It was to be a “disco trip” to Hong Kong. The year was 1982, and 54-year-old pop artist and international art star Andy Warhol was visiting China for the first time. Invited over to Hong Kong by a young industrialist, he brought along a small entourage, including photographer Christopher Makos, who documented Warhol’s journey to Beijing, Tianamen Square, and the Great Wall. Though rarely seen—unless you have a copy of Makos’s book—the photos are currently exhibiting in Shanghai.
Offering a rare glimpse into the iconic life of Andy Warhol, Makos captures his wardrobe, which was the exact same outfit every day, as well as reactions to China’s most well known tourist spots. What’s interesting about the visit is Warhol’s relative anonymity in China despite his multiple paintings of Chairman Mao known throughout the world at the time. “Andy actually thought the real Mao portrait was better than his, and really loved the original,” says Makos.
Though Warhol, apparently, asked where the McDonald’s was located (it was nonexistent) as well as if there was an elevator at the Great Wall, Makos captures him enjoying a culture that had influenced the most recognizable moments in his own work. These crisp, often close-up photos of the man at the time seem to make him more real and accessible—shaggy wig, jeans, backpack, glasses and all.
Warhol in China by Makos closes this week at the Wine Gallery in Shanghai.