Create your first list.

A way to share and manage lots.

  • Provenance

    Anthony d'Offay, London
    Private Collection, Europe

  • Catalogue Essay

    “…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.”

    - Andy Warhol, 1980

    The attempt on Andy Warhol’s life on June 3, 1968 by Valerie Solanas left a traumatic imprint upon Warhol that he carried for the rest of his life. Not only was Warhol damaged in a variety of physical ways, including massive scarring and internal injuries that were as painful as they were debilitating, but he also bore the psychological marks of a post-traumatic stress syndrome. But Warhol pressed on, refusing to let his past devour him, remaining a prolific artist for the rest of his two decades of life. As the 1980s approached however, Warhol experienced a gradual reflection of events from the past, including the visual revisitation of the gun that almost cut his life short. Gun, 1982, is study in Warhol’s own brand of art therapy, where the artist confronts his pain by transforming it into a work of pure beauty.

    Warhol had already spent significant amounts of time wading the waters of psychological terror in his art. The 1960s saw various incarnations of dread and death, including, most famously, his Disaster series and his graphic portrayals of car accidents. Yet this trend was virtually eliminated after both he and curator Mario Amaya were shot by Solanas in 1968. He used his time in recovery to seek out subject matter that was anything but dreadful. The 1970s saw Warhol create many of his most famous celebrity portraits and symbolic silkscreens, yet it is a decade curiously devoid of death and destruction in his work, opting instead for a sanitized version of existence.

    But as his wounds persisted within his body and mind, Warhol’s turned backwards as he entered the 1980s. The artist took a series of photographs in 1981 that would turn into his Guns and Knives series—his most violent imagery since his work of the early 1960s. In Gun, 1982, we observe Warhol at his most daring, choosing to confront the exact model of pistol that nearly killed him. Warhol’s signature acrylic silkscreen is an image of trauma itself.

    Two imprints of two six-shooters are seen, one painted in black and the other a sinister shade of crimson. At times seeming to overlap in their features, the images are actually discrete models—we can observe the difference between the two just to the left of the trigger, as the double-pronged crimson pattern mismatches the metal of the black weapon. The neatly layered silkscreens create a marvelous effect of completing each other’s physicality. On the handle, black depth appears to lend an extra dimension to the finely detailed butt of the gun, creating a more terrifying weapon. Elsewhere, it is almost as if the trigger itself bears the mark of a finger, signaling that this gun has, indeed, been recently used.

    But Warhol’s most masterful stroke in crafting his painting was his decision to confuse the two guns at all, for, in doing so, we receive a privileged look into the mind of traumatized victim. Warhol’s recollection of the events of his assassination attempt were blurred and shaky, much as the interaction between the two separate silkscreens. He lends Gun a psychological depth that few of his paintings possess, one that helps us to sympathize with his initial fear and his ongoing shock: “The artist engaged in great formal play with these paintings, using multiple imagery in various configurations (recalling both his comments on the ubiquitousness of death in the media and the loss of power of a gruesome image seen again and again)”(M. King, “Popular Photography”, Andy Warhol Photography, New York, 1999, p. 47).

    Warhol’s painting is, of course, wealthy in its clairvoyance. Crafting it at the turn of the decade, Warhol could hardly predict the effect that national politics would have upon crime rates, which soared during the 1980s with the widespread use of handguns in murders in particular. This massively astute and timely portrait of a lethal weapon by Warhol was a testament to the fact that, although his public persona professed naiveté, he was truly a brilliant observer of present events and an intimidating foreshadower of future ones. The present lot embodies Warhol as a culture’s mirror, a barometer for society’s movements and missteps.

    It is also Warhol’s most vivid use of art for overcoming his own inner demons. As the United States entered the decade with no intention of disbanding nuclear proliferation, the sense of dread surrounding Warhol came to a point where he could not ignore it any longer. In portraying the tool of his assassination attempt in an aesthetic light, Warhol makes a real effort not just to aestheticize, but also to anaesthetize the pain of his past. For a man who was notoriously private, revealing his insecurities to only a select group of acquaintances, Warhol’s bravery in putting forth the object of his own dread cannot be overlooked—it was a rare gesture of public honesty from an artist who greatly feared any revelation of his true self.

    As the last five years of Warhol’s life elapsed, he began to create work with darker undertones, signaling that he was once again willing to confront the darkness that had always lived within him. Though it must have been massively difficult to look down the barrel of a Hi-Standard once again in his recreation of it, Warhol’s courage undoubtedly had a curative effect upon his life, freeing his instincts in choosing subject matter and allowing his final body of work to flourish in its variety. The present lot is not only a testament to Warhol’s life-long artistic genius in novelty and composition, but also a memorial to his personal bravery—a side of himself that he rarely found the courage to explore.

  • 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.


    View More Works



acrylic and silkscreen inks on canvas
16 x 20 in. (40.6 x 50.8 cm.)
Signed and dated "Andy Warhol 82" along the overlap.

$1,500,000 - 2,500,000 

Sold for $1,685,000

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

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York 11 November 2013 7PM