Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, who is locked in a tight runoff race for Georgia’s Senate seat, which will help determine which party controls Congress’s upper chamber, appears to be something of an art collector.
Georgia representative Doug Collins, another Republican in the race who has since lost his bid, ran an attack ad earlier this year focusing on an Andy Warhol portrait of Mao Zedong that allegedly hangs in the foyer of Loeffler’s $5.6 million Atlanta home.
The ad features a selfie of two women posing in front of the well-known image, which is based on a photograph of the Chinese head of state taken from his 1964 book Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, also known as Little Red Book.
Warhol created a series of 199 Mao paintings and many more silkscreen prints between 1972 and 1973, inspired by President Richard Nixon’s historic trip to China.
Collins claims the photograph was posted to Loeffler’s now-deleted Instagram in 2018.
The issue previously come up in an October debate between the candidates.
“Do you still have the $56,000 portrait of Chairman Mao hanging in your foyer, as was seen on social media?” Collins asked Loeffler. “Seems a little hypocritical, or maybe it’s just enlightening.”
Collins presented the Mao portrait as evidence of Loeffler’s ties to China.
“Her love of their money explains the Chinese flag Loeffler hung on her New York Stock Exchange and Loeffler’s refusal to cut ties with China-controlled companies that make her millions,” the ad proclaimed, alluding to her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of the stock exchange and CEO of its parent company, Intercontinental Exchange. “Kelly Loeffler is a fake conservative who looks out for herself.”
Warhol’s Mao works were always intended to ruffle feathers. “They were controversial, commercial, and important, just like the man they portrayed and the man who painted them,” Bob Colacello wrote in his 1990 book, Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Up Close. “And they were all about power: the power of one man over the lives of one billion people.”
The Loeffler campaign denied that she or her husband owned the work, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that it was no surprise that “a photoshopped image is the best thing that Doug Collins has left in this campaign.”
The Loeffler campaign claims our campaign “photoshopped” the portrait of Chinese dictator Mao hanging in her Atlanta mansion. Here’s the photo next to a photo from inside her home on a real estate website. Checkout the staircase metal work! Why keep up the lies Kelly? pic.twitter.com/Hn8bh4uiIJ
— Doug Collins (@CollinsforGA) October 20, 2020
Collins appears to have taken the $56,000 figure from the 2015 sale of Mao [II.96]—which matches the red and orange color scheme of the Mao tied to Loeffler—for $56,250 at Sotheby’s New York.
The highest recorded price achieved by that particular Mao is only $75 more, set this September at Bonhams Los Angeles, according to the Artnet Price Database. Seven other copies have found buyers from $24,400 to $50,000, all in auctions since 2009, while three prints have failed to sell. Warhol printed Mao [II.96] at Castelli Graphics and Multiple Inc./Styria Studios in New York in an edition of 250 with 50 artist’s proofs.
Despite the attack ad, Loeffler bested Collins in the November 3 election, coming in second to Democrat Raphael Warnock. Because neither candidate received over 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held next month. There is also a runoff for the state’s other Senate seat, between Republican David Perdue, the incumbent, and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff.
Both races will be closely watched. Artists 4 Democracy, an artist-led group that promotes civic engagement, has teamed up with Walk the Walk 2020, an organization supporting Democratic candidates, on a get-out-the vote campaign to help Warnoff and Ossoff win. Artists Amy Sillman, Mary Weatherford, Tomashi Jackson, and Anoka Faruqee are lending their work to the cause.
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