Two Coke Bottles

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  • Provenance

    Todd Brassner, New York
    Jules Brassner, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    West Palm Beach, Norton Gallery & School of Art, 1997 (on extended loan)

  • Video

    Andy Warhol, 'Two Coke Bottles', Lot 4

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 16 May 2019

  • Catalogue Essay

    “You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too." –Andy Warhol

    In the intimately-scaled Two Coke Bottles, 1962, Andy Warhol inducts America’s most ubiquitous soft drink into his celestial hall of Pop Art fame. Delineating the iconic curves of the familiar glass bottle with the cool objective clarity of his at the time newly-conceived silkscreen technique, Warhol aligns the pervasive symbolism of the Coca-Cola brand with the cast of legendary celebrities he was immortalizing at the time including Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. Through Warhol’s leveling eye, the quotidian objects of daily life become icons that capture the very essence of contemporary society. Painted amongst Warhol’s earliest silkscreen paintings in the pivotal year of 1962, Two Coke Bottles evinces a defining moment when the artist irrevocably eliminated the schism between popular culture and high art.

    Two Coke Bottles witnesses not only the birth of a revolutionary stylistic idiom but also the birth of Pop Art itself. It is likely that Warhol created fewer than ten green Coca-Cola bottle canvases with compositions ranging from single vessels to vast multiplied vistas, such as the monumental Green Coca-Cola Bottles, 1962, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, therefore making these works particularly rare. Conceived from three different silkscreens which depicted the bottle from three different perspectives, the present work utilizes a profile and three-quarter view. Together, the bottles’ combined, exact alignment means that the iconic Coca-Cola logo can be read across the two vessels. Variations in the thickness of the lines and application of pigment indicate that this work may have been manually painted in certain areas as well. Forming a perfect dual portrait of the motif, there is only one other Two Coke Bottles canvas from the series known to exist.

    The present work was initially gifted by Warhol to Todd Brassner, a New York collector who amassed some of Warhol’s finest works before dying tragically in a fire last year. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Brassner served as both a friend and a dealer to Warhol, credited with selling some of his most iconic pieces. There are two other known 1962 paintings of single Coca-Cola bottles rendered in brown and black ink previously owned by Brassner, both made in the same intimate scale of the present work. After being passed from Todd to his father Jules, also an art dealer, Two Coke Bottles went on to reside in the prestigious Miles and Shirley Fiterman Collection where it has remained ever since.

    Accompanying the U.S. Army throughout World War II as a “little piece of home”, Coca-Cola symbolized America as the land of plenty and as the new leader on the world’s economic stage. Warhol’s Coca-Cola paintings presented this radical new codification of the zeitgeist without apparent critique. Claiming a newfound objectivity in the mechanical gloss of the silkscreen technique, Warhol explained in 1966, "I feel I represent the U.S. in my art…but I'm not a social critic. I just paint those things in my paintings because those are the things I know best" (Andy Warhol, quoted in Kenneth Goldsmith, I'll be Your Mirror, The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews, New York, 2004, p. 88).

    Buoyed by the post-war economic boom, the exponential increase in consumer product manufacturing bore an unprecedented influence on the collective American psyche. The vast proliferation of advertising in television, film and print media, meant that brands and logos became the familiar signposts with which individuals navigated a shared visual culture. The definitive Pop Art pioneers, namely Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, interrogated this new sensibility from its very epicenter: New York. While in 1961 Claes Oldenburg artfully satirized consumerism in his immersive installation The Store in the East Village, Warhol looked uptown towards the advertising firms of Madison Avenue for much of his inspiration. In this same year, he began drawing and painting Coca-Cola bottles, inaugurating a longstanding preoccupation with trademarked items and their distinct aesthetics – from Campbell's Soup to Brillo, Kellogg's, Heinz and General Electric.

    It is notable that Warhol chose to depict the classic pinched waist design of the glass bottle, first created in 1915 by Raymond Lowey Associates. The introduction of soda cans in 1956 meant that the bottle already held some nostalgic appeal when Warhol first painted it in 1961. This was the same year that Coca-Cola bottles for the first time carried a new trademark from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office - thus legally securing their unique iconic status. Free of superfluous detail, in Two Coke Bottles affixes our focus to the contour lines which demarcate the bottles sensuous form and the iconicity of swirling font.

    One of the most enduring Pop icons for over a century, the Coca-Cola bottles, with their form and typeface, were the perfect readymade for Warhol’s pop sensibility. The artist admitted that when he first engaged with the Coke bottle subject he “still wasn't sure if you could completely remove all the hand gesture from art and become noncommittal, anonymous.” In spite of this, he fervently pushed “to take away the commentary of the gestures” en route to his end goal: “The works I was most satisfied with were the cold, 'no comment' paintings" (Andy Warhol, quoted in Pat Hackett, POPism: The Warhol Sixties, New York, 1980, pp. 6-8). With most paintings depicting Coke bottles housed in important collections, this is a rare opportunity to acquire one of the most exquisite examples of the artist’s and America's most beloved subjects.

  • Artist Bio

    Andy Warhol

    American • 1928 - 1987

    Andy Warhol was the leading exponent of the Pop Art movement in the U.S. in the 1960s. Following an early career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol achieved fame with his revolutionary series of silkscreened prints and paintings of familiar objects, such as Campbell's soup tins, and celebrities, such as Marilyn Monroe. Obsessed with popular culture, celebrity and advertising, Warhol created his slick, seemingly mass-produced images of everyday subject matter from his famed Factory studio in New York City. His use of mechanical methods of reproduction, notably the commercial technique of silk screening, wholly revolutionized art-making.

    Working as an artist, but also director and producer, Warhol produced a number of avant-garde films in addition to managing the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground and founding Interview magazine. A central figure in the New York art scene until his untimely death in 1987, Warhol was notably also a mentor to such artists as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

     

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Ο4

Property from the Miles and Shirley Fiterman Collection

Two Coke Bottles

signed, dedicated and dated "to Todd with love / Andy Warhol 62" on the overlap
silkscreen ink on canvas
13 x 9 in. (33 x 22.9 cm.)
Executed in 1962.

Estimate
$1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

sold for $1,580,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 16 May | On View at 432 and 450 Park Avenue