Andy Warhol - Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches Hong Kong Thursday, May 25, 2023 | Phillips

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  • It goes without saying that the art world has been forever altered by the work and influence of Andy Warhol; a leading figure in the Pop Art movement who redefined the ways in which fine art is produced, perceived, and appreciated.  


    A Young Genius


    Warhol was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on 6th August 1928, where his parents had immigrated to from Czechoslovakia in the early 1920s. He had a keen inclination for art and creativity from an early age and in his childhood, he was an avid drawer and admirer of popular culture, which eventually led him to gain admission to the Carnegie Institute of Technology – now known as Carnegie Mellon University. Here, Warhol studied commercial art for four years until his graduation in 1949. After his studies, he relocated to the bustling post-war New York City and started a career in advertising; where he achieved great success for his bold designs that were heavily informed by the principles of Pop art.


    In 1956, the year Warhol painted Figures on a Busy Street, Warhol had already successfully positioned himself as an esteemed illustrator and graphic designer in the field of advertising in New York, engaging in a variety of projects for an array of clients. Warhol's oeuvre during this period was marked by a distinct and imaginative aesthetic, often utilising a blotted line technique that imparted a sense of spontaneity.


     Warhol’s commercial work in Vogue, 15 September 1957.
    © 2023 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York



    Though at the same time, Warhol embarked on a journey of artistic experimentation, delving into the realms of popular culture and consumerism. This exploratory phase witnessed the inception of drawings and paintings that examined mass media, celebrity iconography, and the quotidian aspects of life. Warhol's artistic forays during this period laid the groundwork for his eventual ascendance as a pivotal figure in the Pop Art movement.


    As such, 1956 represents a critical juncture in Andy Warhol's artistic evolution – a year where he sought to consolidate his present while exploring his future.  



    Andy Meets World


    1956 was also a defining year in Warhol’s career and life as it marked the first time the artist travelled outside of the United States. Funded by his growing professional and financial achievements, he organised a two-month tour of Asia and Europe with his close friend – the TV art director, Charles Lisansby, whom Warhol had met at a party thrown by Bill Cecil in the mid 1950s. On that particular evening, it was pouring with rain, so Lisansby and Warhol stood under the awning of a taxidermy shop, where Lisansby admired a stuffed peacock displayed in the window. The following day, Warhol delivered the peacock to Lisansby's door, and their great friendship began.


    Their first port of call was the ancient city of Kyoto. As Japan’s capital of culture, Kyoto would be of enormous interest to the emerging Warhol and would spark a lifelong fascination and indulgence in Japanese civilisation. There, Warhol became a Japanophile—and a shopaholic to boot—collecting various kimonos, folding screens, dishes and books during his two weeks spent in Kyoto.


    Importantly, Warhol would also document his time religiously in his sketchbooks, capturing scenes of daily life in astounding intimacy and perception. In fact, to the best of the Imperial Palace Museum in Toyko’s knowledge, ‘Warhol did not take a camera, confining his documentation of the trip exclusively to drawings.’i As photography would later ascend into a central position in the artist’s life and work only a few years later, his sketches and drawings from this time are considered not just rare, but also provide a unique and intimate insight into his creative perception during this formative period.




    Andy Warhol (second from the right) and Charles Lisansby (far right) on a sightseeing tour of Tokyo in 1956 on the Pigeon Bus Company

    Image Courtesy of Archives of The Andy Warhol Museum


    The landscape and culture of Kyoto was markedly different from Warhol’s surroundings in New York City, and the artist must have felt a heightened sense of differentiation in his relationship to the physical and cultural landscape. The present work, Figures on a Busy Street, is a brilliant example of Warhol’s keen fascination with the textures and rhythms of everyday life.


    Juxtaposing the work’s intimate scale, the composition presents a snapshot into a bustling street, transporting viewers into a crowd where figures emerge and disappear against the burning mosaic of neon lights – a symbol of Japan’s post-war resurgent identity. The sharp black outlines defining the scene are highlighted by bright, sunset-tones which glow and dance across the paper. Whereas colour is considered a much rarer characteristic of Warhol’s ink blot works, here, the artist layers vibrant hues of rich pink, amber, and turquoise generously, affording the work with a unique and unparalleled vibrancy.


    Tokyo street scenes in the 1950s


    Between East and West


    Though predominantly overlooked, in Warhol's body of work we can discern a tangible connection to Japanese art, particularly through his incorporation and reinterpretation of the visual elements that define traditional Japanese aesthetics. This artistic interplay has its roots in the ukiyo-e woodblock print style, a genre that emerged during Japan's Edo period and captured the imagination of Western audiences in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The bold compositions, vibrant colours, and flattened perspectives of ukiyo-e prints resonated with Warhol's penchant for exploring popular culture and mass production, thus creating a bridge between these seemingly distinct artistic worlds.


    Utagawa Hiroshige, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo: Night View of Saruwaka-cho, 1856 Collection of the Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art  


    Taking cues from the visual language of ukiyo-e prints, Warhol would later go on to even utilise silk-screening techniques, which became a turning point in his career and cornerstone in his practice. This artistic fusion not only bears witness to the enduring influence of Japanese visual culture, but also demonstrates Warhol's capacity to transcend cultural and temporal boundaries in his quest for artistic innovation.


    Warhol’s tireless experimentation, combined with his keen ability to capture and reflect the pulse of contemporary culture, has cemented him as one of the greatest artists of our times. Even after his death in 1987, Warhol’s legacy continues to reverberate throughout the art world today, inspiring new generations of creatives and continuing to redefine our understanding of what is possible within art.


    Collectors 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 swiftly rose to fame and critical acclaim in the early 1960s after he produced his Campbell Soup can paintings.

    • Within a year of Warhol's untimely death in 1987, 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 Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, Germany; Detroit Institute of Arts, and Leeum Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul.

    • The highest price paid for an Andy Warhol work at auction was only recently set in 2022, which is demonstrative of the ongoing strength of the artist’s market dominance


    i Ai Wei Wei, quoted in Warhol in China, Italy, 2013, p. 9

    • Provenance

      The Estate of Andy Warhol, New York
      Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., New York
      Gagosian, New York
      Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above in 1998)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Gagosian, Andy Warhol Drawings and Related Works 1951-1986, 13 February - 22 March 2003, pp. 46

    • 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


Figures on a Busy Street

stamped and numbered 'The Estate of Andy Warhol and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. VF311.005' on the reverse
ink and Dr. Martin's aniline dye and ballpoint on paper
44 x 37.6 cm. (17 3/8 x 14 3/4 in.)
Executed circa 1956.

Full Cataloguing

HK$450,000 - 650,000 

Sold for HK$444,500

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Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches

Hong Kong Auction 25 May 2023