Andy Warhol - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 18, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Encompassing five of Andy Warhol’s most iconic motifs—Marilyn Monroe, Mao Zedong, the Mona Lisa, Campbell’s Soup Cans, and his Flowers—Multicolored Retrospective is emblematic of the uniquely personal reflection that defined the last decade of his life. Executed in 1979 during the height of his fame, Multicolored Retrospective disrupted Warhol’s expected seriality with its non-hierarchical, seemingly “collaged” surface in which his most-famous subjects, of diverse quantities, palettes, and sizes, converse in a post-modern visualization of “image overload.” The Retrospectives, which were a discrete subset of Warhol’s Reversals series (1979-1986), brought his oeuvre full circle: as his position was solidified as one of the most influential post-war artists, not even his own practice remained safe from his unceasing appropriation.

     

    Revisiting the Past

     

    According to Warhol, inspiration for the Retrospectives came from his friend Larry Rivers’ Golden Oldies paintings from 1978, which represented fragments from his most well-known images of past decades. Recalling that many artists, including Barnett Newman, culled motifs from their early chapters for use in later ones, Rivers’ pictures and the conceptual possibilities of revisiting older iconography appealed to Warhol. “It’s like restating it once more,” Rivers elucidated. “In a sense it’s like saying: not only did I mean it, but it’s rich enough for me to take it and do something with it.”i

     

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    This notion of doubling down on the very images that solidified Warhol’s position within 20th century art history resonated with the Reversals series he had begun around the same time. Depicting his previous subjects including Monroe, Mao, and the Mona Lisa, the Reversals were made from negative acetates of his source material, resulting in somber, contrast-inverted versions of his earlier work that denoted the passing of time. “Like the aging Giorgio de Chirico,” Warhol’s close associate and confidant Bob Colacello reminisced, “he plundered his own past, cynically dragging out his old silkscreens from the sixties…”ii He chose to represent the “reversed” images of the three figures in Multicolored Retrospective, each a triple reference to: the source photograph or artwork; Warhol’s initial paintings from the 1960s or early 1970s; and to his 1979 Reversals.

     

    Appropriating the Appropriator

     

    "[Warhol] has given us an image of Mao with such brutal force that, however we formulated our mental picture of the Chinese leader a moment ago, he has supplanted it with his own."
    —Douglas Crimp

     

    These myriad allusions reflect the evolutions that took place both in mass culture as well as Warhol’s individual celebrity in the elapsed 17 years of his practice. Simply regarded as color-blocked advertising for a mass-produced food product during his original appropriation in 1961-1962, the Campbell’s Soup Can label had subsequently been elevated by Warhol into the canon of “high” art. When the artist first depicted Monroe’s image soon after her death in 1962, her photographs littered the covers of contemporary tabloids; by 1979, Warhol’s paintings had long superseded any representations of the actress from her lifetime. And Mao’s photograph was widely circulated in China during the Cultural Revolution when Warhol repeated the image in his 199 silkscreen paintings of him—but following Mao’s death these works were considered artistic interpretations of a former historical moment.

     

    Andy Warhol, Mona Lisa, 1963. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    Andy Warhol, Mona Lisa, 1963. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

     

    “These were the images that had made him famous—the icons, symbols, and brands through which he had made his own name and which had therefore to some extent become associated with his own life, history, career and myth,” Roberto Marrone expounded. In this case of re-appropriation, “Warhol now bestowed upon them a new… mood reflective of the respective distance in time between their original use and the later moment of their re-creation.”iii A master of timing and context, Warhol understood that revisiting his most iconic images years later—when his life became a point of media scrutiny and his work attracted as much public attention as his original source material—would imbue them with an entirely fresh meaning.

     

    A Duchampian Gesture

     

    The conceptual techniques Warhol employs in Multicolored Retrospective share a close affinity with those of Marcel Duchamp, the master of appropriation and forebear to Warhol’s distinctly post-modernist approach. Warhol owned over 30 works by his greatest influence, including two examples of his famed Boîte-en-valises. These portable retrospectives—leather suitcases and cardboard boxes replete with miniature replicas of Duchamp’s most iconic paintings and readymades—extended the artist’s appropriation to the realm of his own practice and undoubtedly influenced the present work. Taking this self-imitation a step further than the Boîte-en-valises, the identical medium and comparable scale of Multicolored Retrospective to Warhol’s “originals” challenge the very definition of a “reproduction.”

     

     

    Marcel Duchamp, Box in a Valise (Boîte-en-Valise), from or by Marcel Duchamp or Rrose Sélavy (de ou par Marcel Duchamp ou Rrose Sélavy), 1935-1941. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Image: © Philadelphia Museum of Art / The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950 / Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp
    Marcel Duchamp, Box in a Valise (Boîte-en-Valise), from or by Marcel Duchamp or Rrose Sélavy (de ou par Marcel Duchamp ou Rrose Sélavy), 1935-1941. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Image: © Philadelphia Museum of Art / The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950 / Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp

     

    Often incorporating previous drawings and paintings in their collages, other Dada artists arranged found objects in enigmatic, non-hierarchal compositions—a practice Warhol had first experimented with when he was in college. Though the surface also evokes contemporaneous “Neo-Dada” discourse exemplified by Robert Rauschenberg’s tactile, three-dimensional collaged pictures, there is a signature Warholian visual trick at play in Multicolored Retrospective. The seemingly layered surface of the work is initially a compelling illusion; upon further inspection, the flatness inherent to the silkscreening process is revealed. Just as he began juxtaposing screen-printing with gestural brushwork in his 1970s portraits, the Retrospectives series sees him in dialogue with another leading post-modernist of his time.

     

    Looking Back

     

    "If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it."
    —Andy Warhol

     

    Taking the pervasiveness of his own work as subject matter, Warhol joined the ranks of Duchamp as well as Gustave Courbet, Henri Matisse, and Roy Lichtenstein in distilling a “retrospective” of their oeuvre into a single canvas. A major institutional exhibition meant to honor and encapsulate an artist’s career, the concept of a “retrospective” no doubt intrigued Warhol during a period that found him grappling with the passing of time. In the 1970s, he filled over 600-time capsules with documents, photographs, and ephemera from his daily life and introduced a personal dimension into his work, characterized by gestural brushwork and softer, more expressive portraiture, that his earlier chapter rejected. He always engaged with artists—Leonardo da Vinci, commercial designers, photojournalists, and publicity photographers—but in Multicolored Retrospective he approached his own acclaimed images, underscoring that from a distance they appear both the same and entirely different.

     

    Roy Lichtenstein, Artist’s Studio “Foot Medication,” 1974. Art Institute of Chicago. Image: The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © The Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
    Roy Lichtenstein, Artist’s Studio “Foot Medication,” 1974. Art Institute of Chicago. Image: The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © The Estate of Roy Lichtenstein


    i Larry Rivers, quoted in Jeffrey H. Loria, “Golden Oldies: An Interview with Larry Rivers,” Arts Magazine, November 1978, pp. 104-105.
    ii Bob Colacello, Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, New York, 1990, p. 429.
    iii Roberto Marrone, quoted in Andy Warhol: Big Retrospective Painting, exh. cat., Galerie Bruno 
    Bischofberger, Zurich, 2009, p. 32.

    • Provenance

      Galerie Bischofberger, Zurich
      Astrup Fearnley Collection, Oslo (acquired from the above)
      Christie's, New York, May 11, 2010, lot 64
      Gagosian Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012

    • Exhibited

      Deichtorhallen Hamburg; Stuttgart, Württembergischen Kunstverein, Andy Warhol – Retrospektiv, July 2, 1993–February 6, 1994, p. 98 (illustrated, p. 99)
      Kunstmuseum Luzern, Andy Warhol. Paintings 1960–1986, July 9–September 24, 1995, no. 67, pp. 165, 168 (illustrated, p. 143)
      Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Andy Warhol by Andy Warhol, September 13–December 14, 2008, no. 32, p. 130 (illustrated, p. 113)

    • Literature

      Fabrice Midal, Petit traité de la modernité dans l'art, Paris, 2007, back cover (detail illustrated on the front cover)

    • 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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Property from an Important Private Collection

Ο ◆13

Multicolored Retrospective (Reversal Series)

signed, titled and dated "Andy Warhol 79 multicolored retrospective reversal series" on the overlap
acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
50 3/8 x 63 3/4 in. (128 x 161.9 cm)
Executed in 1979.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$3,500,000 - 4,500,000 

Sold for $3,748,750

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 18 May 2022