November 12, 2012

Andy Warhol for Sale


Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
'Troy'
Signed and Dated 62 on the Reverse
Acrylic, Silkscreen, Ink and Pencil on Canvas
80 3/4 x 60 1/4 in. 205.1 x 153 cm.
Executed in 1962
Estimate: $15 - 20 million
Sotheby's New York, November 13th 2012, Lot 37, Contemporary Art Evening Auction


Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
'Troy' Detail
Signed and Dated 62 on the Reverse
Acrylic, Silkscreen, Ink and Pencil on Canvas
80 3/4 x 60 1/4 in. 205.1 x 153 cm.
Executed in 1962
Estimate: $15 - 20 million
Sotheby's New York, November 13th 2012, Lot 37, Contemporary Art Evening Auction

Catalog Notes

With sandy blond hair, dreamy blue eyes and a captivating smile, Troy Donahue was the boy-next-door heartthrob of the 1950s and 60s. His roles opposite America’s darlings made him a teen idol; his engaging portraits graced the covers of popular movie and teen magazines, accompanied by Donahue’s scrawled autograph and breezy anecdotes related to his most recent romantic motion picture. Favorite classics such as A Summer Place (1959), in which Donahue played Sandra Dee’s love interest, solidified the young actor as the epitome of youthful fame and the subject of the studio’s publicity factories. For Andy Warhol, who had yet to parlay himself into art history’s canon, Donahue was undoubtedly a prime example of celebrity. Today, the Warhol archive holds more headshots, photographs and reproductions from fan magazines of Donahue than of any other matinee idol, suggesting Warhol’s particular fascination with the actor, his cultural status and his legion of fans. Of the ten canvases Warhol screened of Troy, only three are large in scale and the most majestic examples of the group are the Troy Diptych in the collection of the Museum ofContemporary Art, Chicago and the present painting.

Provenance
Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
Gian Enzo Sperone, Rome and New York
Private Collection

Exhibited
Turin, Galleria Galatea, Andy Warhol, November 1972 - February 1973, cat. no. 2, illustrated in color Zurich, Kunsthaus, Andy Warhol, May - July 1978, cat. no. 35, p. 74, illustrated in color Milwaukee, The New Milwaukee Art Center; Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Louisville, J.B. Speed Museum; New Orleans, New Orleans Museum of Art, Emergence & Progression: Six Contemporary American Artists, October 1979 – September 1980, p. 72, illustrated in color Cologne, Paul Maenz Gallery, Andy Warhol: Paintings 1962-1985, December 1985 – January 1986 New York, Museum of Modern Art; Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago; London, Hayward Gallery; Cologne, Museum Ludwig; Venice, Palazzo Grassi; Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, February 1989 – September 1990, cat. no. 193, p. 205, illustrated in color

Literature
Rainer Crone and Wilfred Wiegand, Die revolutionäre Ästhetik: Andy Warhol’s, Darmstadt, 1972, no. 41a, illustrated in color Gian Enzo Sperone, Jim Dine, Roy Lichtenstein, Morris Louis, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Robert Rauschenberg, Mario Schifano, Frank Stella, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Turin, 1975, n.p., illustrated in color Rainer Crone, Das Bildnerische Werk Andy Warhols, Berlin, 1976, no. 44 Carter Ratcliff, Andy Warhol, New York, 1983, no. 30, p. 35, illustrated Exh. Cat., London, Anthony d’Offay Gallery, Andy Warhol Portraits, 1993, fig.4, p. 19, illustrated Lothar Romain, Andy Warhol, Munich, 1993, cat. no. 71, p. 93, illustrated in color Georg Frei and Neil Printz, The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonne: Paintings and Sculpture 1961-1963, vol. 01, New York, 2002, cat. no. 240, p. 218, illustrated in color Steve Bluttal, ed., introduction by Dave Hickey, Andy Warhol: "Giant" Size, London and New York, 2006, p. 180, illustrated in color.

Warhol’s Troy of 1962 brilliantly and emphatically dramatizes the most successful of the three movie star glossies of Donahue used by the artist in his portraits of the actor. The publicity still is rendered in filmic and colorful repetition, as Donahue’s suave fair hair, preppy red sweater and suggestive eyes recur over and over again in Warhol’s classic Pop Art style of multiple imagery. Rendered only a moment before Warhol’s renowned Marilyn paintings, also of 1962, the brief Troy series strikingly anticipates the artist’s overwhelming preoccupation with fame, stardom and movie celebrities. His subsequent serial silkscreens of icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor, among others, have indeed come to define Warholian treatment of pop culture figures. Curator Kynaston McShine explains of Warhol, “His attraction to the persona of the youthful and famous motivates some of the first silkscreen paintings, based on images of Troy Donahue, Elvis Presley and Warren Beatty. Warhol’s identification with them is twofold, both as objects of desire and as role models. In contrast to the later versions of Elvis and of Marlon Brando, who are depicted by more than just their faces, these first works project an appeal that is wholesome, intimate, and attainable.” (Exh. Cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, 1989, p. 17)

Unlike the succeeding Marilyn, Liz and Jackie series of the 1960s which possess a subtext of death, loss and sorrow, Troy exudes vibrancy; it plainly displays the surface charisma and celluloid good looks that epitomized 1950s and early 1960s teen culture as well as the excitement and obsession of an adoring fan. And though this canvas is executed in Warhol’s trademark commercial and famously detached method of silkscreening, it is nonetheless anything but somber. Presented in an oval format as if mimicking the framed photo or locket snapshot of a cherished boyfriend or loved one, fame is worshipped and celebrity’s promise of immortality applauded in Troy.

Not only exemplary of Warhol’s early investigation of serial head portraiture, Troy is also an impressive record of the artist’s original foray into the silkscreening process. In his memoir POPism: The Warhol Sixties, Warhol recalled, “In August ’62, I started doing silkscreens… With silkscreening, you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, but slightly different each time… My first experiments with screens were heads of Troy Donahue and Warren Beatty, and then when Marilyn Monroe happened to die that month, I got the idea to make screens of her beautiful face - the first Marilyns.” (Andy Warhol, POPism: The Warhol Sixties, New York, 1980, p. 22) Remarkably, Troy is distinguished by the varying degrees and intensity of each imprinted head that so enthralled Warhol with his new process. While his portraits of Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood were screened onto primed monochromatic backgrounds, the Troy series were a brilliant early use of vibrant color for the Pop artist. At times heavy, dark and obscured, this assembly of Donahue headshots is profoundly dynamic, with its array of simultaneously bright and arresting ovals. The result is a canvas featuring a multihued spectrum of Donahues, with Warhol’s employment of four acrylic colors.



Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
'Double Elvis (Ferus Type)'
Signed and Dated 63 on the Reverse
Silkscreen, Ink and Spray Paint on Canvas
81 3/4 x 48 in. 207.6 x 121.9 cm.
Executed in 1963
Estimate: $30 - 50 million
Lot Sold: $37,042.500.00 (hammer price including buyer's premium)
Sotheby's New York, May 9th 2012, Lot 27, Contemporary Art Evening Auction



Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
'Double Elvis (Ferus Type)'
Signed and Dated 63 on the Reverse
Silkscreen, Ink and Spray Paint on Canvas
81 3/4 x 48 in. 207.6 x 121.9 cm.
Executed in 1963
Estimate: $30 - 50 million
Lot Sold: $37,042.500.00 (hammer price including buyer's premium)
Sotheby's New York, May 9th 2012, Lot 27, Contemporary Art Evening Auction


Provenance
Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York (LC# 924)
Private Collection (acquired from the above in March 1971)
Ileana Sonnabend, Paris
Mayfair Gallery, London
Princess Miriam Jahore, London
Shaindy Fenton, Fort Worth
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1977

Exhibited
Los Angeles, Ferus Gallery, Andy Warhol, September - October 1963 Fort Worth, Modern Art Museum, Masterworks from Fort Worth Collections, April - June 1992, cat. no. 35, p. 61, illustrated in color and p. 18, illustrated in color (exhibition photograph)

Literature
Rainer Crone, Andy Warhol, New York, 1970, cat. no. 138, p. 139, illustrated John Coplans, Andy Warhol, New York, 1970, p. 78, illustrated (as exhibited at Ferus Gallery, 1963) John Coplans, "Andy Warhol and Elvis Presley," Studio International, vol. 181, no. 930, February 1971, p. 50, illustrated (as exhibited at Ferus Gallery, 1963) Rainer Crone, Das Bildnerische Werk Andy Warhols, Berlin, 1976, cat. no. 150 David Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1989, pl. 141, p. 150, illustrated (as exhibited at Ferus Gallery) Klaus Theweleit, Buch der Könige: Recording Angels' Mysteries, Basel and Frankfurt, 1994, p. 357, illustrated Exh. Cat., Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie (and traveling), Andy Warhol: Retrospektive, 2001, p. 158, illustrated (as exhibited at Ferus Gallery, 1963) Georg Frei and Neil Printz, The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonne, Paintings and Sculptures 1961-1963, Vol. 01, New York, 2002, cat. no. 405, p. 366, illustrated in color, and p. 376, illustrated (as exhibited at Ferus Gallery, 1963) Steven Bluttal, ed., introduction by Dave Hickey, Andy Warhol: "Giant" Size, London and New York, 2006, p. 192, illustrated in the artist's studio and p. 198, illustrated (as exhibited at Ferus Gallery, 1963)

Catalogue Notes
Elvis was "the greatest cultural force in the Twentieth Century. He introduced the beat to everything, and he changed everything - music, language, clothes, it's a whole new social revolution." Leonard Bernstein in: Exh. Cat., Boston, The Institute of Contemporary Art and traveling, Elvis + Marilyn 2 x Immortal, 1994-97, p. 9.

Andy Warhol "quite simply changed how we all see the world around us." Kynaston McShine in: Exh. Cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art (and traveling), Andy Warhol: Retrospective, 1996, p. 13. In the summer of 1963 Elvis Presley was just twenty-eight years old but already a legend of his time. During the preceding seven years - since Heartbreak Hotel became the biggest-selling record of 1956 - he had recorded seventeen number one singles and seven number one albums; starred in eleven films, countless national TV appearances, tours and live performances; earned tens of millions of dollars; and was instantly recognized across the globe. The undisputed King of Rock and Roll, Elvis was the biggest star alive: a cultural phenomenon of mythic proportions apparently no longer confined to the man alone. As the eminent composer Leonard Bernstein put it, Elvis was "the greatest cultural force in the Twentieth Century. He introduced the beat to everything, and he changed everything - music, language, clothes, it's a whole new social revolution." (Exh. Cat., Boston, The Institute of Contemporary Art (and traveling), Elvis + Marilyn 2 x Immortal, 1994, p. 9). In the summer of 1963 Andy Warhol was thirty-four years old and transforming the parameters of visual culture in America. The focus of his signature silkscreen was leveled at subjects he brilliantly perceived as the most important concerns of day to day contemporary life. By appropriating the visual vernacular of consumer culture and multiplying readymade images gleaned from newspapers, magazines and advertising, he turned a mirror onto the contradictions behind quotidian existence. Above all else he was obsessed with themes of celebrity and death, executing intensely multifaceted and complex works in series that continue to resound with universal relevance. His unprecedented practice re-presented how society viewed itself, simultaneously reinforcing and radically undermining the collective psychology of popular culture. He epitomized the tide of change that swept through the 1960s and, as Kynaston McShine has concisely stated, "He quite simply changed how we all see the world around us." (Exh. Cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art (and traveling), Andy Warhol: Retrospective, 1996, p. 13).

Thus in the summer of 1963 there could not have been a more perfect alignment of artist and subject than Warhol and Elvis. Perhaps the most famous depiction of the biggest superstar by the original superstar artist, Double Elvis is a historic paradigm of Pop Art from a breath-taking moment in Art History. With devastating immediacy and efficiency, Warhol's canvas seduces our view with a stunning aesthetic and confronts our experience with a sophisticated array of thematic content. Not only is there all of Elvis, man and legend, but we are also presented with the specter of death, staring at us down the barrel of a gun; and the lone cowboy, confronting the great frontier and the American dream. The spray painted silver screen denotes the glamour and glory of cinema, the artificiality of fantasy, and the idea of a mirror that reveals our own reality back to us. At the same time, Warhol's replication of Elvis' image as a double stands as metaphor for the means and effects of mass-media and its inherent potential to manipulate and condition. These thematic strata function in simultaneous concert to deliver a work of phenomenal conceptual brilliance. The portrait of a man, the portrait of a country, and the portrait of a time, Double Elvis is an indisputable icon for our age. The source image was a publicity still for the movie Flaming Star, starring Presley as the character Pacer Burton and directed by Don Siegel in 1960. The film was originally intended as a vehicle for Marlon Brando and produced by David Weisbart, who had made James Dean's Rebel Without a Cause in 1955. It was the first of two Twentieth Century Fox productions Presley was contracted to by his manager Colonel Tom Parker, determined to make the singer a movie star. For the compulsive movie-fan Warhol, the sheer power of Elvis wielding a revolver as the reluctant gunslinger presented the zenith of subject matter: ultimate celebrity invested with the ultimate power to issue death. Warhol's Elvis is physically larger than life and wears the expression that catapulted him into a million hearts: inexplicably and all at once fearful and resolute; vulnerable and predatory; innocent and explicit. It is the look of David Halberstam's observation that "Elvis Presley was an American original, the rebel as mother's boy, alternately sweet and sullen, ready on demand to be either respectable or rebellious." (Exh. Cat., Boston, Op. Cit.). Indeed, amidst Warhol's art there is only one other subject whose character so ethereally defies categorization and who so acutely conflated total fame with the inevitability of mortality. In Warhol's work only Elvis and Marilyn harness a pictorial magnetism of mythic proportions. With Marilyn Monroe, whom Warhol depicted immediately after her premature death in August 1962, he discovered a memento mori to unite the obsessions driving his career: glamour, beauty, fame and death. As a star of the silver screen and definitive international sex symbol, Marilyn epitomized the unattainable essence of superstardom that Warhol craved. Just as there was no question in 1963, there remains still none today that the male equivalent to Marilyn is Elvis. However, despite his famous 1968 adage, "If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings" Warhol's fascination held purpose far beyond mere idolization. As Rainer Crone explained in 1970, Warhol was interested in movie stars above all else because they were "people who could justifiably be seen as the nearest thing to representatives of mass culture." (Rainer Crone, Andy Warhol, New York, 1970, p. 22). Warhol was singularly drawn to the idols of Elvis and Marilyn, as he was to Marlon Brando and Liz Taylor, because he implicitly understood the concurrence between the projection of their image and the projection of their brand. Some years after the present work he wrote, "In the early days of film, fans used to idolize a whole star - they would take one star and love everything about that star...So you should always have a product that's not just 'you.' An actress should count up her plays and movies and a model should count up her photographs and a writer should count up his words and an artist should count up his pictures so you always know exactly what you're worth, and you don't get stuck thinking your product is you and your fame, and your aura." (Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), San Diego, New York and London, 1977, p. 86).

The film stars of the late 1950s and early 1960s that most obsessed Warhol embodied tectonic shifts in wider cultural and societal values. In 1971 John Coplans argued that Warhol was transfixed by the subject of Elvis, and to a lesser degree by Marlon Brando and James Dean, because they were "authentically creative, and not merely products of Hollywood's fantasy or commercialism. All three had originative lives, and therefore are strong personalities; all three raised - at one level or another - important questions as to the quality of life in America and the nature of its freedoms. Implicit in their attitude is a condemnation of society and its ways; they project an image of the necessity for the individual to search for his own future, not passively, but aggressively, with commitment and passion." (John Coplans, "Andy Warhol and Elvis Presley," Studio International, vol. 181, no. 930, February 1971, pp. 51-52). However, while Warhol unquestionably adored these idols as transformative heralds, the suggestion that his paintings of Elvis are uncritical of a generated public image issued for mass consumption fails to appreciate the acuity of his specific re-presentation of the King. As with Marilyn, Liz and Marlon, Warhol instinctively understood the Elvis brand as an industrialized construct, designed for mass consumption like a Coca-Cola bottle or Campbell's Soup Can, and radically revealed it as a precisely composed non-reality. Of course Elvis offered Warhol the biggest brand of all, and he accentuates this by choosing a manifestly contrived version of Elvis-the-film-star, rather than the raw genius of Elvis as performing Rock n' Roll pioneer. A few months prior to the present work he had silkscreened Elvis' brooding visage in a small cycle of works based on a simple headshot, including Red Elvis, but the absence of context in these works minimizes the critical potency that is so present in Double Elvis. With Double Elvis we are confronted by a figure so familiar to us, yet playing a role relating to violence and death that is entirely at odds with the associations entrenched with the singer's renowned love songs. Although we may think this version of Elvis makes sense, it is the overwhelming power of the totemic cipher of the Elvis legend that means we might not even question why he is pointing a gun rather than a guitar. Thus Warhol interrogates the limits of the popular visual vernacular, posing vital questions of collective perception and cognition in contemporary society. The notion that this self-determinedly iconic painting shows an artificial paradigm is compounded by Warhol's enlistment of a reflective metallic surface, a treatment he reserved for his most important portraits of Elvis, Marilyn, Marlon and Liz. Here the synthetic chemical silver paint becomes allegory for the manufacture of the Elvis product, and directly anticipates the artist's 1968 statement: "Everything is sort of artificial. I don't know where the artificial stops and the real starts. The artificial fascinates me, the bright and shiny..." (Artist quoted in Exh. Cat., Stockholm, Moderna Museet and traveling, Andy Warhol, 1968, n.p.). At the same time, the shiny silver paint of Double Elvis unquestionably denotes the glamour of the silver screen and the attractive fantasies of cinema. At exactly this time in the summer of 1963 Warhol bought his first movie camera and produced his first films such as Sleep, Kiss and Tarzan and Jane Regained. Although the absence of plot or narrative convention in these movies was a purposely anti-Hollywood gesture, the unattainability of classic movie stardom still held profound allure and resonance for Warhol. He remained a celebrity and film fanatic, and it was exactly this addiction that so qualifies his sensational critique of the industry machinations behind the stars he adored. Double Elvis was executed less than eighteen months after he had created 32 Campbell's Soup Cans for his immortal show at the Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles in July and August 1962, and which is famously housed in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In the intervening period he had produced the series Dollar Bills, Coca-Cola Bottles, Suicides, Disasters, and Silver Electric Chairs, all in addition to the portrait cycles of Marilyn and Liz. This explosive outpouring of astonishing artistic invention stands as definitive testament to Warhol's aptitude to seize the most potent images of his time. He recognized that not only the product itself, but also the means of consumption - in this case society's abandoned deification of Elvis - was symptomatic of a new mode of existence. As Heiner Bastian has precisely summated: "the aura of utterly affirmative idolization already stands as a stereotype of a 'consumer-goods style' expression of an American way of life and of the mass-media culture of a nation." (Exh. Cat., Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie (and traveling), Andy Warhol: Retrospective, 2001, p. 28). For Warhol, the act of image replication and multiplication anaesthetized the effect of the subject, and while he had undermined the potency of wealth in 200 One Dollar Bills, and cheated the terror of death by electric chair in Silver Disaster # 6, the proliferation of Elvis here emasculates a prefabricated version of character authenticity. Here the cinematic quality of variety within unity is apparent in the degrees to which Presley's arm and gun become less visible to the left of the canvas. The sense of movement is further enhanced by a sense of receding depth as the viewer is presented with the ghost like repetition of the figure in the left of the canvas, a 'jump effect' in the screening process that would be replicated in the multiple Elvis paintings. The seriality of the image heightens the sense of a moving image, displayed for us like the unwinding of a reel of film. Double Elvis was central to Warhol's legendary solo exhibition organized by Irving Blum at the Ferus Gallery in the Fall of 1963 - the show having been conceived around the Elvis paintings since at least May of that year. A well-known installation photograph shows the present work prominently presented among the constant reel of canvases, designed to fill the space as a filmic diorama. While the Elvis canvases immersed the front half of the gallery, the back was used to show the cycle of Silver Liz paintings. Of the twenty two extant 'Ferus Type' Elvis works, nine are in museum collections, while others have been designated as being in highly distinguished collections. The present painting has been in the same important collection for more than thirty years and in 1992 was included in the exhibition Masterworks from Fort Worth Collections.

Although Blum had originally written to Warhol suggesting that this exhibition might be a survey of past work, Warhol insisted on presenting a complete cycle of brand new work, just as he had with the 32 Campbell's Soup Cans the previous year. Blum has recounted how the works arrived at the gallery rolled and untrimmed, and Warhol told him "the only thing I really want is that they should be hung edge to edge, densely - around the gallery." (Georg Frei and Neil Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, Paintings and Sculptures 1961-1963, Volume 01, New York, 2002, p. 355). Accordingly the paintings encircled the gallery like the flickering images of an early moviola, creating the effect of still photographs in motion, not unlike the groundbreaking Victorian stop-motion photography of Eadweard Muybridge. Double Elvis is the culmination of Warhol's unprecedented creative journey to this point of his career; both summation of what had come before and anticipatory touchstone for the artistic landmarks that would follow. Its sublime aesthetic character attests the technical mastery of the silk-screening technique that he had achieved by this time. The screening process was ideally suited to Warhol's aim to distance himself from the painterly process: the regimented dots of the screen here are crisply registered on the flat silver picture plane, divesting the work of an artistic hand or authorial voice. The movie star countenance is reduced to a prefabricated schema of dots, and by faithfully reproducing the alien aesthetic of a found image Warhol recruits the technical process to query issues of authorship and authenticity. Moreover, and unlike the preceding Silver Electric Chairs that carry clear shadows of brushstrokes, the silver paint here has also been applied by spray can so that it is solid and opaque, eradicating the remnants of authorship and moving closer to Warhol's impersonal mechanical ideal. Andy Warhol celebrated and critiqued the power of the icon like no other artist of the Twentieth Century. Double Elvis celebrates a subject that permeated mass-consumer consciousness like no other and, as such, is a principal icon of Warhol's art. Elvis was the subject of almost religious fervor for his worshipping fans, and Double Elvis appears like the deification of a contemporary warrior-saint, the towering, preeminent idol bearing a deadly weapon as if protecting the mythical world of celebrity itself. Furthermore, whether knowingly intended or not, Warhol's silver ground here inevitably invites comparison with the Byzantine Catholic art that was quietly such a strong presence in the artist's life, just as surely as does Gold Marilyn Monroe, housed in the Museum of Modern Art since 1962. Warhol certainly understood that the proliferation of mass communication meant that contemporary America was finding new targets for fervent deification and worship. Even fifty years after its creation; thirty-five years after the death of its subject; and twenty-five years after the death of its creator, Double Elvis harnesses an urgent power that still defines the foundations of western popular culture: the birth of cool, Rock n' Roll and unashamed sex appeal. Writing less than a decade after the creation of this painting, John Coplans deftly identified the cause behind the enduring appeal of this image: "the most insistent question posed by the Elvis series concerns the nature of their specifically charged content, and the viewing of Warhol's imagery not as signs, but as icons dealing with a larger content of culture in America. To a large group of Americans Presley has long been a folk hero, yet his musical impact has overshadowed his sociological significance. Presley's importance is not simply as a popular entertainer but as a bearer of new verities." (John Coplans, "Andy Warhol and Elvis Presley," Studio International, vol. 181, no. 930, February 1971, p. 50). Both Elvis and Warhol defied convention and were true innovators of their time, and Double Elvis is a major milestone in the journey to superstardom that Warhol would finally achieve.






Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
'Cagney'
Signed and Dated 64 on the Reverse
Unique Silkscreen Print on Paper
30 x 40 in. 76.2 x 101.6 cm.
Executed in 1964
Estimate: $4.5 - 6.5 million
Sotheby's New York, November 13th 2012, Lot 33, Contemporary Art Evening Auction




Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
'Cagney' Detail
Signed and Dated 64 on the Reverse
Unique Silkscreen Print on Paper
30 x 40 in. 76.2 x 101.6 cm.
Executed in 1964
Estimate: $4.5 - 6.5 million
Sotheby's New York, November 13th 2012, Lot 33, Contemporary Art Evening Auction


Provenance
Sylvio Perlstein, Antwerp
Christophe Van de Weghe Fine Art, New York (acquired from the above in 2000)
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Exhibited
New York, The American Federation of the Arts, Nostalgia and the Contemporary American Artist, October 1968 - October 1969, cat. no. 35 Antwerp, Galerie Ronny Van de Velde, Andy Warhol Prints, September - November 1988 New York, Christophe Van de Weghe Fine Art, Andy Warhol: Works on paper from the early '60s, November - December 2000, cat. no. 12, n.p., illustrated in color Monaco, Grimaldi Forum, SuperWarhol, July - August 2003, cat. no. 43, p. 74, illustrated in color Jerusalem, The Israel Museum, temporary loan, September 2005 - May 2006 Columbus, Wexner Center for the Arts, Andy Warhol Other Voices, Other Rooms, September 2008 - February 2009

Literature
Frayda Feldman and Jörg Schellmann, Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1987, 4th Edition revised and expanded by Frayda Feldman and Claudia Defendi, New York, 2003, p. 46, cat. no. 1.1

Catalogue Notes

In the early 1960s, when Andy Warhol first developed what was to later become his legendary silkscreen process, images of pop culture’s most adored, gossiped about and famed celebrities dominated his subject matter. While Hollywood’s sirens—Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, most notably—were represented in these first works by reproduced, serially printed publicity shots, the men were contrastingly depicted both in character and in action. The present work, Cagney (1962/4), for example, is a fantastic unique work on paper, which depicts an intense James Cagney in Angels with Dirty Faces (1938).

Dramatically cornered, Cagney’s character, the ruthless mobster Rocky Sullivan, is confronted by the ominous shadow of his adversary’s machine gun. Cagney, too, is armed, and the incensed, hostile look upon his face typifies cinema’s cold-blooded gangster. Here, themes of acting, fame and viewership not only collectively define the work, but also boldly highlight America’s fascination with powerful and daring leading men. Accordingly, Cagney anticipates other early silkscreen paintings by Warhol, such as Silver Marlon (1963) and Double Marlon (1966), which depict Marlon Brando as a leather-clad biker in The Wild One (1953). Likewise, the present work is preemptive of Triple Elvis (1962) and Single Elvis (1963), wherein an image of the gun-toting Elvis Presley from Flaming Star (1960) is both multiplied and aggrandized. In the case of the Elvis cycle specifically, the prominence of the cowboy’s pistol forces the viewer to stare down the barrel of the gun, immediately recalling the impending doom of Cagney’s predicament. As the subjects of each respective work grip their weapons, their raw, animalistic facial expressions allude to the danger they both face and project. Their challengers, meanwhile, remain outside the picture in both instances, thus impelling the viewer to piece together the narrative, either from prior knowledge of the films or via his or her own imagination.

Regarding the present work, Cagney’s storyline is further disguised by the white bands that overlap the firearms and blur additional details, almost as if the emulsion of the film has run or dried erratically. Warhol’s silk-screening process had the wonderful quality of producing these variant results not only within a single work, but also across multiple prints of the same image. Such discrepancies were an innate result of the procedure: the irregular quantity of ink that seeped through the screen and onto the paper during any one impression was, for Warhol, both a guarantee of the print’s originality, as well as an aesthetically rich effect. In this way, Cagney is unquestionably one of a kind; its singular dispersion of ink - dark and heavy in the actor’s shadow at right, while light and imperfect in the opposition’s shadow at left - is indeed why Warhol considered this work unique.

Warhol’s initial experimentation with the silkscreen process upon paper was not limited to scenes from Cagney’s rough and tough film. Most relevantly, The Kiss (Bela Lugosi) from 1963, shares the cinematic sourcing of the present work as it features the famous interpreter of Bram Stoker’s vampire and Helen Chandler in a dangerous, sultry scene from Dracula (1931). Of both works, curator Wendy Weitman remarks, “These are among Warhol’s earliest printed efforts, printed by the artist himself in the black-and-white monotone of their film sources. They reveal his initial painterly approach to the medium, evidenced by the white streaks that run through the images. The frozen, cinematic effect of these works is enhanced by these dynamic marks which, although made by the action of the printing squeegee, suggest the scratchiness of rough-cut film.” (Exh. Cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, Pop Impressions- Europe/USA: Prints and Multiples from the Museum of Modern Art, 1999, p.41)

To similar effect, Warhol also created a Cagney painting, most likely using the same screen as that of the unique paper works. Whereas the latter pieces feature a single image, the former consists of five screens vertically positioned one on top of the other. The canvas painting, too, differs from the present Cagney in that the entirety of the enemy’s body is pictured. This imposing figure appears completely shadowed and hunched over his gun, dwarfing Cagney in the far right of the painting. In comparing these Cagney works, Weitman notes, “…Warhol dramatically cropped the still for this work on paper, creating a tighter close up around Cagney and highlighting his disturbing, angry expression. This smaller image is far more mysterious and menacing, as the threatening, floating rifle juts in from the left edge.” (Ibid.)

Consequent of this hands-on approach also, the Cagney work on paper is markedly differentiated from Warhol’s later, more mechanical and commercial prints. In this example, the artist’s personal admiration for the stardom achieved by both Cagney and notorious outlaws in general is evident. No doubt, the clipped image is intentionally detailed and intimate, so as to reveal the thug’s vulnerability; as the main focal point of the piece, Cagney becomes noticeably humanized. Here, Cagney is certainly more than just a wanted man - he is genuinely romanticized, pitied and envied all at once.




Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
'Birth of Venus (After Botticelli)'
Signed and Dated 84 on the Overlap
Arcylic and Silkscreen Ink on Canvas
48 x 72 in. 121.9 x 182.9 cm.
Executed in 1984
Estimate: $1 - 1.5 million
Sotheby's New York, November 14th 2012, Lot 176, Contemporary Art Day Auction



Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
'Birth of Venus (After Botticelli)' Detail
Signed and Dated 84 on the Overlap
Arcylic and Silkscreen Ink on Canvas
48 x 72 in. 121.9 x 182.9 cm.
Executed in 1984
Estimate: $1 - 1.5 million
Sotheby's New York, November 14th 2012, Lot 176, Contemporary Art Day Auction


Provenance
The Joshua Gessel Collection, Tel Aviv
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Catalogue Notes

In 1984, Andy Warhol turned his focus away from his ubiquitous silkscreens of brand name objects and society portraits and instead turned toward the History of Art itself. He embarked on the series Details of Renaissance Paintings, depicting cropped images of renowned and universally recognized Old Master paintings from the 15th century. The present work by Warhol, Birth of Venus (After Botticelli) (1984), appropriates the titular painting by the Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli and reimagines it as a bright and cartoonish Pop painting. In other works of this series, Warhol borrowed imagery from Leonardo’s The Annunciation (1472-1475) and Paolo Uccello’s St. George and the Dragon (c. 1470). By cropping and distorting the original scale and color palette, Warhol transformed these familiar Renaissance paintings from the canon of Art History into kitschy, fetishized spin-offs. Just as Warhol's silkscreened works from the 1960s radically exalted – yet simultaneously mocked – the commodification of American consumer brands and products, his works from Details of Renaissance Paintings point to the similar way in which we consume artistic masterpieces.

The source image for the present work, Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus (1486), is an ethereal, monumental painting in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence that was once owned by the prominent Medici family, who embodied art patronage during the Italian Renaissance. In this quintessential and universally recognized Renaissance painting, Botticelli returned to classical mythology, experiencing a powerful revival during the intellectual Humanism movement that took hold during the 15th century. Botticelli’s life-sized Venus – or Aphrodite in the Greek tradition – emerges nude from the sea out of a shell, surrounded by gods and goddesses, presenting herself as the ultimate symbol of classical beauty. In antiquity, this scene of Venus appearing, or perhaps being born out of the sea, was known as “Venus Anadyomene,” or “Venus rising from the sea,” and came to symbolize female beauty, virginity, eroticism, and purity. Today, Botticelli’s masterpiece is firmly embedded in art historical canon, as a constant inspiration to future generations of artists and, subsequently, as a cultural icon constantly reproduced on coffee mugs, t-shirts, posters and more.

Centuries later, artists continued to adapt and reimagine Botticelli’s masterpiece. French painters of the belle époque, William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Alexandre Cabanel presented their versions of the Birth of Venus to the Paris Salon. This scene in particular embodied the male voyeuristic gaze, objectifying the female body, and served as one of the foremost inspirations for modernist critique of the male-centric perspective in creating and viewing art. Édouard Manet’s shocking and vulgar Olympia (1890) reinterpreted the feminine ideal of beauty as depicted in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and morphed the central figure from a goddess into a low-class prostitute. Two decades later, The Birth of Venus served as muse for another modern master: Pablo Picasso. In his proto-Cubist magnum opus, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), Picasso appropriated and deconstructed Botticelli’s goddess in his center figure, who brazenly displays her nude body as a crude, fragmented form. Both Picasso and Manet subvert the original intent and traditional interpretation of Botticelli’s alluring figure by rendering the object of the viewer’s gaze as vile, repulsive, or threatening.

From the outset of Andy Warhol’s career, he chose the most universal images of popular culture to replicate in his silkscreened canvases. In a 1987 interview with Flash Magazine, Warhol aptly stated, “I’m still a commercial artist. I was always a commercial artist.” Indeed, throughout the length of his career spanning three decades, Warhol continuously depicted commercially recognizable subjects – from the quotidian to the exalted – from Campbell’s soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles to Marilyns and Jackies, from car crashes and shoes to Queen Elizabeths and Chairman Maos. What was so revolutionary about Warhol’s oeuvre was the shocking familiarity of his imagery; the appropriation and objectification of his subjects emulated the Duchampian notion of fetishizing the banal and bringing it into the realm of Fine Art. In 1919, Marcel Duchamp took a found object, a postcard of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, drew a moustache on her face and scrawled the letters “L.H.O.O.Q.” beneath the image. When spoken in French, these letters sound like “Elle a chaud au cul” or, in English, “She has a hot ass.” This sly maneuver not only degrades the traditionally exalted art historical figure and her creator, but also introduces the overt practice of appropriating artistic masterpieces as ready-mades. In Duchamp’s wake, Warhol too viewed pop culturally resonant icons, figures and paintings, such as The Birth of Venus, as ready-mades at his disposal, free for manipulating and translating in his signature style. In Details of Renaissance Paintings and in the series of works inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (c. 1503-1519) and Last Supper (1498), Warhol confronted the ubiquitous images of Art History by intentionally stripping the works of their original artistic intent in favor of their value as a pop cultural symbols. There is certainly an odd irony in appropriating Botticelli’s – or any Old Master’s – laborious, detailed and painstaking painting process into a silkscreen, a mechanical process for mass production that essentially removes the hand of the artist. Subsequently, Warhol transforms this work into an easily reproducible commodity, subverting not only Botticelli’s intention, but the very principles of the art historical tradition.

In the present work, the classical symbol of beauty is transmuted in eccentric colors - an eye-catching array of punchy hues. On a background of bright, mint green, Venus’s peach skin radiates, surrounded by a halo of violet curls and outlined in gradations of neon yellow, orange and red. Warhol crops Botticelli’s monumental, mythical scene down to Venus’s face and enlarges it to 48 inches high by 72 inches wide, essentially elevating the image to that of a religious icon in much the same aesthetic manner as Warhol’s early depictions of Marilyn Monroe. The 1964 silkscreen Turquoise Marilyn is almost visually analogous to this Birth of Venus (After Botticelli) from twenty years later. The vibrant green background and unnaturally dramatic and bold facial colors of the present work makes clear reference to his early canvases of the similarly recognizable Marilyn. As Art Historian and Warhol scholar Germano Celant posits, “The history of art is itself another concrete mirage, with its stars and superstars of every age, and Warhol absorbed this too into the magma of his imagination. Alluding to the masters of the Renaissance to Piero della Francesca and Raphael, as well as to Munch and De Chirico, he turned them into dead flowers, so that the absolute subjectivity of art became once again a problem of media communication: a reproduction, cut and edited, with unnatural, technological colors.” (Germano Celant, Super Warhol, p. 10)