Andy Warhol - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 27, 2008 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Fredrick W. Hughes, New York; Private collection, New York; Stellan Holm Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    Zurich, Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, 1992; Berlin, Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum fur Gegenwart, 1996; Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Andy Warhol Retrospective, 25 May – 18 August, 2002; Miami, Miami Art Museum, Miami Currents: Linking Collection and Community, 30 October, 2002 – 2 March, 2003

  • Literature

    Harper’s Bazaar, Deus Ex Machina, vol. 96, no. 3012, November, 1962, pp. 156 – 159 (illustrated); Exhibition Catalogue, Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich, 1992, no. 2 (illustrated); H. Bastian, Sammlung Marx – Volume II, Munich, 1996, no. 3 (illustrated); G. Frei, N. Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné: Paintings and Sculptures 1961 – 1963, London/New York, 2002, no. 217 & p. 202  (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Ironically, though he was looking to abandon his commercial background, Warhol was pleased to be commissioned by Harper’s Bazaar magazine to paint Untitled (Pontiac) for their November 1961 issue. He found the pressure to choose his subjects troublesome, and preferred to sit back and have others suggest subjects for him, as he had done as a commercial illustrator. He stated, ‘I loved working when I worked at commercial art and they told you what to do and how to do it and all you had to do was correct it and they’d say yes or no.The hard thing is when you have to dream up tasteless things to do on your own’ (Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, NewYork and London, 1975, p.96).The tendency to rely on others for inspiration remained with Warhol throughout his career, and it is well established that series ranging from Dollar Signs to Camouflage were suggested to the artist by his friends and associates. This particular commissioned painting debuted in a glossy, four-page spread entitled ‘Deus Ex Machina,’ dedicated to Warhol and cars. As the article explained, ‘Commissioned…to make a visual comment on the phenomenon of the American motorcar, Andy Warhol, continuing his experimentation in ‘commonism’ of the art of giving the familiar a supra-familiarity, made the nine oil paintings on these and the two preceding pages’ (As quoted in The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, London; New York: Phaidon, p.193). Photographer Eric Pollitzer shot the paintings at Warhol’s studio at 1342 Lexington Avenue for the spread. He employed the classic studio approach, photographing the works leaning up against each other to create an informal, pastiche effect. It was with good reason that Harper’s Bazaar chose cars as Warhol’s subject. The artist once said ‘I think of myself as an American artist. I like it here, I think it’s so great. I’d like to work in Europe but I wouldn’t do the same things, I’d do different things. I feel I represent the US in my art, but I’m not a social critic. I just paint the objects in my paintings because those are the things I know best’ (Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1989, p.458). Untitled (Pontiac) is exactly the type of subject Warhol describes in this quote. Automobiles were the essential American symbol. Developed and popularized in America, they had transformed from a luxury item available exclusively to the rich in the early twentieth century, to a ubiquitous form of transport accessible to a majority of people in the 1960s, demonstrating that the American Dream was attainable in a very real sense. Warhol’s fame arose in part from his penchant for painting common, American commodities, a category to which the 1963 Pontiac undeniably belonged. Though the car was a symbol of America’s wealth and high spirits in the Post-War era, there was more to it the sleek edges and graphic grille that Warhol highlights in Untitled (Pontiac). Warhol addresses this discrepancy in the following year, when cars again appear in his work – this time as agents of death of destruction in the Disasters series.These images of twisted metal revealed the darker side of America’s wholehearted embrace of the automobile. However, late 1961 found Warhol positive about the role of the car in modern society, as well as the start of the trademark Pop Art style he would come to be famous for, the seeds of which he planted in Untitled (Pontiac).

  • 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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Untitled (Pontiac)

Acrylic and pencil on canvas.
63.2 x 76.2 cm. (24 7/8 x 30 in).

£800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for £1,028,500

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

28 Feb 2008, 7pm