Andy Warhol - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Thursday, March 30, 2023 | Phillips
  • In his 1985 Ad series, Andy Warhol appropriates advertisements to create a bold homage to consumerism and the powerful influence of ads on American society. Each work in the series uniquely and colorfully captures a cultural moment. Warhol references the dominant corporate leaders of his time by representing a product accompanied by its brand logo in each of these works. Life Savers, which depicts the iconic brand of ring-shaped hard candy, is a nostalgic nod to advertisements from the 50s and 60s, while Mobilgas and Paramount directly refer to some of the most influential American corporations of the time. Untitled, (Volkswagen Lemon) uniquely draws upon and amplifies one of the most ingenious advertising campaigns of the postwar period. The German car company, seeking to market their vehicles to countless American veterans returning from the war, labeled the image of a perfect Volkswagen model as a 'Lemon' or a flawed, cheaply made foreign car. This advertisement proved successful in rebranding their company and showing off the exceptional make of their car through self-deprecating humor. Warhol cleverly uses these defining moments and figures in the history of American consumerism to question what art can be and elevate advertisement to the status of fine art.


    Warhol achieved the colorful and loose style of his Ad Series by employing varying methods from acrylics to multiple silkscreens and layers of paint. This aesthetic departure from his more mechanical and serialized earlier work such as the Campbell Soup series allowed him to produce a stunning portfolio of unique, vivid artworks that not only are culturally significance but also provide a strikingly vibrant visual experience. 


    Vintage Life Saver magazine advertisement, 1950s

    “I really do live for the future, because when I'm eating a box of candy, I can't wait to taste the last piece.”
    — Andy Warhol

    Blurring the Lines between Commercial and Fine Art


    Warhol began his artistic career as a commercial artist, drawing shoes for Glamour magazine in the late 40s and working as a designer for shoe manufacturer Israel Miller in the early 50s. He exhibited his work at several galleries, garnering recognition in the late 50s and early 60s for his strikingly unconventional silkscreen prints and paintings of everyday objects. He made a name for himself in the fine art world by heightening the stature of commercial objects to that of fine art, simultaneously taking fine art off its pedestal and elevating the banal, everyday, and repetitive. Warhol was fascinated with the mundane, and spoke of wanting to paint 'nothing' in his Campbell Soup series: 'I was looking for something that was the essence of nothing, and the soup can was it.' Warhol took the commonplace, humdrum objects and images of everyday life, the soup cans, the ketchup bottles and the advertisements - and made something both visually and conceptually enthralling from them.

    Warhol made a lasting impact on the world of fine art by challenging art critics to question what truly makes art and find the differentiating line between commercial and fine art. Repeatedly depicting common household objects in the style of advertisements, Warhol’s art provides a unique commentary on the rapid rise of American consumerism after World War II. Warhol’s art documented the aftermath of the remarkable transition from a pre-war Depression era economy to a financial system that based itself around the needs and wants of its consumers. Warhol recognized the significance of advertising, television and the movies and the influence of these key industries on popular culture and the American psyche.


    Like Marcel Duchamp, who turned then current ideas about art upside down with his radical piece Fountain, Andy Warhol revolutionized the art world of his time, creating countless new possibilities for what art could be and mean, and redefining the dialogue between the worlds of fine art and commerce. In his Ad series, Warhol recognized and commemorated the most iconic moments and figures of 20th century popular culture in works that embody his dramatic transformation of the criteria for what constitutes art. Through these artworks Warhol opened the doorway between the commercial and the beaux arts and captured the zeitgeist of late 20th century visual culture. 



    ​​​​Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917, replica 1964
    Artwork: © 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp


    Defining a Movement: The Ad Series as an Emblem of Pop Art


    Warhol’s 1985 Ad series epitomizes and celebrates the movement that defined his stamp on art history: Pop art. Warhol’s embrace of consumerism and the commercial aesthetic ran directly counter to the prevailing ideas about art at the time, which deemed Abstract Expressionism’s reaction to modern pre-war art the avant-garde of contemporary visual arts. Abstract Expressionist work such as Rothko’s No 14, 1960 was seen as an exploration of individual expression through new, ever-changing visual images that conveyed a spiritual connection with the sublime.


    Left: Current lot
    Right: Mark Rothko, No. 14, 1960, 1960 
    © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Pop art rejected this notion entirely, effacing any trace of the artist’s personal identity and transforming art into something that can be mass-produced over and over again, detached copies of preconceived ideas rather than novel forays into personal expression. In a direct rejection of Abstract Expressionism’s high-brow aim to transcend the commonplace, Warhol’s Ad Series celebrates the everyday, seeking to magnify the ways in which popular culture unites regular Americans with celebrities and politicians. As Warhol said himself, ;you can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too.; As Warhol sees it, consumer culture connects disparate groups of people, surmounting barriers of class and status.

    “Once you ‘got’ Pop, you could never see a sign again the same way again. And once you thought Pop, you could never see America the same way again.”
    — Andy Warhol

    Warhol understood the tremendous impact that popular culture had and would have on American society, and he made this apparent through his works in the Ad series. His brilliantly chromatic homages to commodity culture highlight the very advertisements that people habitually skim over in their everyday lives. Like Jasper Johns in his iconic painting Three Flags, Warhol sought to draw attention to the images that inundate people’s daily lives but that they rarely examine closely. While Johns chose the American flag for this endeavor, Warhol alternatively employed images that reference titanic corporations, celebrities, fashion, and witty advertising techniques, all in his distinctive brightly colorful, and glamorous style.      


    Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Artwork: © 2023 Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

    Equally influential in shaping the Pop Art movement, Warhol’s use of neon and contrasting colors in addition to his adaptation of advertisements to the level of fine art marked his departure from Johns. While Johns laid the groundwork for Pop Art’s espousal of commodity culture, Warhol built the backbone of the movement through his unique adaptation of advertisements, serial imagery production, and his technicolor mechanization of art. While Warhol helped to create and foster the Pop Art movement, he freely embraced experimentation and didn’t want to be pigeonholed into one particular style.

    “You ought to be able to be an Abstract Expressionist next week, or a Pop artist, or a realist, without feeling you’ve given up something… I think that would be so great, to be able to change style. And I think that’s what’s going to happen, that’s going to be the whole new scene.” — Andy Warhol

    Throughout his career Warhol has exhibited great versatility, working with the varying methods of acrylic painting, screen printing, printmaking, photography, and even filmmaking. The present lots are a testament to his ability to execute artwork not only in a wide range of media, from acrylics to polymer and silkscreen inks on canvas, but also in a variety of styles linked by the common theme of advertisement.

    Collector’s Digest


    • Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. in 1928, Warhol came to maturity during a rapidly changing cultural and artistic scene. He earned a degree in pictorial design from the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh and worked for about a decade in New York City as a commercial artist. Warhol began painting in the late 50s, and swiftly rose to fame and critical acclaim in the early 60s after he produced his Campbell Soup can paintings. 
    • Warhol created his Ad Series only two years before his untimely death in 1987. The 80s marked a re-emergence of publicity and financial success for the artist, and he partnered with several younger artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat on new projects during this period. His commission business expanded and proliferated as he produced countless iconic images, including his portrait of Prince created in 1984. He also pursued an interest in television during this decade, hosting two programs for MTV, Andy Warhol’s T.V. and Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes.
    • Within a year of Warhol’s death, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was established, and in 1989 MoMA showed a retrospective of his works. The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh holds the largest collection of his artworks, which are also part of the permanent collections of institutions such as MoMA in New York City; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA; Museo Jumex in Mexico City; The Broad in LA; Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, Germany; Detroit Institute of Arts, and Leeum Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul. 
    • Provenance

      Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York
      Private Collection, New York
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, David Benrimon Fine Art, Andy Warhol. Idolized, 3 November - 15 December 2016, p. 11 (illustrated)

    • Artist Biography

      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.


      View More Works


Life Savers from the series Ads

acrylic and silkscreen enamel on canvas
signed and dated 'Andy Warhol 85' on the overlap
55.9 x 55.9 cm. (22 x 22 in.)
Executed in 1985.

Full Cataloguing

HK$4,500,000 - 6,500,000 

Sold for HK$5,334,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 30 March 2023