Andy Warhol - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 15, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    Hamburg, Deichtorhallen, Andy Warhol Retrospektiv, July 2, 1993 – September 19, 1993, then traveled to Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein (November 13, 1993 - February 2, 1994)
    Seoul, The Ho-Am Art Museum, Andy Warhol: Pop Art's Superstar, August 20 – September 10, 1994
    Lucerne, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Andy Warhol. Paintings 1960-1986, July 9 – September 24, 1995
    Rathaus der Stadt Ingelheim, Boehringer Ingelheim, Andy Warhol. Me, Myself and I, May 1 – September 7, 2006

  • Literature

    Z. Felix, T. Osterwold, K. Silver, Andy Warhol. Retrospektiv, exh. cat., Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein, 1994, p. 127 (illustrated)
    P. Chung-Kee, J. Yau, Andy Warhol: Pop Art's Superstar, exh. cat., The Ho-Am Art Museum, Seoul, 1994, p. 69 (illustrated)
    Andy Warhol. Paintings 1960-1986, exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Luzern, Lucerne, 1995, p. 145, no. 69 (illustrated)
    P. Rochard, Andy Warhol. Me, Myself and I, exh. cat., Boehringer Ingelheim, Rathaus der Stadt Ingelheim, 2006, p. 31, no 2 (illustrated)
    T. Kellein, The 80s Revisited, Cologne: DuMont Buchverlag, 2010, p. 397 (illustrated)
    B. Bischofberger, V. Gamper, K. Hartley, W. Lamprecht, Warhol - Basquiat, exh. cat., Vienna, Bank Austria Kunstforum, 2013, p. 23 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “It’s not what you are that counts, it’s what they think you are."

    ANDY WARHOL, 1967

    Among the most important visual innovators of the twentieth century, Andy Warhol manufactured a contemporary lexicon of American celebrity and commercialism that endures to this day. Transforming the quotidian Campbell’s soup can into an artistic spectacle, the evolution of Warhol’s oeuvre from appropriated advertisements and celebrity portraits to superficial yet cleverly enigmatic self-portraits intimates the development of Warhol’s own self-awareness and status as a cultural icon. Reflecting Warhol’s uneasy relationship with his public persona, Four Blue-Green Self-Portraits (Reversal Series), 1979 is reclamation and renewal of his early self-portraits, and a unique insight into Warhol’s growing recognition of his own fame. Though Warhol himself famously noted, “My idea of a good picture is one that's in focus and of a famous person,” he could scarcely have imagined in 1963, the year of his first self-portrait, the prominence his work and persona would eventually secure in modern American consciousness.

    Now immortalized as the king of Pop Art and sixties cool, during his lifetime, Warhol evaded his own image, often choosing to disguise his features with unusual wigs and heavy make-up. Rather than framing himself as one of the glamorous stars he so enigmatically portrayed, Warhol fiercely protected his private life, projecting the Warhol brand instead through his work: "If you want to know about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There's nothing behind it." (Gretchen Berg, “Nothing to Lose: An Interview with Andy Warhol,” in Andy Warhol: Film Factory, ed. Michael O’Pray, London, 1989, p. 56) The Self-Portrait series, then, represented a marked departure from Warhol’s branded vocabulary; in allowing himself to become the subject, Warhol’s art of mass consumption took on an individuality, transcending the barriers of public and private persona.

    Following his completion of the Marilyn “flavors” series in 1962, Warhol expanded his practice to include portraiture commissions of the most famous and influential American socialites. It was, in fact, the subject of one of these many commissions who initially requested Warhol’s self-portrait, at the encouragement of the renowned art dealer Ivan Karp, who first told Andy, "You know, people want to see you. Your looks are responsible for a certain part of your fame - they feed the imagination." (I. Karp, as cited in C .Ratcliff, Andy Warhol, New York, 1983, p.52)

    For his own self-portrait, Warhol returned to the photo booth negatives upon which he based his commissioned silkscreens, placing himself at the hands of the mechanized photo booth process. Transposing the hand of the artist with that of the machine, Warhol inverted the roles of artist and subject while maintaining a psychological distance from the viewer. Shielding his eyes from the camera with darkened sunglasses, Warhol remains aloof as though disguising his true identity and hiding from the glare of a projected public image. Rather than risk the exposure the camera could provide, Warhol explained he would “prefer to remain a mystery. I never like to give my background and, anyway, I make it all up different every time I’m asked. It’s not just that it’s part of my image not to tell everything, it’s just that I forget what I said the day before, and I have to make it all up over again.”

    By contrast, one of his earliest patrons, collector Ethel Scull, dynamically recalled the frenzied process of the photo booth exposure: "He said, 'Don't worry,' and took out coins. He had about a hundred dollars' worth of quarters He said, 'Just watch the red light,' and I froze. So Andy would come in and poke me and make me do all kind of things. I think the whole place thought they had two nuts here. We were running from one booth to another, and he took all these pictures and they were drying all over the place. And they were so sensational that I didn't need Richard Avedon. I was so pleased. I think I'll go there for all my pictures from now on" (E. Scull, quoted in exh. cat., Andy Warhol: Photography, Hamburger Kunsthalle, 1999, p.89). Scull’s recollection of sitting for her mechanized portrait reiterates the cool distance that Warhol cultivated in employing the use of the photo booth, removing himself from the process yet producing innumerable candid and psychologically insightful images of the socialite. However, the negatives silkscreened for the artist’s self-portrait suggest a more disciplined, linear approach to his photographic production – each proof captured sequentially, as if to control the exposed image and preserve Warhol’s private self.

    Warhol once noted: “My fascination with letting images repeat and repeat - or in film's case 'run on' - manifests my belief that we spend much of our lives seeing without observing,” thus highlighting his concern with maintaining the superficiality of his imagery. In the initial production of the photographic negatives that formed the basis for his early self-portraits, the artist pasted his four exposures next to those of his subject Judith Green. These manufactured photo booth reels, each composed of four individual images selected and cropped from the mechanized multiples, illuminate our understanding of Warhol’s desire to reimagine the image, visually manipulating the viewer’s – and the public’s – ability to see the artist and his subject.

    In Four blue-green Self-Portraits (Reversal Series), 1979, Warhol revisits his 1963-64 Self-Portrait series, reflecting upon his flourishing career and fame, evoking his artistic prime and perhaps recalling the days before he became a Pop icon nearly as popular as his own subjects. Beginning his Retrospective paintings of 1979 with a large collage of his prior screen prints, the artist turned to a similarly nostalgic medium – photography. Inspired by the effect of photographic negatives and their embodiment of a sentimentality imprinted – physically and metaphorically – in the mind’s eye, Warhol approached his Reversals series with playful yet thoughtful creativity. Initially inverting and mirroring arguably his most famous celebrity portrait, Warhol created his Marilyn reversals, exploring negative space and experimenting with the phantasmal neon shadows produced in the reversed silkscreen process. As one of Warhol’s earliest Reversals, Four blue-green Self-Portraits impresses a ghostly rendition of the reluctant star and his many faces. Four inverted images – negatives of negatives – are silkscreened to reflect the elements concealing Warhol’s true identity, emphasizing in cool teal the self-referential multiples that first thrust Warhol to the fore of his self-referential, commercial oeuvre. Echoing yet transposing his earlier impressions, Warhol’s reversal here is that of juxtaposing color. Both the frame and the ground of the image, once bright in their original neon form, become their opposite, Warhol’s portrait intimated only by the enveloping negative space, much in the manner of the original photobooth negatives, creating a true mirror image of the earlier Four Self-Portraits.

    A brilliant reinterpretation of his important Four Self-Portraits, 1963-64, Warhol’s Four blue-green Self-Portraits (Reversal Series), 1979 is a clever conceptual monument to the artist’s stardom and simultaneous vulnerability. Shielded from the viewer and his audience by his sunglasses and witty disguise, Warhol in the first and third frames glances nonchalantly away from the lens. He then nevertheless confronts his public head-on in his second and fourth frames, challenging the viewer to distinguish between his public and private lives. Warhol’s pose, and the artifice with which he presented himself, only heightens the legend that surrounds his life and work. Explaining, “I usually accept people on the basis of their self-images, because their self-images have more to do with the way they think than their objective-images do,” Warhol confounded his own understanding of the self, reflecting the viewer’s own gaze and refuting his objectivity. While Warhol’s fascination with photography and the mechanization of the self-portrait offered the artist a degree of objectivity in his process, his Self-Portrait silkscreens instead conjure a profoundly personal element in their puzzling façade. Four blue-green Self-Portraits (Reversal series), 1979 presents Warhol as both man and myth, playing upon the voyeuristic tendencies of American popular culture and memorializing the artist and his celebrity in the true Warholian fashion.

  • 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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Four Self-Portraits-Blue Green (Reversal Series)

acrylic, silkscreen inks on canvas
47 1/2 x 35 3/4 in. (120 x 91 cm.)
Signed and dated “Andy Warhol 79" along the overlap; further titled "4 self portraits (reversal series) blue green” along the overlap.

$4,000,000 - 6,000,000 

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

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 May 2014 7PM