Andy Warhol - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 15, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Waddington Galleries Ltd., London
    Christie's, New York, Contemporary Art, Part II, May 8, 1996, lot 355
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    London, Waddington Galleries Ltd., Andy Warhol: Reversal Series, September 2 - 26, 1987

  • Literature

    Andy Warhol: Reversal Series, exh. cat., London: Waddington Galleries Ltd., 1987, pp. 32-33 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “As for whether it’s symbolical to paint Marilyn in such violent colors: it’s beauty, and she’s beautiful…”
    ANDY WARHOL, 1966

    Andy Warhol’s career had already enjoyed two full decades of celebration by the time the 1970s came to a close. His subjects and sitters had shifted from dead icons to living ones; from good friends to those he had never met. Warhol had even begun experimenting with his subject-less (and quite infamous) “oxidation” paintings and the mysterious shadow paintings. But Warhol was no stranger to nostalgia, especially nostalgia for the beginning of his career. In addition, there were very few people he could trust with such sentimentality. In Blue/Green Marilyn (reversal series), 1979-1986, we find Warhol bringing a renewed intensity to his most famous subject, one whom he had immortalized despite their paths never having crossed. He returned to Marilyn at a time when her presence was needed.

    Warhol’s tenuous position as a figure of major influence at the close of the 1970s was brought about by his own limitations in making art. Though still quite popular as
    a socialite and a mainstay of the art world, Warhol and his art lacked the groundbreaking power of the 1960s, when the original advent of the celebrity silkscreen had brought with it the Pop Revolution. He was working mostly on commissions, painting portraits of major and minor celebrities and bourgeoisie who hoped to be given the star treatment by Warhol. Always conscious of his public image, Warhol slipped back into the mindset of the innovator, producing Retrospective, 1979. In this work, we see radically divergent approach to an image that had brought him much attention. But more importantly, we witness Warhol beginning to understand the iconographic power of his own work. No longer did he simply portray icons, but his paintings were icons themselves.

    What soon followed was the Reversal Series, where Warhol employed the negative silkscreen of his original image from two decades earlier. The image of Monroe that
    Warhol had previously employed was a paradigm of youth and beauty—a publicity still from her 1953 film, Niagara. But in the reversal series, Warhol’s silkscreen is not
    cast from the patterns of her remarkable cheekbones and the perfect shadow under her jaw, but rather from the picture’s negative space. The result is that of an echo
    of the previous impression, but yet a figure appearing to be cast from jade or other precious stone, enshrined in the pantheon of legends. The jet black ink upon the painted canvas covers the surface and defines the image of that iconic face, presenting Monroe as a spirit coming forth from the past days of Warhol’s own youth. Her’s becomes an otherworldly grin; it would be a harbinger for the success of Warhol’s final decade to come.

    Perhaps the most startlingly beautiful feature of the present lot is Warhol’s choice of color. Employing the use of phthalo green, Warhol lends his subject a glow that is both eerie and gorgeous, a combination of sapphire and emerald light. Phthalo green itself, an ultra concentrated hue, does for Warhol’s piece what Yves Klein’s use of ultramarine did for his own: it engenders a vivid immediacy for the observer, where the use of one strong color is far more powerful than the use of several. In this regard, Warhol brings us closer to his subject than ever before: “Warhol’s Reversals recapitulate his portraits of famous faces…but with the tonal values reversed. As if the spectator were looking at photographic negatives, highlighted faces have gone dark while former shadows now rush forward in electric hues. The reversed Marilyns,
    especially, have a lurid otherworldly glow, as if illuminated by internal footlights.” (D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1989, p. 378)

    But it would be simplistic to imply that Marilyn is the only subject that Warhol portrays in Blue/Green Marilyn (reversal series), 1979-1986: the main subject of the painting is its referent from 1962. As aforementioned, Warhol began to realize that his paintings were icons in themselves, rivaling the fame of their sitters. Warhol set about to pay tribute to the icons that he had created twenty years before: “referred to his own iconographic universe. He constructed the décor of himself, and, to renew its appearance, he only needed to cast a mirror-image of it (a reversal)” (G. Celant, SuperWarhol, Milan, 2003, p. 10). We see Warhol recognize and humble himself before his own contribution. Though Warhol’s other great subjects—Elizabeth Taylor, Mao Zedong, himself—all rivaled Marilyn for their popularity as works of art, only Marilyn Monroe held the power to engage Warhol in a nostalgic refection of his life’s work.

  • 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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Blue/Green Marilyn from Reversal Series

synthetic polymer and silkscreen ink on canvas
18 x 14 in. (46 x 35.5 cm.)
Stamp signed "Andy Warhol" along the overlap.

$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for $1,325,000

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner
Head of Sale
[email protected]
+1 212 940 1256

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York 16 May 2013 7pm