Angela Alvarez | Staff Writer
Pop artist Andy Warhol visited China and Hong Kong in 1982, and he was fortunate to have his camera with him.
Warhol captured more than 200 images during his time in the Far East, and he had a keen eye for everything from the key tourist attractions to hidden gems of the city.
Lee Caplin, an entrepreneur, filmmaker, executive in the entertainment and communications sectors and philanthropist hailing from New York, presents Warhol’s Journey Through China.
Visitors are encouraged to explore the exhibition’s fascinating travel accounts of legendary artist Andy Warhol’s trip to China in 1982.
To reproduce Warhol’s mesmerizing tour of a freshly opened China, this one-of-a-kind show brings together the artistic vision of photographer Christopher Makos with the captivating narration of Caplin.
“I hope the viewers get the feeling of how China was forty years ago,” said Caplin.
“When there was no commerciality, a few cars, the citizens wore traditional clothing… Andy was inspired by what he saw and started painting right away when he was back in America.”
The exhibition’s centerpiece is a collection of 18 dramatic images taken by Warhol’s personal photographer and close friend, Christopher Makos. These private images provide an insight into Warhol’s contacts with locals, his encounters, and the landscapes that interested him. Viewers can also see Makos’ own appreciation of Chinese culture through his lens.
Young Chinese businessman Alfred Siu invited Warhol to visit Hong Kong because he was opening a hip nightclub that would feature Warhol’s portraits, including those of Princess Diana and Prince Charles.
To broaden his artistic horizons, Warhol tried to meet the Philippines’ First Lady and well-known extravagance, Imelda Marcos, to paint a portrait of her.
The meeting never happened, despite the best efforts. Upon his return to the United States, Warhol was lucky to be given portrait commissions from wealthy Chinese clients he had met in Hong Kong.
“When Warhol visited China, the mentality and the spirit were about being a good citizen in China,” said Joy Lido, an FIU associate professor.
“China’s change has been so earth-shaking and drastic since the last four decades,” Lido said.
Warhol claimed to appreciate the simplicity and conformity of China, but he admitted that the lack of the normal omnipresent cultural icons and the easygoing way of life that his paintings depicted made him feel uneasy.
Things changed both artistically and culturally, and just as Warhol came to be known as the “Pope of Pop” in America, one could argue that he was also substantially influential in modern Chinese art. His basic aesthetic and replication of ubiquitous imagery influenced China at the time.
The Warhol’s Journey Through China exhibition is open until November 3, 2023, at FIU’s BBC Glenn Hubert Library.
CORRECTION: An earlier report stated the exhibit was at The Wolfsonian–FIU. It is actually on view at the Glenn Hubert Library at BBC. This has been updated in the article.
Paloma Pimentel contributed to this report.