Andy Warhol - Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale New York Thursday, March 6, 2014 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Galerie Ileana Sonnabend, Paris
    Collection of Micheline & Claude Renard
    Christie’s, London, Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, February 8, 2006, lot 46
    Private Collection, New York
    Private Collection

  • Literature

    F. Feldman and J. Schellmann, Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1967, 4th ed., New York: Distributed Art Publishers Inc. and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc., 2003, cat. no. 11.22-31, pp. 68-69 (illustrated)
    A. Warhol, G. Mercurio, D. Morera, The Andy Warhol Show, Milan: Skira: London: Thames & Hudson, 2005, pp. 88-89 (illustrated)
    C. Heinrich, T Sokolowski, et al., Andy Warhol - Photography, New York: Stemmle Publishers, 1999, p. 55 (illustrated)
    K. McShine (ed.), Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1989, . 220 (illustrated)
    G. Celant (ed.), SuperWarhol, Milan: Skira, 2003, p. 266 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    "I concentrated on a series of Marilyn Monroe. She fascinated me as she did the rest of America." Andy Warhol, 1966

    The relationship between an artist and muse is sacred. Its roots tracing back to Greek mythology, the muse has been enshrined in Western culture as the most primal force of creation. Even the most secular of artists have given credence to the concept of the muse as a spirit of inspiration. Andy Warhol’s own muse, the singular force behind his next thirty years of artistic production, came in the form of an iconic movie star, a woman both beautiful and tragic—the two staples of Andy Warhol’s early work. Though he was nearly silent when it came to his reasons for artistic production, Warhol famously remarked that he need not comment upon his work, for on the surface of his work is where he resides. Following his wish and endeavoring to examine his oeuvre for clues as to his beliefs and aims as an artist, the viewer can find no more definitive answer than Marilyn Monroe. Though Monroe and Warhol never exchanged a single word or glance, their relationship seems natural—fated, even. She embodied the purity of celebrity and beauty that Warhol so admired, and, though he never painted her until after her death, he came to be her most capable and skilled portraitist.

    With her sultry stare and charming smile, Marilyn Monroe was the epitome of American glamour in the 1950s and early 60s. Idolized and emulated, her whirlwind life was only trumped by her tragic and premature demise in 1962. Her death represented a certain loss of American innocence and its impact was felt around the world. When Andy Warhol decided to create a series in her honor, he moved away from his gilded stylized drawings of the 1950s and worked instead with his newly found silkscreen techniques that he had previously used for his Coke Bottle and Dollar Bills series. Warhol's first Marilyn Monroe series in 1962 represented a dynamic shift in the artist's style and career, as he moved farther away from his 1950s illustrating roots, towards the bold and visually striking multiples of celebrities that characterized his career in the early 1960s.

    Warhol used as his original image of Monroe a publicity still from her 1953 movie, Niagara. Taken nine years before the screen idol’s death on August 5, 1962, the image is the quintessential portrayal of Monroe during her meteoric rise to fame: lips suggestively parted, eyes sensuously relaxed, hair styled to perfection. The image showcases the star’s perfect facial structure and unabashed embrace of her own sexuality and powers of seduction. Warhol’s choice of this particular publicity still hit a tragic note when his first Marilyns went on display in Castelli Gallery in 1962, shortly after Monroe’s very public and tragic death; many spectators wept at the face before them, which bore the innocence of the 27-year old’s early career, far before the price of fame and illness took their fatal toll. Warhol ultimately preserved Marilyn Monroe’s beauty in an idealized state, one that would give her equal fame after her death. Warhol’s youthful Marilyn represents an international standard of beauty, and, more importantly, one that continues to grow even as the living subject fades into history.

    In matching Monroe’s image with his favorite artistic technique, Warhol gave his portraits a visual life far beyond that of his own reach. He was fond of the silkscreening process for the nature of its imprecision; while two identical images could be screened onto two identical canvases with two identical pigments of ink, they would ultimately differ in both subtle and obvious ways — saturation of the ink, positioning of the image, etc. While his Factory produced many prints of the same image, no two were ever alike, and it was this notion of in-definition that give Warhol’s silkscreening work a wonderfully fatalistic edge. Chance decides how the multiple images would exhibit their eccentricities; consequently, each screen was a repetition, but one completely individuated.

    The present portfolio of ten prints, executed in 1967, just five years after the actress’s death and his first canvas paintings of her, is a superb manifestation of the art-as-industry mentality espoused by Warhol and his compatriots at the Factory coupled with the conceit of celebrity as image over substance. The repeated figure rendered each time in different colors, serves to heighten and stress the artifice of fame as well as the lost humanity of the hyper-intense media culture which still pervades America today. Just as every American projected their own hopes, desires, and dreams upon the young starlet, so too did the Factory physically impress upon her with their screens various hues and casts, each time recreating her in their own way.

    Warhol’s multi-decade devotion to Monroe as a subject for his paintings is a testament to his deep appreciation for her in an aesthetic context; perhaps one reason that he chose to reproduce her image is that her beauty is a neverending source of inspiration. Perhaps another is the similarity of Monroe to Warhol in a personal context; both Monroe and Warhol shared enormous talents of an artistic spirit, but what talents they offered often differed from what the public demanded. Monroe’s desperate journey to shed her pinup image closely mirrors that of Warhol’s drive to be the ultimate nonconformist. Though, ultimately, Monroe failed and Warhol succeeded, their ambitions to challenge our notions of normalcy unite them in Pop history.

    Marilyn Monroe powerfully sums up the extraordinary contribution Warhol made to the lexis and praxis of art. An image of a film star, purloined from a publicity photograph, becomes iconic not just of the vagaries of life and death, but also of the questions of beauty and society’s embrace of such a dynamic. The aesthetic and the conceptual are thus inextricably linked, revealing Warhol’s focus on searching questions of how and why celebrity matters. Moreover, underpinning the visual and intellectual rewards we garner from Marilyn Monroe, the extraordinary technical achievement Warhol and his Factory made, perfected in the silkscreen technique, creates an astonishing work that truly broadcasts the essence of an icon.

  • 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.


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Marilyn Monroe

portfolio of screenprints on paper, in 10 parts
each 36 x 36 in. (91.4 x 91.4 cm)
Initialed and stamp numbered on the reverse; further numbered on the reverse A124.086, A130.086 -
138.086. Published by Factory Additions, New York. This work is comprised of 7 prints number 62 and 3 prints number 137 from an edition of 250 plus 26 artist proofs. Includes original corrugated portfolio box.

$1,500,000 - 2,500,000 

Sold for $1,805,000

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner, Contemporary
Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1256

Alex Heminway, Design
+ 1 212 940 1268

Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale

New York Evening Sale 6 March 2014 7pm