Premise: Fausto Bertinotti it’s a fig. Twice cool. First, because in times of turbo-iconoclasm he sits in the photo, all bloated, under his prints of Mao Zedong, a Chinese dictator who actually made very few of the dead: 46 million, say the “revisionists”. That’s all. Second: because while his former members of parliament make the figure of “Pezzealculo”, fighting over four annuities, the Subcomandante demonstrates, with his personal collection of Andy Warhol, of having been able to invest the parliamentary pension money well. Style, sober richness, cultural superiority. Here the apologue must be updated: from the “communists with Rolex” to the “communists with Pop Art”. The work exhibiting Bertinotti in the living room is an edition of Andy Wharol which belongs to a portfolio dating back to 1972 published by Leo Castelli, who is one of the greatest gallery owners of the twentieth century. It is that of Keith Haring, Basquiat, Wharol, in fact. It is an edition of 250 copies of the same portfolio of ten posters that reproduce the figure of Mao Zedong in various colors. In the photo of the Bertinotti maison there are three. The rest of them will have scattered around the house. Maybe even a toilet. To these 250 are added 50 artist proofs and four printer proofs, the Styra Studio in New York. The auction record belongs to edition one of fifty (of the artist’s proof pieces) and beat two and a half million dollars in 2012. On May 22, to be precise, from Sotheby ‘s, London. And it belonged to the private collection of Gunter Sachs, husband of Brigitte Bardot for three years, from 1966 to 1969, photographer, astrologer, who committed suicide.
Sotheby’s dedicates a whole auction session to him in which this portfolio of ten Mao posters is sold at an exorbitant price of $ 2.5 million. The pieces are all signed by Andy Warhol, as can also be seen from the photo of Bertinotti’s studio and as explained by the caption of the Corriere who, by publishing the image, kept us to clarify that they are “original pieces”. There are several passages in the auction of the same portfolio, verifiable on Artnet, a site that keeps historical records of all sales of works of art on the web. The 120/250 edition was sold for one million two hundred thousand dollars. The 211/250 edition was sold to 1.4 million dollars. And then there are many other sales that, in the last decade, have fluctuated between one million and one million and six hundred thousand dollars. The work is also published in Warhol’s multiple print catalog raisonné, dating back to 2003. But what is it, one could ask for a right-wing hydrocephalus? The poster is based on a canvas by May, made by Andy Warhol, which reproduces the official portrait of the Great Leader, updated every year by the author and exhibited in Tienamen square in Beijing. That is, more than updated it had to be the faithful copy of himself. Wang Guodong hasn’t been able to paint anything else all his life, only Mao. And it was a job far from serene, because if he missed a line, the dictator would have cut his throat. Warhol takes this portrait and turns it into a pop icon, like Marylin, like Kennedy, like Campbell soup. A canvas by Mao between the sixties and seventies was sold as a single piece for 32 million dollars. The value of a “reverse” Mao canvas from the 1980s, however, is around two million. How much is it worth Bertinotti’s work? Questioning an art dealer, the answer is: between a million and a million and a half dollars. Obviously there are a number of variables: the state of conservation, first of all. If the posters are intact and have no cuts, burns, marks, etc. then they have a value. In case of damage or signs of aging, they have another one. An interesting fact is the origin of the work. If Bertinotti bought them from an important collection, they have even more value. We must see what edition number it is, if it is an artist proof, if it is even one of the four proofs of the printer. But even if it were any edition, to give greater value to that portfolio would be the fact of being owned by the last (important) secretary of the Italian communists. A pop icon. Him too.