m.

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