Friday, 24 March 2017

Warhol's China Trip

The pop artist with a bellboy from the Mandarin Oriental in 1982
Four ago the Hong Kong Museum of Art held an Andy Warhol exhibition called Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal.

One of the exhibits that was shown were his cardboard boxes filled with all kinds of random items. Apparently each week an assistant would clear off Warhol's desk and anything else of note and put them into the cardboard box where they would be sealed, numbered and put in a warehouse.

Pictures of the Star Ferries in Victoria Harbour
The pop artist must have known that decades later after his death we'd be pouring over his items and trying to figure out what was going on in his mind or his life at the time.

I was so intrigued by the boxes that showed that he had stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, as he kept the notes messengers slipped under his door with the hotel's letterhead on them, and maps, as well as a copy of The South China Morning Post that had an article about him.

And now with art featured all over the city to coincide with Art Basel, the auction house Phillips has teamed up with the Mandarin Oriental to present a collection of photographs that Warhol purportedly took, or were in his stash, of his trip to Hong Kong and Beijing in 1982.

The black and white photographs themselves are actually unremarkable -- they are literally holiday snaps, but they will be auctioned off for tens of thousands of Hong Kong dollars each.

A view from his room including the Hilton Hotel (back left)
I was hoping to see a humorous shot, or a nice picture or several that summed up his trip, but I was expecting too much. He photographed leftovers from dinner, mainlanders wearing Mao suits, the Star Ferry, and then portraits of Alfred Siu, an industrialist who opened a club in the Bank of America Tower.

Siu invited Warhol to come and make portraits of guests at I-Club on opening night, and even surprised the artist and his entourage with a trip planned to Beijing. There are photos of Warhol on the Great Wall of course, and hotel bedrooms with lamps lying horizontal on the beds for some reason.

The photographs were cool to see during the early 1980s, but the captions were frustrating because they were so general that even the viewers have to guess where the photos were taken.

Warhol in China
Lobby, Mandarin Oriental
5 Connaught Road Central
Until April 2, auction May 28

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