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  • Provenance

    Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York
    Timothy Taylor Gallery, London

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I'm doing knives and guns. Just making abstract shapes out of them.” ANDY WARHOL

    Andy Warhol’s Gun is from the artist’s series of Guns and Knives paintings from the early 1980s. It revisits many of the themes that preoccupied him and throughout his life he was obsessed with the idea of death and was said to have a constant fear of dying. His early work of the 1960s was driven and influenced by this unhealthy obsession, resulting in his use of violent imagery. Subject matter included traffic accidents, electric chairs, suicide, civil unrest and nuclear explosions. This imagery, alongside his celebrity portraits, dominated his oeuvre up to the attempt on his life in 1968. On 3 June 1968, Valerie Solanas, a member of the Factory and occasional actress in Warhol’s films, shot at both Warhol and art curator Mario Amaya. Warhol gave an account of this nearly fatal.incident: “…as I was putting the phone down, I heard a loud exploding noise and whirled around: I saw Valerie pointing a gun at me and I realized she’d just fired it. I said ‘No! No, Valerie! Don’t do it!’ and she shot at me again.” (quoted in A. Warhol and P. Hackett, POPism: The Warhol Sixties, Orlando, 1980, p. 343).

    Warhol never entirely recovered from the assassination attempt. His output of the 1970s shied away from his previous programme of violent imagery and focused on celebrity and non celebrity portraiture. It was not until his Guns and Knives paintings of the early 1980s, more than a decade after the shooting, that he felt comfortable revisiting themes that had left such physical and mental scares and felt able to meet his demons head-on. This act is exemplified by the present work, Gun.

    Gun is a double image silkscreen of a .22 calibre handgun, the same style of deadly revolver that nearly ended Warhol’s life. The subject matter and sharp execution of the silkscreen encapsulate the glamorous glorification of firearms seen in cinema of the 1940s and 1950s. Hollywood closely associated some of its biggest stars with crime, violence and the pistol, making the gun a glitzy piece of masculine jewellery. Gun appears to engage in the entire visual language of weaponry, as a status symbol and as a tool with which to beget violence. Interestingly, Warhol chooses to paint the object without a human presence, thereby rendering the revolver an apparently harmless graphic object. Although Warhol undoubtedly had a degree of aesthetic appreciation for the weapon, he was at pains to distance himself from the perceived glamour of violence encouraged by Hollywood: “Some people, even intelligent people, say that violence can be beautiful. I can’t understand that, because beautiful is some moment, and for me those moments are never violent” (the artist, quoted in K. Honnef, Andy Warhol 1928–1987: Commerce into Art, Cologne, 2000, p. 58).

    Gun, as well as subjectively addressing Warhol’s turbulent past, also acts as a social commentary of the 1980s in New York. The high gun crime and associated homicide rates define that era. Warhol, when finding source images for this series made phone calls to friends who might know somebody with a gun. People would then bring various weapons into the Factory and Warhol would proceed to take Polaroids of them. Gun is a stunning example from the Guns and Knives paintings and has a timeless quality that is as vivid to us today as when it was made.

  • 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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synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas
40.7 × 50.8 cm (16 × 20 in)
Stamped by the Estate of Andy Warhol and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. and numbered PA15.051 on the overlap.

£600,000 - 800,000 

sold for £802,850

Contemporary Art Evening

28 June 2012