Andy Warhol - Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale New York Wednesday, March 6, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York.
    Private collection
    Sale: Christie's London, Post-War and Contemporary, February 09, 2005, Lot 55

  • Exhibited

    Cologne, Jablonka Galerie, Knives, March 13 - April 18, 1998
    Moscow, Stella Art Gallery, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Tom Wesselmann, November 28, 2003-January 14, 2004

  • Literature

    Jablonka Galerie, Knives, Cologne, 1998, pl. 6 (illustrated)
    Stella Art Gallery, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Tom Wesselmann, Moscow, 2004, p 39 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Instead he chooses the common object considered by most of us as nothing special elevating it to art. Kitchen knives never looked more interesting or beautiful.”

    During the tempestuous period from 1962 to 1987, Andy Warhol’s iconic use of silkscreen reached an exhilarating fever pitch. Coming full circle from his commodities and Death and Disasters series, the beginning of the 1980s witnessed a convergence of several contemporaneous trends in his work. At this point, Warhol also began to utilize scenes of political upheaval, violence, and weaponry with greater frequency: from White Disaster II (White Burning Car II), 1963, to Race wars, to guns, Warhol zeroed in on iconic subject matter that possessed immediate legibility and emotional reaction. From here, the artist would revisit a common motif in his oeuvre in the depiction of violence and violent imagery. His keen sense of observation made him an astute identifier of both obvious and subtle morbidity of the everyday. To this effect, conflating the many tenets of his work, Warhol would pursue the darker quotidian resonant of Pop Art; producing the elegant and pointed menace that is Knives, 1981-1982.

    At this point in time, Warhol had already presented his retrospective series, conjuring an inviting effervescence and sense of nostalgia. With this in mind, works from
    the Knives series came as somewhat of a shock to his audience, observing the tidal shift towards silkscreened knives, guns, and dollar signs. First exhibited in 1982 at the Castelli-Goodman-Soloman gallery in East Hampton, New York, the series displayed an unsettling and profound contrast between its lavish venue and Warhol’s rather macabre and cynical subjects. In a sense, Warhol was providing a prescient commentary on the impending economic disparity, decadence and rising crime rates of the 1980s; perceptively identifying the more sinister themes in the American consciousness. While he chose to appear removed from his sources of content and from the general criticism of rampant greed and violence in American culture, the Knives series extol a sense of American history and frontier romanticism; reminders that “crime, murder, and brutality could always surface unexpectedly and then just as quickly disappear.” (R. Rosenblum, “Warhol’s Knives”, Koln, 1998, p. 9)

    Indeed, Warhol’s sharp subjects were first captured with a Polaroid camera, and subsequently blown up to a large format silkscreen. Knives, 1981-1982, is void of dening characteristics other than the fact that they could conceivably be found in any home in America. Akin to his iconic Coke bottles, Warhol’s particular selection of knives reflects his devotion to the ubiquity and banality of certain images; favored for their transposable and transformative qualities. Instead of photographing the interesting and eccentric blade, he chose to revisit a common object, drawing our attention ever closer to the formal exquisiteness of a blade. The knives themselves are not a silkscreen of their developed image, but of Warhol’s photographic negative. Rather than exist dully, their blades failing to reflect the light of the flash, Warhol’s inverse image gives our subjects blades a fantastically lucid surface, nearly supernatural in their glow. Warhol’s negative also blurs the edges of each independent imprint of the knives, delivering us not only three knives, but the illusion of knives in motion. In this way, Warhol grants an alarmingly evocative interpretation of objects, delivered with mischievous edge.

    Considering his keen observance of the everyday, it is interesting to note that Warhol had originally turned his attention to exotic knives and daggers, before refocusing on the apparent banality of household knives. Recollecting the artist’s process, Vincent Fremont, who worked with Warhol, describes how the decision unfolded: “We knew that Chris Stein from Blondie collected handmade knives and unusual daggers. Chris brought some to the studio for Andy to photograph. But after reviewing the pictures, Andy asked Jay Shriver, his new art assistant, to buy some ordinary kitchen knives from a Bowery restaurant supply store. Jay came back with some Galaxy 8-inch slicers and, of course, a receipt. Andy photographed the ordinary knives in various formations and they were chosen. How many times does one read about someone picking up a kitchen knife and plunging it into his wife or her husband in a moment of jealous rage?” (Vincent Fremont, quoted in exhibition catalogue, Cast a Cold Eye: The Late Work of Andy Warhol, Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2006, p. 157)

    Knives, 1981-1982, exemplifies one of Warhol’s favorite compositions, the overlap. Here, three identical images appear diagonally superimposed, each blade slicing through the next. These multiple arrangements invite comparisons to his earlier depictions of violent imagery, car crashes and the electric chair, just as they might invite comparison to domestic dramas as depicted in the Tunafish Disaster, 1963. Warhol’s use of multiple images mirrors the myriad uses of the same image in society at large. Whether in its use in the media following a grisly murder or afterwards, in our own recollections, the repetition of Warhol’s image is a tantamount to its omnipresence in collective consciousness, proliferated through mass media. Certainly, while Warhol “can remind us that his work is firmly rooted in the facets of American life and death that never stopped nourishing his documentary eye and his visionary imagination” (R. Rosenblum, “Warhol’s Knives”, Koln, 1998, p. 15), he can simultaneously present us with an eminently recognizable image, and one that is, at its core, a simple slice of American life.

  • 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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synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen inks on canvas
90 1/8 x 70 1/8 in. (228.8 x 178.2 cm)
Stamped twice on the overlap with The Estate of Andy Warhol and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and numbered 'PA95.046'

$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for $2,008,900

Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale

7 March 2013
New York