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A Warhol Christmas at the White House

December 24, 2009 | 10:10 am

Warhol Mao Ken Hively LAT When it comes to art, the right-wing anti-Obama crowd hasn't had a very good year. Repeated efforts to gin up outrage in a manufactured culture war have either fallen flat or proved downright embarrassing. (You can see some of them here, here and here.)

The latest fiasco is the Great Christmas Ornament Scandal.

On Tuesday, Andrew Breitbart's Big Government blog got its knickers in a twist over one of the Obama White House's myriad Christmas trees. (Big Government is a sibling to Breitbart's Big Hollywood blog, which cranked up a paranoid fantasy about the National Endowment for the Arts a few months back.) The blaring "EXCLUSIVE" led with a blurry photo of a decoupage Christmas ornament adorned with the face of Chinese Communist dictator, Mao Zedong.

"Of course, Mao has his place in the White House," Big Government wailed about the GCOS, taking the Obama-as-socialist meme out for a yuletide spin.

Except, it wasn't exactly Mao. It was Andy Warhol's "Mao."

The image is one of a very large series of silkscreen paintings and prints the late Pop artist made of Mao. Warhol's parody transformed the leader of the world's most populous nation into a vapid superstar -- the most famous of the famous. The portrait photo from Mao's Little Red Book is tarted up with lipstick, eye-shadow and other Marilyn Monroe-style flourishes.

Where did the Christmas decoration come from?

"We took about 800 ornaments left over from previous administrations," First Lady Michelle Obama explained in an earlier press release about getting the White House ready for the holidays, "we sent them to 60 local community groups throughout the country, and asked them to decorate them to pay tribute to a favorite local landmark and then send them back to us for display here at the White House."

The precise source of the Warhol ornament is not known. But Warhol's Maos are in art museum collections from coast to coast, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago (whose painting most resembles the ornament image) and both the County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Not surprisingly, Pittsburgh's Andy Warhol Museum has several.

Oh, and at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, the National Gallery of Art has 21 different versions of Warhol's "Mao." Twenty-one. Wait until Big Government bloggers find out about the Communist takeover of the National Gallery.

In a political era when the lunatic fringe has relentlessly caricatured the president of the United States as a pinko, an ornament-maker somewhere in America apparently thought a satirical painting of a socialist was an ideal "favorite local landmark." I can't say as I blame him or her.

Nixon Mao AP But still another layer of unwitting comedy percolates beneath the Great Christmas Ornament Scandal, which was immediately picked up by a host of hyperventilating right-wing Internet sites and blogs and then dutifully flogged into total incoherence by fair-and-balanced Fox News.

Warhol began the series in 1972 in the wake of an epochal visit to Beijing by conservative hero Richard M. Nixon. (The Watergate burglary was four months off.) President Nixon had squeaked into office on the electoral success of the Southern Strategy -- Republican efforts to use race as a wedge issue to appeal to white Southern voters. Finding a Nixon-era Mao in a White House now occupied by our first African American president seems to have shoved some folks over the edge.

Who is the intrepid reporter responsible for the GCOS pseudo-scoop? The post is signed by "Capitol Confidential," a tabloid moniker Warhol himself would have adored. Capitol Confidential is identified as "anonymous sources in the halls of power at the federal, state, and local levels. Big Government double-checks their stories and provides them the cloak they need to reveal the truth."

No, that's not a parody. That's investigative reporting in the age of Drudge. Next thing you know Capitol Confidential will breathlessly uncover the exclusive! shocking! truth! that the Obamas' Christmas tree is also decorated with acorns.

Happy holidays.

-- Christopher Knight

Photos: Andy Warhol, "Mao," 1973; Credit: Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times; Richard Nixon meets Mao Zedong, 1972. Credit: Associated Press


Acorn 3 LAT Glenn Beck's art criticism explained

Glenn Beck's 9/12 logo based on Communist and socialist designs

More art fabrications from the right wing

Comments () | Archives (84)

I was surprised this jihadist-muslim anti-christian hard-left commie lib atheist democrat even allowed a christmas tree in the white house. But now I see why he did it ... mockery.
Posted by: Mary | December 24, 2009 at 12:38 PM

THANK YOU for the Perfect post..
You forgot:POS , anti Christian hard-left-commie .....
They Love this type of "in your face YES WE R COMMIES" kinda stuff.. Look at Soul Alinskys instructions for radicals...
Little do they know overreaching will be their Political DOOM... Paybacks r such beotches... No pity this time for them either..

Leftist strategy: Forget about Mao and the millions of people who suffered and died under his rule and turn the attention to "but conservative Nixon was involved with Mao at the time a beloved Warhol painted this piece". It still doesn't excuse the fact that Mao was a murderer and his image is being hung on a tree that tax payers paid for. Because Warhol painted this piece of Shite doesn’t mean he is exonerated! With Christopher’s reasoning we should be able to have other ornaments of Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin -- I am sure we can find some other artists that have painted some pictures of them too. Seriously leftists—we know a majority of you are in love with Mao. Quit trying to hide it through lame justifications. The rest of us normal people just have to deal with the fact that you guys have some serious moral issues that need some reflective attention. I am glad that people are outraged at the glorification of evil – Mao being a prime representative of the same.


So you don't know me, but you hate me? Why? Because I dare question the wisdom of a group who are the self-proclaimed, "Smartest People Who Have Ever Lived". What do I mean by that? Progressives clearly believe that everything that proceeded them was wrong and must be changed. How lucky the rest of us are to have been born in your cohort! One in a million shot and we get to be showered with your limitless wisdom. Now if we'd all just shut the heck up about 2000 years of culture this, and Western Civilization that, I'm sure it would all just go fantastic. Things never end up horribly in communism.

Give it a rest. The money is all gone, we're on the hook for 106 trillion already in debt and unfunded entitlements (ignoring the health care bill). It will collapse on its own, need you keep trying to tip it over even faster?

Fred Goepfort wrote: "...At Christmas, did he have any ornaments with a picture of Christ?"

Possibly, but you DO realize that Christ was an even bigger Communist that Mao, don't you? No, you probably don't...

"...The Liberal MSM would not like that, because it would take away from the pagan celebration they prefer to have..."

And a Happy Saturnalia (later to be hijacked by Xtians and turned into "christmas") to you and yours, too Fred. :-D

Mao Tse Tung killed somewhere between fifty and seventy million Chinese people. His image doesn't belong on anyone's Christmas tree.

Kruschev came to the US hoping to get tarted up in the press. But most Americans, like Walt Disney, refused to allow him. Mao killed 40 to 70 million people in the name of socialism. This is yet another attempt by Obama to promote Mao. You lefty facists can make all the excuses you want; but your ongoing promotion of Mao shows your ignorance or it shows your complete inability to show respect for cultures that are not your own like Christians and Christ. Clearly most of the lefties here would not object to adding Mao to the manger scene as long as he is 'tarted up' a bit. This is why you you have bankrupted your State of California and are desperately working on bankrupting the entire county. You clearly have no idea what economics means and no clue how economies work. You Cannot spend your way to prosperity the way Obama is doing. Liberals always restrict freedom and limit free action. Liberals clearly hate freedom so naturally they would laughingly insult christians by putting the worlds greatest mass murderer on a Christmas tree. Liberals disgust me. The war on poverty has created a permanent underclass. The war on drugs has created a huge new criminal class. We are certainly going to regret the lefty War on Health.

This article shows that the White House has long arms when it comes to covering up their plan. I think we are head down the road to another civil war and I can assure you which side I will not be on

Joe Hill Not true about Christ being a communist. Christ suggested that you share your wealth as being the morally correct thing to do. That is far different from the government confiscating your wealth and redistributing it. Not to mention that if you look at the USSR and China you actually have oligarchies where those who run the government i.e. communist party are disproportionately wealthy. Sounds like corruption to me but what do I know.

Nice try now move along please.

Christopher Knight: I suggest you post a pic of the offending Christmas ball, so that folks here can see how silly this tempest really is. Warhol's large-scale paintings are confrontational; the tiny, half-obscured, magazine cut-out peeking out from a fraction of a Christmas ornament is quite the opposite. It is astonishing that anyone even noticed this.

Andrew Breitbart and supporters: Please try to see yourself as others see you. Becoming agitated about the insidious political implications revealed in a tiny fraction of a famous image collaged by some anonymous community volunteer onto one Christmas tree ornament out of hundreds ... frankly, your discourse is barely distinguishable from the maniacal rants of a paranoid schizophrenic. In other words, you've provided CK a firm basis for invoking the "lunatic fringe." Surely you can find more worthy targets for your political concerns.

Merry Christmas.

Ginning up silly outrage over minor issues, including words and images -- otherwise known as "political correctness" -- has been a specialty of liberals for decades.

As for an ornament on a tree in the White House, I do have to say that Christopher Knight's explanation (or rationalization) about the matter contains some validity. However, when Mr. Obama's close affiliations with ultra-liberals like Bill Ayers and extremists like Jeremiah Wright are well documented, it's not such a leap to assume the worst about America's president.

However, since most staffers at the LA Times suffer from chronic liberal foolishness, their ability to associate very bad things with Barack Obama is a rather difficult task. By contrast, one of those Times writers did a recent editorial that idiotically attempts to draw parallels between Ronald Reagan and Joseph Stalin.

The symbolism of all of these heated debates -- and the leftist tilt of the current White House and Congress -- taking place while the newspaper industry in particular (or the LA Times in particular) is floundering seems like part of a perfect storm.

I don't give a damn if Andy Warhol did it. It's still a rotten thing to put on the White House Christmas tree, just as any kitschy work on Stalin or Pol Pot would be. "Art" is not a catchall to excuse anything.

As a general rule, the major, patent, and ubiquitous characteristic of Leftist discourse is ad hominem. Reading this article, one wonders what professor in what school of journalism would find such patent partisanship and mocking anti-intellectualism worthy of other than a sound F, and recommendation to seek another career.

We have seen considerable outrage over the incarceration of actual and aspiring mass murderers in sanitary, safe, and excessively supervised conditions. What we have not seen--and never will see--is outrage of the use in ALL Communist nations of planned, carefully supervised and implemented regimens of psychological and physical torture. Such regimes are in place even today in China and Cuba (and presumably Venezuela, but who will tell that story?), and have affected the lives of MILLIONS of people.

Mao is a symbol of literal cannibalism, torture, vicious murder, and the ruthless suppression of ALL human rights which the Left claims to value.

It is small wonder that the first philosophical vanishing trick taught in Freshman Indoctrination is the rejection of principle and reason based discourse.

Do we need any better example of a pathetic loser who has literally nothing positive to offer on the discourse of the human condition than Andrew Breitbart?

Arrogant, narrow-minded with a psychologically twisted dark motive to control and manipulate others, he exists solely to enrich his own narcissism. Throughout history petty tyrants like him have come, wreacked their havoc, and gone, leaving only their cracked mirrors behind for others to step on.


Who is the "loser": the one who makes substantive comments which he backs through factual and logical analysis; or the person for whom calling someone "loser" counts as argument?

Which would pass a class in Rhetoric or Logic?

There was a time when Democrats could plausibly present themselves as concerned with the plight of "the People", or the working man. That time has passed.

This healthcare legislation will raise everyone's insurance premiums and taxes, and decrease benefits for all but those who are already ill. Specifically, it will place an added burden on the middle class to whom Obama appeals rhetorically, but about whom he could care less. He cares about himself and his cronies, since that is his actual power base. Everyone else simply has to be misled.

The number one cause of bankrupcty is having more bills than you can pay. You do not, therefore, reduce bankruptcy by increasing peoples bills. This is obvious.

The same benefits could have been realized simply by using the Constitutionally granted right to "regulate interstate commerce" to require all States to allow all carriers to sell anywhere in the United States without restriction, and to prohibit them from banning the direct sale of health insurance to individuals. Everywhere insurance carriers offer insurance directly to individuals, they offer very low cost/high deductible policies which are very affordable. These policies, in particular, eliminate the cost insulation that is the ACTUAL cause of increasing insurance premiums.

Put simply, if you get more of something, you pay more of something. We many times the number the MRI machines of countries with socialized medicine. We use them more. This provides more precise care, but does little to add to our overall longevity. If people pay out of pocket for things, they make better cost/benefit decisions.

Who stands in the way of these common sense solutions? Unions. Very simply, if workers can get their benefits elsewhere, many will choose to leave their unions. How many people did Nissan lay off in Tennessee? Not many. You don't have to add a UAW surtax to the cars made for foreigners on American soil. The reality is that the UAW is going to get a LOT of American jobs PERMANENTLY eliminated.

And Obama and his crew are OK with that.

"The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants".

Albert Camus

"As far as I can tell from reading this article and the posts, other pictures of former world leaders were not selected to grace the whitehouse on this festive occasion."

G. Gladden, as reported by LGF, there seems to be an ornament with Ronald Reagan. I'd say he's a former world leader, wouldn't you? Why would a socialist communist put an ornament with Mao in makeup and an ornament with Reagan sans makeup in his tree, wouldn't he do the opposite?


If the ornament is just art, then I assert that the Mojave desert Cross also is 'just art', as is the cross on the Seal of the City of Los Angeles, the bas relief of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on the Supreme court building is 'just art', the same image at the NY Supreme court building, (though, being New York, I'll give ground to anyone suggesting that, in this instance, the medium in question may be the graphic novel). The issue about which we are churning is, as should be obvious, whether one believes in the Divinity of Jesus Christ. And in this instance, whether 'The One' can distinguish himself from "The One who Is". Since the presence of a Cross in the Mojave desert, 40 miles from the nearest atheistic, secular, nihilistic, progressive, materialistic leftist does, with its emanations boring into their brains manifest as a certain madness, this writer suggests not. And since the hangers of the ornament were not persuaded otherwise, it is reasonable to ask why the murder of50 million Chinese trod under foot by this painting of Andy Warhol's should not be looked at with some moral repugnance?

It is obvious beyond the need for comment for all but those fully blinded by convictions they never earned through reasoned discourse, but the fact is that Obama has hired and let go at least two people--Anita Dunn and Van Jones--for whom Mao was very literally a role model and idol.

Obama has never commented on that, or distanced himself from either them, or the man he freely admits is his biggest single political influence, Saul Alinsky. Alinsky was a Communist. Obama's biological father--the subject of "Dreams from my father"-was a Communist. His ersatz father during his adolescence--Frank Marshall--was a Communist.

The simple fact of the matter is that the record shows he was born to Communists, raised by Communists, and has sought them out as an adult. There are no breaks in this pattern. He has even apparently invited Bill Ayers--"just a guy from the neighborhood"--to the White House, along with Jerry Wright. How much data is needed to perceive a pattern? One quite literally has to deny that Communists exist to fail to see it.

You can fool some of the people all the time--this much is quite clear--and all of the people some of the time. But you can't fool all the people all the time, even if you mock, denigrate, and try to marginalize them.

I have to love the writer of the article and the posters that are apologists for a White House that would have thought pictures of the Mao on a Christmas tree were OK.

That such a killer as Mao, and who cares if Warhol did the painting, should make it into America's Whitehouse is an outrage.

But no, the writer and many posters, want to demonize the person who noticed and reported on it.

The writer then mentions the NEA affair as if it were indeed nothing. In reality there was a lot to discuss about the NEA being twisted to political drives by the White House. Had it been Bush who tried to do so, all the posters here would have dropped their delicate little cups of Expresso in outrage.

It's silly just how much people are willing to whore themselves out for Barry.

First of all this opinion piece fails to recognize the real problem. How dare the White House force Christian symbolism and ideas down the throat of the American people! These are Holiday Ornaments and Holiday trees. Stop the blatant use of Christ's name! I am tired of your Judeo-Christian values constantly being crammed down my throat! Maybe if the White House could learn to put holidays such as Diwali and Ramadan with equal importance as the Christmas celebration, I could respect that ANY ornaments exist in the President's home. Until then - it is a shameful act of Western glorification. Furthermore, is it even CONSTITUTIONAL for a Christmas tree to be in the White House? This is a government-owned property! Separation of church and state is the one principle that keeps this country in tact and it is constantly spit upon by the White House Christmas Tree. To think that we glorify the holiday that was celebrated by the great oppressors of the embarassing religious-driven military campaigns of the Crusades is beyond my comprehension. When will Obama learn that we don't share in his belief in Christmas!

And, the leftist idiots that run the Los Angeles Time wonder why their circulation is dropping? Could it be the bias that would allow no moral outrage against turning a communist mass murderer into a pop culture icon while a Democratic President has the gall to honor such a thug?

If this had been done with Hilter or a KKK grand wizard and a Republican President had put an ornament of either on the White House Christmas tree, the Times and every other "mainstream" media outlet would demand he or she be impeached.

Only the left in this country could turn a mass murdering tyrant into someone chic and to be celebrated. Sickening doesn't even begin to describe it,.

The more this sort of thing occurs, the more I believe Joseph McCarthy was right and didn't go far enough

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