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  • The Rise of Pop

     

    As one of the most significant artists of his – or any – age, Andy Warhol's perception of the world reinvented the concept of artistic expression, profoundly impacting the course of art history through bridging the gap between high art and popular culture. Born in 1928 as Andy Warhola, Warhol ditched the 'a' in 1949 when he moved from his hometown of Pennsylvania to New York to embark on a career as a commercial illustrator. He discovered a city where Abstract Expressionism dominated the art scene, championed by artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, who worked in a spontaneous manner often characterised by gestural mark-making.

     

    Though the term 'Pop' was first coined in 1954 by the British art critic Lawrence Alloway to describe a new type of art that was emerging in the United Kingdom at that time, it was in the United States where Pop exploded into momentous success in the 1960s, spearheaded by Warhol as a leading figure. Whilst Abstract Expressionism was non-representational, evoking a response from the viewer through abstract form and colour, Pop Art's subjects were firmly rooted in the real world as everyday objects of consumer culture. Solidifying the idea that art can draw from any source, the movement continues to influence fine art and popular culture today. 

     

    Ads Following Ads

     

    In 1962, Warhol began his experimentations with photographic silkscreen printing – a technique that allowed him to easily reproduce images he appropriated from popular culture, undermining long-held notions of originality and authenticity and echoing his belief that ‘art should be for everyone’. Also associated with mechanical production and advertising, silkscreen printing embodied the essence of Pop, transforming the banal into bright, bold, and vibrant compositions of fine art.  

     

    “I don’t change the media, nor do I distinguish between my art and the media. I just repeat the media by utilising the media for my work. I believe media is art.” 
    — Andy Warhol

     

    The Ads of 1985, of which the present work forms part of, exemplify Warhol’s obsession with popular culture, celebrity, consumerism, and commercialisation – all recurrent themes that define his oeuvre. Appropriating corporate logos of the 1950s, an era which witnessed a post-World War II surge in mass production after significant developments in technological innovation, Warhol’s portfolio highlights famous brands such as Chanel, Paramount and Apple. Chief among them, however, is that of his Lifesavers composition that both nods to his signature grid works including 200 One Dollar Bills and Marilyn Diptych (both 1962), and plays to the idea of consumable art in its direct link to his renowned images of Coca-Cola bottles and Campbell’s Soup Cans (first printed in 1962). 


    Life Savers

     

     

    Life Savers ad aired in the United States in 1984, a year prior to the present work

     

    An American favourite dating back to 1921, Life Savers are universally familiar to Warhol’s viewer through their colourful ring-shape and distinctive packaging in paper-wrapped aluminium foil rolls. Indeed, Life Savers were so popular with the American public that many other candy manufacturers donated their sugar rations to keep Life Savers in production to be sent to the American troops during World War II to remind them of home. 

     

     

    Vintage Life Saver magazine advertisement, 1950s

     

     

    Here, Warhol merges his own distinct graphic style with the established format of vintage Life Saver advertisements from the 1950s. Like these advertisements, individual Life Savers are presented out of the packet in a playful, colourful display, below which Warhol depicts the open roll of Life Savers at the bottom of the image and the inclusion of the 5 cent price. Warhol further replicates the hand-written style font and tone of the advertisement slogans, writing in a faint prose that is just discernible against the radiant sky blue of the background; ‘get ‘em in the handy roll…everywhere…still only 5¢’. Furthermore, at the center of the composition is the tongue-in-cheek phrase ‘please do not lick this page!’ which both serves to engage the viewer and activate the senses, but also juxtaposes the inviting, sweet candy content by bringing to mind the idea of fine art being forbidden to touch. 


    Playing to our Tastes

     


    Claes Oldenburg, Pantry Case I., 1961-62 

    Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York

     

     

    Unlike his contemporary Claes Oldenburg, a Pop Artist who also explored the motif of food in his clay pieces, texture is generated in Warhol's silkscreen series through numerous screened layers of synthetic colour that appear to almost fizz off the work's surface. This glowing visual effect shares similarities to the halo technique developed by Wayne Thiebaud, another peer of Warhol's who reflected his deep affection for the rituals and traditions of American life through experimenting with repetition in food-related compositions. 

     

     

     

    Wayne Thiebaud, Cakes, 1963

    Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

     

    However, whereas Thiebaud works with a loose, emotive brushstroke - such as in Cakes (1963), where thick, buttery oil paint icing decorates each scrumptious dessert – Warhol creates his tempting round treats following a more mechanical method that ingeniously tackles consumerism head-on. As such, capturing the notion of nostalgia and sentimentality, Lifesavers' delightfully coloured sweeties are metaphorically digestible as well. Akin to Warhol's other depictions of popular household goods, the present work delivers a playfully powerful punch that transcends cultures and is universally understood. As elaborated by art critic Dave Hickey: 
     

    "When we are hungry for soup, don't we seek out the culturally sanctioned brand name (Campbell's) and then select the flavor according to our taste? When we want a sweet, don't we reach for the trademark Life Savers and then select the taste we prefer by its color? And when a guy wants a girl, doesn't he seek out a version of Marilyn who suits his own emotional taste and décor? If this is so, how is our taste in high art any different? Is the process really that much more refined?" 
    – Dave Hickey

     

    Now recognised as the 'Pope of Pop' for his revolutionary art-making methods and pioneering eye, Warhol remains one of the most important figures in 20th Century contemporary art more than thirty years after his tragic passing in 1987. Created two years prior as part of his iconic Ads portfolio, one of the last and most sought-after series produced by the artist, Lifesavers returns to his earlier roots in commercial advertising and silkscreen experimentations of the 1960s, showcasing Warhol’s mastery of his trademark medium at its most mature level. 
     

    • Provenance

      Martin Lawrence Limited Editions, Van Nuys
      Private Collection
      Christie's, New York, 8 May 1990, lot 541
      Galerie Nasoni, Lisbon
      Private Collection, Switzerland
      Sotheby's, New York, 19 May 1999, lot 290
      Private Collection, Tokyo
      Sotheby's, New York, 21 October 2003, lot 438
      Van de Weghe Fine Art, New York
      Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2003)
      Sotheby’s, New York, 19 May 2017, lot 194
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Madrid, Galeria El Coleccoionista, Andy Warhol, 1991, p. 33 (illustrated)

    • Artist Biography

      Andy Warhol

      American • 1928 - 1987

      Known as the “King of Pop,” Andy Warhol was the leading face of the Pop Art movement in the United States 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 like Campbell's soup tins, and celebrities like 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 a mentor to such artists as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

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Property of a Lady

35

Lifesavers

signed and dated 'Andy Warhol 85' on the overlap
acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
55.7 x 55.7 cm. (21 7/8 x 21 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1985.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
HK$3,000,000 - 4,000,000 
€316,000-421,000
$385,000-513,000

Sold for HK$6,174,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 8 June 2021