Andy Warhol - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galleri Faurschou, Copenhagen; Ingemar Pousette, Stockholm; Jan-Eric Löwenadler, Stockholm and New York; Klabal Gallery, Minneapolis; Private Collection; Sale: Christie’s, London, Post -War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, June 20, 2007, lot 51; Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Humlebæk, Denmark, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Andy Warhol, September 1990 -January 1991, no. 27

  • Literature

    G. Frei and N. Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné: Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, Volume 02A, London, 2004, p. 290, no. 1316 (illustrated in color)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “’Death? It has become a bore,’ Andy Warhol said after completing his series of suicides, accidents, and electric chairs. He started looking for an image that could stand for the very symbol of joy and happiness: flowers, of course. They appeared one after the other, in all sizes, formats and colors, covering flower beds and entire walls” (O. Hahn, Translation: Andy Warhol, Galerie Ileana Sonnabend, May 1965).

    Andy Warhol’s Flowers, 1964 was produced during what was arguably the most significant time period of the artist’s career. Though Warhol had already experienced a great deal of success with his images of Campbell’s Soup Cans, Liz, Marilyn and Elvis, the year 1964 saw his dramatic and meteoric rise to fame. To round off an outstanding season, Leo Castelli scheduled a Warhol show to take place at his gallery from November to December of that year featuring the artist’s new Flowers paintings. The source of the image Warhol appropriated for this series first appeared in the June 1964 issue of Modern Photography, a photograph of hibiscus blossoms illustrating an article about color processing.
    Following the show at Castelli Gallery, critic David Bourdon described Warhol’s Flowers as “…cut out gouaches by Matisse set adrift on Monet’s lily pond” (The Village Voice, December 3, 1964). The color scheme is also highly evocative of Van Gogh’s Irises.

    Culling inspiration from a seemingly banal source, using a lithographic process, Warhol produced only two or three basic designs in a variety of color schemes, each in a square format. The artist found this format particularly satisfying because its regular shape allowed these paintings to be hung with any side up. As Warhol himself explained, “I like painting on a square…because you don’t have to decide whether it should be longerlonger or shorter-shorter or longer-shorter: it’s just a square” (D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1989, p. 191).

    The following year, in May 1965, Warhol had another Flowers exhibition at Galerie Ileana Sonnabend in Paris. The result was a dramatic installation of various sized paintings hung floor to ceiling and wall to wall. Still relatively new to his oeuvre, Warhol thought that “the French would probably like flowers because of Renoir and so on. Anyway [the artist himself explains] my last show in New York was flowers and it didn’t seem worthwhile trying to think up something new” (J. Ashbery, “Andy Warhol Causes Fuss in Paris,” New York Herald Tribune (European Edition), Paris, May 18, 1965).

    The artist set his irregular, roughly cut blossoms in a range of unnatural colors against either a blackened or color tinted grass background. Just as he did with Marilyn, here Warhol reduces the subject to its image — flattening, artificially coloring, and dismembering it. In so doing, he rids the flowers of their assumed vitality and prettiness.

    The present lot is a beaming example from this iconic series. The canvas is meticulously executed, using the same composition of the four hibiscus flowers against a green and black background. Each uniquely colored; their petals in jewel-like vibrant hues of phthalo green, rich aubergine and opalescent white. This work updates the age-old genre of still life; Warhol’s choice of a vibrant palette is consciously synthetic and an outright rejection of the complex color harmonies normally associated with the genre. In place of painterly illusion, Warhol’s choice of unnatural color emphasizes the flowers’ manufactured plasticity and relevance. His version is consciously
    banal, yet unexpected and enchantingly beautiful. Quintessentially sixties in their colors and floppy petal shapes, Flowers is a wonderful example of the counterintuitive elegance of Warhol’s work. Technologically mediated, repetitive and depersonalized, characterized by the modes of mass production, the formal aspects of this work force viewers to question the disconnect between image and reality, culture and nature.

    As Warhol’s then assistant Ronnie Cutrone explains, “We all knew the dark side of those Flowers. Don’t forget, at that time there was flower power and flower children. We were the roots, the dark roots of that whole movement. [When] Warhol…made Flowers, it reflected the urban, dark, death side of that whole movement. And as decorative art, it’s pretty dense… You have this shadowy dark grass…and then you have these big, wonderful, brightly colored flowers” (J. Richardson, “Warhol, the Exorcist,” Warhol from the Sonnabend Collection, New York, p. 8).

    In Flowers, Warhol has captured the ethos of the sixties in a single shot — “its mass-mediated banalities, hallucinogenic excesses, and atomic anxieties” (D. Pinchbeck, “Flowers,” Jeff Koons Andy Warhol Flowers, New York, p. 1). The 1960s represented a radical departure from the 1950s. There was a literal explosion of technicolor advertising and, in many ways, this reflected the cultural and political uproar of that decade, including the tension of the escalating war effort in Vietnam, coupled with the social upheaval surrounding the civil rights movement and the changing role of women.

    In true Warhol fashion, he started this series with an image that had already been brought to stand still, fixed in the pages of magazines and newspapers — mass produced, flattened, lifeless. What his works depict, then, are not flowers, Marilyns, Campbell’s Soup Cans or Car Crashes, but the mechanized, objectified contact one maintains within the world of images. At the same time as the Flowers images celebrate the color and life of the natural world, they also “joyfully affirm the media industry’s equally manic compulsion for repetition. While flora propagates its DNA by releasing its seeds on the wind, pictures and art images reproduce asexually and spread like memes swirling through the social body on pulsing currents of money and desire” (D. Pinchbeck, “Flowers,” Jeff Koons Andy Warhol Flowers, New York, p. 1).

    Today, the Flowers exist, “… neither alive nor dead, just present. Joy and happiness have frozen up on the way. In the hands of Andy Warhol, there remains only an anonymous, mechanical image of them, from which all life is absent. Warhol has drained the flowers of their moistness and sensitivity and stripped them of all complicity. Nothing remains but form and color. In spite of himself, then, his flowers go down the path of the pale Marilyns, the black-and-white disasters, and the Campbell’s soup cans” (O. Hahn, Translation: Andy Warhol, Galerie Ileana Sonnabend, May 1965).

  • 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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Flowers

1964
Acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen.
48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm.)
Signed “Andy Warhol ©” and inscribed by Frederick Hughes “I certify that this is an authentic painting by Andy Warhol completed by him in 1964, Frederick Hughes” on the overlap.

Estimate
$8,000,000 - 12,000,000 

Sold for $8,146,500

Contemporary Art Part I

12 May 2011
New York