Like a book of Chinese proverbs, ‘The Philosophy of Andy Warhol’ is a collection of short quotes, interspersed with more elaborate ponderings and diary-style entries. But to tell you the truth, I initially found the book a little underwhelming and lacking in depth. A bit of superficial arts wankery. Or maybe I was just missing something…

As I was nearing the end of the book, I experienced one of those cosmic flukes of good luck. I was wondering around a museum of modern art and stumbled upon Warhol’s 1972 screen printed portraits of Mao Zedong. The little plaque on the wall read:

“I’ve been reading so much about China,” Warhol said. “The only picture they ever have is of Mao Zedong. It’s great. It looks like a silkscreen.” … Like many of Warhol’s subjects, the Communist leader was a contemporary icon. The official portrait used by Warhol appeared everywhere in China, while American radicals also knew it from the cover of the ‘Little Red Book’, an anthology of Mao’s quotations.

If this were a film, it would be the part where the director cuts a record scratch and freeze frame.

At last, I finally got it. Warhol’s philosophy is the antithesis to Mao’s little red book. The counterculture. Reading at times like a Seinfeld episode, Warhol’s little book drips with American culture, freedom and celebrity. The depth of the book swallowed me whole. It was Chinese proverbs, but with an American twist.

A photo of a series of chairman mao screen prints by Andy Warhol.

Originally written for the Sachsian Syndicate.

Previously: TGIM 18 - It’s the only time I have been inside a Gulfstream jet. And I can tell you, even in the late 90’s, the interiors on these things were incredible – with enough fold out compartments and gizmos to make James Bond jealous.