Andy Warhol - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 17, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Ileana and Michael Sonnabend, Paris
    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    Private Collection (acquired from the above)
    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    (ix) Berlin, Galerie Volker Diehl; New York, Stellan Holm Inc., Andy Warhol: Flowers, June 10 – July 31, 1994, n.p. (illustrated)
    Monaco, Grimaldi Forum, SuperWarhol, July 16 - August 31, 2003, no. 99, p. 197 (illustrated)
    New York, Gagosian Gallery, Warhol from the Sonnabend Collection, January 20 – February 28, 2009, p. 92 (illustrated, p. 93)

  • Literature

    George Frei and Neil Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné: Paintings and Sculptures, Volume 2B, 1964-1969, New York, 2004, nos. 1574-1576, 1578-1584, 1586-1587, 1589-1592, pp. 116-119 (illustrated, pp.78-83)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Previously held in the illustrious private collection of the late Ileana Sonnabend, 16 Flowers is among the last silkscreened canvases Andy Warhol created prior to his self-imposed hiatus from painting. The present grouping of 8 by 8 inch canvases belong to the Flowers Warhol specifically conceived for his second solo exhibition at the Galerie Ileana Sonnabend in Paris in May 1965. Just as the canvases in that seminal exhibition coalesced into a powerful, all-consuming installation, so, too, do the present 16 multi-colored canvases envelop the viewer into Warhol’s universe. Not only do these works epitomize the culmination of the revolutionary strategies Warhol had examined since the early 1960s, these works also celebrate the crucial role the legendary art dealer and collector Ileana Sonnabend played in building Warhol’s career.

    One of the most influential art dealers and collectors of her time, Ileana Sonnabend was a fervent early supporter of Warhol. While she was likely aware of his work in the 1950s, she first invited him to show at her new Paris gallery in September 1962 for the upcoming group exhibition Pop art américain scheduled for the next year. In addition to giving Warhol his first international solo exhibition when she presented his Death and Disasters series in her Paris Gallery in January 1964, Sonnabend fervently collected his work herself. As Brenda Richardson noted, “Ileana couldn’t live without Andy’s art” (Brenda Richardson, Warhol from the Sonnabend Collection, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2009, p. 36). Within Sonnabend’s remarkable private collection, which included Robert Rauschenberg, Donald Judd, Roy Lichtenstein and others, Warhol’s Flowers took a prime position as the chosen few works she selected to live with in her modestly sized New York and Venice residences.

    The genesis for the Flowers dates back to the summer of 1964, when Warhol had firmly secured his position as one of the leaders of the Pop art movement with his radical silkscreened images of consumer objects, disaster scenes and celebrity icons in the early 1960s. This marked the moment when Warhol joined the roster of the revered Leo Castelli Gallery, after years of attempting to show with the esteemed gallerist who had built the careers of Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Lichtenstein, among others. With his first exhibition slated for the autumn of 1964, Warhol, who typically preferred to dedicate his exhibition to a single theme or series, embarked upon the creation of a new body of work– resulting in his extensive Flowers series.

    Expanding upon his signature approach of appropriating photo-based imagery, in Flowers Warhol adapted a photograph of hibiscus flowers from the June 1964 issue of Modern Photography, taken by the magazine’s executive editor Patricia Caulfield, to accompany an article on a new Kodak home color processing system. Cropping the rectangular photograph of seven flowers to a square containing only four blossoms, Warhol transferred the motif to several, differently sized screens. For this first iteration of flowers Warhol explored the larger scales of 82 by 82, 60 by 60, 48 by 48, and 24 by 24 inches. Upon seeing the sold out show, Sonnabend, formerly married to Leo Castelli, consigned a second iteration of the series for Warhol’s second solo exhibition at the Paris gallery in the upcoming year. The “Sonnabend” Flowers varied in sizes ranging from 14 by 14, 8 by 8 and 5 by 5 inches, and predominantly featured flowers on white backgrounds. The present grouping of works is part of the group of in total 120 iterations of 8-inch Sonnabend Flowers.

    When Warhol unveiled his Flowers, the lushly colored canvases took many by surprise who had become accustomed to Warhol’s obsession with themes of celebrity, consumerism and tragedy. “He started looking for an image that could stand for the very symbol of joy and happiness”, Otto Hahn remarked in the exhibition catalogue to Warhol’s Sonnabend exhibition (Otto Hahn, Andy Warhol, exh. cat., Galerie Ileana Sonnabend, Paris, 1965, n.p.). The disarmingly innocuous images of blossoms represented a major formal pivot in Warhol’s practice. Whereas up until this point, Warhol’s manipulation of existing motifs was minimal - limited to cropping, adjusting contrast, color adjustments and repetition - this series was characterized by extensive interventions. To achieve his final composition, Warhol, in order to fit all four flowers within the square format, had shifted placement of one of them by collaging it back in. Intent on losing any semblance to photography in favor of simplified form, Warhol sought to flatten the image by removing any definition and details that could lend the flowers an illusion of three-dimensionality. Warhol heightened the sense of flatness in his 8-inch Flowers series in particular by silkscreening the flowers’ local color rather than painting them by hand. Void of any stems as well as ground and horizon lines, the flowers become disembodied from the background. David Bourdon remarked in his review of the Leo Castelli show that the planar zones of flat color appear like "cut-out gouaches by Matisse set adrift on Monet’s lily pond” (David Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1989, p. 191).

    When first exhibited at the Leo Castelli exhibition, Warhol juxtaposed Flowers with silkscreened portraits of Jackie Kennedy, prompting many to view these works as an extension of Warhol’s fascination with themes of death and tragedy. While the rich iconography of flowers in the tradition of still-life painting does indeed subliminally allude to mortality, Warhol’s Paris show seemed to expand on the notion of transience that flowers also embody. Here, 99 of the 8-inch canvases were hung floor to ceiling at evenly spaced intervals to create a panoramic installation that wrapped continuously around the walls of the gallery. Differences in the orientation of the individual paintings, which was deliberate on Warhol’s part as he conceived this as variable rather than fixed, ruptured the regularity of the pattern – rendering it contrapunctual and giving rise to the cumulative effect of cinematic movement.

    In this exploration of duration and movement, Flowers represented a pivot that echoed parallel developments in Warhol’s film practice at the time, something he had been pursuing since 1963. As Michael Lobel has shown, Warhol’s emphasis on subject matter was clearly shifting in the period when the Flowers sprang forth. “His newfound renown prompted something of a reversal in his approach: now, he was far more likely to train his gaze on people and things that were not already known, drawing attention to them and making them objects of fascination in the process” (Michael Lobel, Andy Warhol Flowers, exh. cat., Eykyn Maclean, New York, 2012, n.p.). There was a similar impulse behind many of his “motionless" films from this period, which famously focused on simple activities, like sleeping or eating.

    Signaling a significant transitional moment in the artist’s career, it is perhaps not coincidental that 16 Flowers were to be the last paintings Warhol created in the 1960s. It was in fact at the opening to his exhibition at the Galerie Ileana Sonnabend in May 1965 that Warhol announced his retirement from painting to focus fully on film-making. Reportedly describing himself as a “retired artist” who planned to “devote his life to the cinema”, he explained, “I’ve had an offer from Hollywood, you know, and I’m seriously thinking of accepting it…And then I can come back to Cannes next year” (Andy Warhol, quoted in Jean-Pierre Lenoir, “Paris Impressed by Warhol Show. Artist Speaks of Leaving Pop Pictures for Films”, The New York Times, May 13, 1965, p. 34).

  • 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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Property Formerly in the Collection of Ileana Sonnabend

Ο ◆30

16 Flowers

(i), (iv), (vii) - (ix), (xi), (xiv), (xv) signed and dated “Andy Warhol 64” on the overlap
(ii), (iii), (v), (vi), (x), (xii), (xvi) signed with artist’s initials and dated “A.W. 64” on the overlap

silkscreen ink on canvas
(i) 8 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. (21 x 21 cm.)
(ii), (iii), (xi), (xvi) 8 1/4 x 8 1/8 in. (21 x 20.6 cm.)
(iv), (vi), (ix), (x) 8 x 8 in. (20.3 x 20.3 cm.)
(v), (xv) 8 x 8 1/4 in. (20.3 x 21 cm.)
(vii), (viii), (xiv) 8 1/8 x 8 1/8 in. (20.6 x 20.6 cm)
(xii) 8 3/8 x 8 1/8 in. (21.3 x 20.6 cm.)

Executed in 1965.

$5,000,000 - 7,000,000 

Sold for $5,377,500

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2018