9 Flowers

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  • Provenance

    (i), (ii), (iv), (v), (viii), (ix) Billy Name-Linich, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

    (vi) Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

    (vii) Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
    Kornblee Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Literature

    Georg Frei and Neil Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, vol. 2B, New York, 2004, nos. 1678-1686, pp. 106, 123 (illustrated, p. 107; dated early 1965)

  • Video

    Andy Warhol, '9 Flowers', Lot 9

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

  • Catalogue Essay

    “But now it’s going to be flowers—they’re the fashion this year…They’re terrific!” –Andy Warhol

    Andy Warhol’s iconic Flowers represent the culmination of his revolutionary contribution to the canon of painting in the early 1960s. The series, which was first unveiled at Leo Castelli Gallery, New York in 1964, would become his last major series before embarking on a hiatus from painting that would last until the early 1970s. The composite format presented here in 9 Flowers reflects Warhol’s aesthetic choice to hang these canvases edge to edge at the Castelli show. Acquired individually, and later assembled as a multi-part work, the grid presentation of the 8-inch square canvases in 9 Flowers reflects the Fitermans’ nuanced understanding of Warhol’s idiosyncratic predilection for serial repetition, as well as of the aesthetics of mass production that underpin Pop Art’s potency. As the first nine-canvas configuration to come to auction in almost 30 years, 9 Flowers presents a rare opportunity to acquire a preeminent example of Warhol’s definitive motif, arranged in a manner so true to its original context.

    1964 was a crucial year for Warhol: after a succession of sell-out shows that culminated in the Brillo Box exhibition at Stable Gallery, pioneering gallerist Leo Castelli added Warhol to his historic roster of groundbreaking artists. Uniquely skilled in self-marketing, Warhol featured in spectacular exhibitions on single themes: 32 Campbell's Soup Cans debuted in July 1962, the Elvis paintings in the autumn of 1963, followed by the Death and Disaster show in January 1964. For his inaugural Castelli show, Warhol eschewed images of celebrity and consumerism in favor of an icon that was timeless rather than timely. The curator Henry Geldzahler recalls how he serendipitously introduced the source material: “…it was all Marilyn and disasters and death. I said, ‘Andy, maybe it’s enough death now.’ He said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘Well, how about this?’ I opened a magazine to four flowers” (Henry Geldzahler, quoted in Tony Sherman and David Dalton, POP: The Genius of Andy Warhol, New York, 2009, p. 235).

    1964 also marked the opening of Warhol’s first factory on 231 East 47th Street. It was there that he asked Billy Name-Linich to decorate the space with mirrors, aluminum paint and foil, or “silver”. Listed as the probable recipient of six of the panels in 9 Flowers, Billy was a key figure in Warhol’s inner circle throughout the 1960s. The two met in 1959 when Billy was working as a waiter at the chic Serendipity 3 to support his job as a theater lighting designer, but soon he was acting as Warhol’s “principal architect and decorator, his secretary, his archivist, his studio manager, security man, night watchman and bouncer, his casting director, his handyman, his photographer, his electrician, his magician. Billy was the one Andy counted on” (Glenn O’Brien, “Magic with mirrors: Billy Name’s window into the world of Andy Warhol”, The Guardian, November 8, 2014, online). Recognized as a photographer in his own right, Billy recalls the fortuitous moment in the Factory when Andy suggested, “Here, Billy, you do the stills photography” (Billy Name-Linich, quoted in Sean O’Hagen, “Interview with photographer Billy Name”, The Guardian, September 27, 2015, online). Billy’s images from this time stand as a critical record of what has now become a legendary moment in American art history.

    In keeping with his “jack of all trades” role at the gallery, it is unsurprising that Billy had a hand in the making of Warhol’s Flowers at the Factory. Appropriating a photograph of seven hibiscus flowers originating from the June 1964 edition of Modern Photography, an image that Michael Lobel observed was, “ripe for Warholian plucking”, Warhol cropped three incomplete flowers from the left edge of the picture, cut out the upper right flower, and rotated it 180 degrees to balance the square composition (Michael Lobel, Andy Warhol Flowers, exh. cat., Eykyn Maclean, New York, 2012, n.p.). The artist recalled his preference for this malleable format: "I like painting on a square because you don't have to decide whether it should be longer-longer or shorter-shorter or longer-shorter: it's just a square" (Andy Warhol, quoted in David Bourdon, Andy Warhol, New York, 1989, p. 191). With the help of his studio assistants, such as Billy, he would then repeatedly run the image through a photostat machine to eliminate three-dimensional details. Finally, he polarized the tonal range and sharpened the background before making the silkscreen. Despite the immensity of the Flowers series, Warhol made only 18 fluorescent pink flower paintings on a white background in the 8-inch format – two of which are present in this masterwork from the Fiterman Collection. The day-glow colors are immediately compressed by the distilled silkscreen image, where an unusual aerial viewpoint condenses space and naturalistic depth.

    Warhol, having pioneered mechanical reproduction with his fine art practice by 1962, finally had the studio space to incorporate a sense of mass production after opening his legendary "Factory" in 1963. Here he organized assistants in an assembly-line fashion, producing a high volume of Flowers ahead of two major block consignments to Leo Castelli Gallery in New York and Sonnabend Gallery in Paris. Indeed, two of these nine canvases executed in the intimately scaled 8-inch format originate from the 1964 consignment to Leo Castelli Gallery in May. When Warhol exhibited his first Flowers at the gallery, he also exhibited in the back room 42 silkscreen paintings depicting Jackie Kennedy Onassis in mourning after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy, which had taken place the year before, placing these works in a greater legacy of memento mori.

    Warhol employs the symbolic weight of the hibiscus to represent the fleeting quality of beauty and the transience of life – themes that underpinned the Vanitas tradition of 17th century Netherlandish art. At the same time, 9 Flowers also sits in dialogue with the wider tradition of still life painting. Even contemporary critics were quick to note how the flowers appeared "like cut-out gouaches by Matisse set adrift on Monet's lily pond” (David Bourdon, "Andy Warhol", Village Voice, December 3, 1964, p. 11). With an astute knowledge of the canon, and an enduring effort to situate his Pop aesthetic within it, Warhol tactfully acknowledges the flower as an enduring motif in the history of painting. As Gerard Malanga, who also assisted in the production of the Flowers series recalls: “In a funny way, he was kind of repeating the history of art. It was like now we’re doing my Flower period! Like Monet’s Waterlilies, Van Gogh’s Flowers" (Gerard Malanga, quoted in David Dalton and David McCabe, A Year in the Life of Andy Warhol, New York, 2003, p. 74).

    In 9 Flowers, like in the retouched photographs behind his iconic portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, Warhol employed commercial photo editing techniques to foreground the mediation of images as a point of philosophical consideration. As triumphant as Warhol’s flowers appear, they also represent a passing vitality and the insurmountable fragility of life.

  • 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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Ο9

Property from the Miles and Shirley Fiterman Collection

9 Flowers

(i) signed, inscribed and dated "BILLY ANDY WARHOL 64 a.w. 64" on the overlap
(ii) signed, inscribed and dated "BILLY Andy Warhol 64" on the overlap
(iii) signed with the artist's initials and dated "A.W. 64" on the overlap; further numbered "P06462" on the stretcher
(iv) signed, inscribed and dated "Andy Warhol 64 BILLY" on the overlap
(v) signed, inscribed and dated "BILLY A. Warhol A.W. 64" on the overlap
(vi) signed and dated "ANDY WARHOL 64" on the overlap; further numbered "P06472" on the stretcher
(vii) signed with the artist's initials and dated "a.w. 64" on the overlap; further numbered "P06471" on the stretcher
(viii) signed, inscribed and dated "Andy Warhol 64 BILLY" on the overlap
(ix) signed, inscribed and dated "Andy Warhol 64 BILLY" on the overlap

silkscreen ink on canvas
each 8 x 8 in. (20.3 x 20.3 cm.)
overall 24 1/2 x 24 3/8 in. (62.2 x 61.9 cm.)

Executed in 1964.

Estimate
$2,500,000 - 3,500,000 

sold for $2,600,000

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