Simon Patterson

Mao / Nixon


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Not on display

Simon Patterson born 1967
2 canvasses,ink and acrylic gesso on canvas
Support: 1218 × 911 mm
support: 1218 × 913 mm
Presented by the Estate of Thomas Frangenberg 2019


Mao / Nixon 1988 is a large diptych painting on two canvases abutting side by side and was among the first of a series of breakthrough paintings by Simon Patterson known collectively as the Name Paintings. Each canvas is silkscreened with the typed surname of an iconic figure, in this case contemporaneous world leaders Chairman Mao (1893–1976), Chairman of the Communist Party of China from 1949 to 1976, and former United States President Richard Nixon (1913–1994), who held office from 1969 to 1974. A similar diptych, bearing the names of the actors and spouses Richard Burton (‎1943–1984) and Elizabeth Taylor (1932–2011), was included in the landmark exhibition Freeze curated by the artist Damien Hirst (born 1965) in Surrey Docks, London in 1988, which launched the careers of several young British artists of the 1980s and 1990s. In 2011 the critic Brian Boucher wrote of Patterson’s Name Paintings: ‘He always chooses people, like Che Guevara, who summon up canonical images. The series was represented here [at Benrimon Contemporary, New York in November–December 2010] by its earliest examples, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor (both 1987). In counterpoint to [Andy] Warhol’s glamorous portraits, these are informed by Conceptual art’s clinical restraint – in this case dryly applied to subjects notorious for their excesses.’ (Brian Boucher, ‘Simon Patterson’, Art in America, January 2011.)

The work was formerly in the collection of Thomas Frangenberg (1958–2018), a historian of renaissance art but also a passionate collector of contemporary art since the late 1970s. The focus of this collection was artists who work within the traditions of conceptual art and the majority of works were acquired direct from the artists, often early in their careers.

Further reading
The Turner Prize 1996, exhibition brochure, Tate Gallery, London 1996.
Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London 1997.

Helen Delaney and Andrew Wilson
January 2019

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