Mao | Andy Warhol

Mao 1973 | Painting 42,1 x 50 Inch

Discover the biography and all work of the artist

INTERVIEW | Edouard Carmignac Chairman and chief executive

Carmignac Gestion, Paris

Why have you chosen to hang in your office, facing each other on the left and right, the portraits of Mao and Lenin, both painted by Andy Warhol ? It is rather unusual to find two revolutionary figures in the office of an asset manager.

The reason I’ve chosen to hang Mao and Lenin face to face in my office is because I have a great admiration for Warhol, an artist who understood so many things, before others did. And, to me, these two portraits express perfectly the fundamental qualities of these characters.

The Lenin is electric blue which brings out both his cerebral and his inhumane nature. In contrast, Mao appears to be a rather benevolent man. Which proves that you can still be a tyrant, even with a friendly face.

Can you elaborate ?

In our profession, we must always challenge consensus thinking as nothing is truly definitive, and at the same time we must never underestimate developments, which can appear at any time, from the  inconsequential to the highly significant.

But how did Warhol show his genius, in producing these two portraits, in your opinion ?

Warhol said that the contemporary art museums were department stores and everything in them was destined to become objects of consumption. For him, the really provocative element was to paint Lenin in blue, in pink, in green, and to turn him almost into a product. Now, during the 1970s and 80s, marxism was a serious matter for many people. You didn’t touch it. Warhol found this ridiculous. For him, there were no subects or ideas that were going to survive or overcome the already invasive consumerism. These are my thoughts on the subject, although there is so much more to say on Warhol’s work and how he transformed contemporary art. 

On the wall facing you in your office, you have hung a large abstract painting by Gerhart Richter. Why this choice ?

It is a very invigorating painting with a blaze of both vivid and subdued colours, which compliment each other. I have chosen to have it facing me, as while it is a painting that looks like many others, it radiates a great power. It changes according to the hours of the day or night, the seasons, and it gives me a special energy.

It is quite daring to put Warhol together with Richter. What made you want to put these works of art together and live with them ?

The Richter is abstract  and the two Warhol paintings are figurative. But it’s not just that. I didn’t choose flowers, or Liz Taylor, or Marylin Monroe, I chose portraits of two formidable historical figures. Through the incredibly destructive treatment Warhol gave them, I have discovered his genius. On the other hand, the Richter gives me a sense of escape, there is an undefined horizon, and elements that are difficult to understand, but which change according to my mood. I can take something different from it every day. This wide spectrum, from figurative to abstract, leaves room for my imagination. 

Which work of art, not in your collection, would you like to own, above all others ?

There are plenty. I must say it is interesting to ask this, as it also throws up the question of whether the collection we have is adequate in itself . I would say that on the whole, I am not unhappy with what we have today. Of course, I’d love to have, for example, many more works by Lichtenstein and Richter. But prices are such that if we bought them today, they would make a significant dent in our budget.

Interview by Elisabeth COUTURIER