Giant Panda 295 by Andy Warhol is a screenprint produced in 1983 as part of Warhol’s Endangered Species complete portfolio. Spurred on by conversations with gallerist Ronald Feldman—who commissioned the series—and wife Frayda Feldman and inspired by the passing of the Endangered Species Act just ten years prior, Warhol selected ten animals considered to be under threat of low population numbers and eventually, extinction. Warhol’s Giant Panda is notable for being one of the animals that has since recovered to some extent, and is now listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “vulnerable.” This is largely due to Chinese conservation efforts, as the animal is a native of South Central China. Just like another animal in the portfolio, the Bald Eagle, the giant panda is often seen as emblematic of the nation of its origin. In the case of the panda, it’s the People’s Republic of China.
This association might explain Warhol’s color choices in Giant Panda 295. Like the flag of the People’s Republic, Warhol’s panda sits in a vivid red, a red that replaces its usual distinct and notable black markings. The bear’s eye markings are not spared either and, coupled with the hand drawn eyes and smile, give it a mischievous demeanor. The red is underscored by lighter touches of magenta on the nose, ears, and lower torso. A seemingly out of place splatter of bright yellow marks the bear’s lower third. It may be a clever nod toward the five yellow stars on the Chinese flag but is also perhaps evocative of dirt or mud, suggesting playfulness. Both the background and the majority of the panda’s head are white (reminiscent of another indulgence of white in Warhol’s Goethe 272). Finally, the bear seems to be at an angle, as the white background is rotated slightly leftward, revealing small slivers of sky blue. (An indication that the giant panda was in trouble?)
Andy Warhol’s Giant Panda 295 has risen dramatically in popularity in 2021, along with the Endangered Species series itself, which includes prints like Grevy’s Zebra and African Elephant. The series is among Warhol’s most sought after works even to the most discriminating collectors.
Photograph of Warhol with Endangered Species screen prints taken by Brownie Harris, 1982, The Factory, NYC.