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Andy Warhol print of Mao vanishes—college asks to please give it back, 'no questions asked'

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An iconic image of Chinese Communist Party founder Mao Zedong, immortalized by the legendary American artist Andy Warhol, has mysteriously vanished from the vault of Orange Coast College’s Frank M. Doyle Art Pavilion.


On March 13, during a routine inventory check, staff at the pavilion made a startling discovery: the Warhol print of Mao, valued at $50,000, was gone. Executive director Doug Bennett initiated an internal search, hoping it was merely a case of misplacement. However, the vault’s security measures cast doubt on such a benign explanation. Access to the vault requires both a key card and a punch code combination, and only a select few staff members possess the necessary credentials.


The missing artwork, numbered 187 out of 215, bears Warhol’s unmistakable signature in ballpoint pen. It was a generous gift to Orange Coast College from an anonymous donor who acquired it back in 1974. The print remained tucked away until 2020, when it was donated to the college.


Andy Warhol, forever captivated by celebrity and cultural icons, turned his silkscreen gaze toward Chairman Mao in 1972 and 1973. This creative exploration followed President Richard Nixon’s groundbreaking trip to China, signaling a thaw in U.S.-China relations. Warhol based his work on a widely disseminated photograph of Mao during the Cultural Revolution, producing a striking silkscreen portrait that captured the essence of Mao’s omnipresence in Chinese society.


In total, Warhol produced 199 silkscreen paintings of Mao, varying in scale and color. The record auction price for a Warhol Mao painting stands at an astonishing $47.5 million, achieved during a 2015 Sotheby’s sale in New York.


Doug Bennett, undeterred by the mystery, appeals to the public: “If someone has it and returns it, we won’t ask a whole lot of questions. If it shows up on the doorstep of the police station, that’s fine.” The college seeks the return of this cultural treasure, “no questions asked.”




Image: Jaroslav Moravcik | Dreamstime.com

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