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  • Provenance

    The Estate of Andy Warhol, New York
    Stellan Holm Gallery, New York
    Private Collection, Korea
    O’Hara Gallery, Inc., New York
    Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, Contemporary Art Part I, November 15, 2007, lot 11
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Some people, even intelligent people, say that violence can be beautiful. I can't understand that, because beautiful is some moments, and for me those moments are never violent.”

    ANDY WARHOL, 1975

    Andy Warhol’s artistic venture into the realm of violent imagery was in large part due to his attempted assassination by Valerie Solanas in 1968. Choosing to revisit the weapon that threatened his life, Warhol is in essence attempting to treat himself from the traumatic event that occurred over a decade earlier. The present lot, Guns, 1981 depicts three compact weapons, one silkscreened upon another. The black and grey tones of the handguns precisely render the varying textures that define one component of the weapon from another, the cross-hatched pattern on the grips and the sleek shine of the barrels. Every element is highlighted with monochromatic screens while the layering of the weapons further emphasizes Warhol’s terrifying memories of the event.

    Warhol’s infatuation with death manifested itself through many of his artistic series including his grim disaster series of the early 1960s, his mournful portrayals of Jackie Kennedy facing the press after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and his portraits of Marilyn Monroe after her tragic death and of Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll, drawing his gun. Warhol’s haunting Ambulance Disasters, Suicides and Electric Chairs allowed him to observe death from a safe distance; the original images, gleaned from newspapers seemed unreal to the American public who visually consumed them. In a 1963 interview Warhol expressed: "I realized that everything I was doing must have been Death. It was Labor Day and every time you turned on the radio they said something like ‘Four million are going to die'. That started it. But when you see a gruesome picture over and over again, it doesn't really have any effect ... and I thought people should think about them some time ... It's not that I feel sorry for them, it's just that people go by and it doesn't really matter to them that someone unknown was killed so I thought it would be nice for these unknown people to be remembered." (Gene Swenson, ‘What is Pop Art?', Artnews 62, November 1963, pp. 60–61) In the present lot, Guns, 1981, the veil of mass media and the glamor of violence is stripped away and reveals the gun as an object of personal terror for Warhol whose health eventually deteriorated from the residual effects of his gunshot wound.

    Surviving the events of June 3, 1968, Warhol was left with everlasting scars and physical damage. Warhol explained that “During the 1960s, I think, people forgot what emotions were supposed to be. And I don’t think they’ve ever remembered.” (Andy Warhol, in G. Celant. SuperWarhol, Milan, 2003, p. 45) After the attack on his life Warhol indicated that the experience only pushed him further into emotional detachment and compared the events to the slow motion scroll of a television program. He described the series of events, recalling the excruciating pain: “ ... as I was putting the phone down, I heard a loud exploding noise and whirled around: I saw Valerie pointing a gun at me and I realized she'd just fired it. I said ‘No! No, Valerie! Don't do it!’ and she shot at me again. I dropped down to the floor as if I'd been hit I didn't know if I actually was or not. I tried to crawl under the desk. She moved in closer, fired again, and then I felt horrible, horrible pain, like a cherry bomb exploding inside me.” (A. Warhol, quoted in A. Warhol & P. Hackett, POPism: The Warhol Sixties, Orlando, 1980, p. 343)

    His friend and business partner Vincent Fremont commented that “having nearly been killed by a handgun Andy was able to make paintings of guns as iconic objects. In order to choose which guns he would use we made calls to friends who might know someone with a gun. A few scary people, with first names only, came by and let Andy take Polaroids of their weapons. I remember him photographing a sawn-off shotgun. Finally after looking at the different Polaroids, he decided to use high-contrast reproductions of certain handguns....” (V. Fremont, Cast a Cold Eye: The Late Work of Andy Warhol, New York, 2006, p.157) Choosing to multiply the guns, as in the present lot, Warhol, is in essence reliving the events, it may have been only one gun that threatened his life but emotionally the bullets were inescapable. As he entered the latter part of his career, Warhol returned to his fascination with the haunting, dark desolation of tragedy that surrounds the cult of the American media. His isolated floating imagery of knives and guns illustrate his brilliant observance of objects and by removing the human who would jab the knife or pull the trigger, Warhol detaches his own artist hand from the scene. As seen in Gun, the three weapons stand alone as one stark image: “Silent and disturbing, they are devoid of the sacrificed body, each of them an active tomb or sarcophagus of modernity exalting the triumph of death through a social instrument and technology.” (G. Celant, Superwarhol, New York, 2003, p. 7)

  • 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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38

Guns

1981
synthetic polymer paint, silkscreen ink on canvas
16 x 20 in. (40.7 x 50.9 cm.)
Stamped with the Estate of Andy Warhol and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. and numbered “PA15.041” along the overlap.

Estimate
$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for $965,000

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

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 May 2014 7PM