Andy Warhol - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, April 19, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Andy Warhol’s iconic Flowers, rarely encountered as the complete portfolio of screenprints, are considered exemplary illustrations of the artist’s style and oeuvre. However, at the time they were rebellious rejections of the modernist aesthetic and an engagement with pop culture, commercialism, and death. Initially conceived as an offset lithograph in 1964 to advertise his show at Leo Castelli Gallery, Warhol returned to the increasingly popular and iconic subject matter in print in 1970 to create the vibrant and lush set of 10 screenprint Flowers. These were the most abstract works Warhol produced in the 1960s and ‘70s, simultaneously referencing the art historical genre of still-life paintings of flowers and challenging the seriousness of Abstract Expressionism. Warhol’s flowers both reflect and confront nature: created from a reference photo taken in nature, the resulting images are unnatural and synthetic, as well as being emblematic of artificial virility. 

     

    The conception of the image occurred in concurrence with the censorship of Warhol’s commissioned piece for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Thirteen Most Wanted Men, a collection of enlarged mugshots from a dossier distributed by the NYPD. The mural was painted over before the fair even opened. 

    "There is a close relationship between flowers and convicts. The fragility and delicacy of the former are of the same nature as the brutal insensitivity of the latter."
    —Jean Genet 

    Andy Warhol, Thirteen Most Wanted Men, silkscreen on canvas, 20 x 20 ft. Installed on the exterior of the New York State Pavilion. ©2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. 

    Warhol employed a similar format, technique, and high contrast style for Flowers and Thirteen Most Wanted Men, distinctly connecting the two bodies of work when he requested that his printer “make [Flowers] like my 13 most wanted men.”1 The tightly cropped, zoomed in composition of the prints encourages a pattern of forms to appear, aided by the collective nature of the works. Since, in the words of Warhol, “that’s how they’re supposed to be – all together.”2 The confrontational lineup of eyes replicated throughout the mugshots is analogous to the repeating fluorescent silhouettes of flowers echoing and interacting with one another. When Warhol first exhibited Flowers paintings at Leo Castelli Gallery, he also included forty-two silkscreened somber portraits of Jackie Kennedy present at Lyndon B. Johnson’s swearing-in ceremony following the assassination of her husband John F. Kennedy. The juxtaposition of these two works emphasized “the funeral tones of the Flowers, both in their somber black backgrounds and in the traditional iconographic association of floral imagery with life’s transience.”3 

     

    2-sided collage for 48-inch Flowers (front), 1964. The Andy Warhol Museum. Pittsburgh Founding Collection, Contribution, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. ©2012 Andy Warhol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. 

    The image used by Warhol to produce Flowers, was initially published in a 1964 issue of Modern Photography. The original photograph consisted of seven hibiscus flowers that Warhol proceeded to crop, rotate, and alter. The hibiscus, specifically the mandrinette, is an extremely rare shrub exclusively native to the mountains of Mauritius. However, reviewers struggled to identify the four remaining flowers due to the extreme flatness of the composition since Warhol asked a studio assistant “to run the photo repeatedly through the Factory’s photostat machine – a dozen times at least,”4 resulting in the almost complete loss of detail or definition. The transformation of the hibiscus from rare to generic aligns with the critical discussions surrounding the influence of pop culture, mass media, and the increasing commodification of products through production and distribution on an unprecedented scale. 

     

    Acetate mechanical for 82-Inch Flowers, 1964. The Andy Warhol Museum. Pittsburgh Founding Collection, Contribution, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. ©2012 Andy Warhol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. 

    Upon Warhol’s admission of using the photograph without the authorization of the photographer, Patricia Caulfield, he was sued for copyright infringement and lost. This dispute was particularly ironic considering that thus far, Warhol had built much of his artistic career upon the employment of distinguished brands as the subject of his art without conflict or consequences.  

     

    Warhol working on a large Flowers painting at the Factory, New York City, March 1965, © David McCabe ©2012 Andy Warhol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. 

    Following this lawsuit, Warhol began experimenting with the medium of photography and developed his own portrait practice throughout the 1970s, in which he transformed regular people into “Warhol stars.”5 Flowers marked a unique and pivotal moment in Warhol’s oeuvre, a deviation from dealing with exclusively celebrity or commercial subject matter. Warhol elevated the everyday by treating banal scenes and objects just as he would a renowned figure or brand. Flowers exemplified Warhol’s achievement of a certain artistic status, in which he produced images that the public would not have previously paid attention to, until Warhol decided that they should.

    "Fame, which had long been one of the primary subjects of his work, was now also one of its effects. Warhol’s status as an artistic brand had been secured."
    —Michael Lobel 

    • Literature

      Frayda Feldman and Jörg Schellmann 64-73

    • 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.

      View More Works

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Flowers (F. & S. 64-73)

1970
The complete set of 10 screenprints in colors, on wove paper, the full sheets.
all S. 36 x 36 in. (91.4 x 91.4 cm)
All signed in black ballpoint pen and stamp numbered variously from the edition of 250 (there were also 26 artist's proofs lettered A-Z), published by Factory Additions, New York, all framed.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for $1,482,000

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Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 19 - 21 April 2022