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  • Provenance

    Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, Private collection, New York

  • Exhibited

    Pasadena Art Museum, 12 May, 1970 – 14 January, 1971; Eindhoven, Van Abbemuseum, 16 October – 22 November, 1970; Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 16 December, 1970 – 14 January, 1971, Andy Warhol

  • Literature

    R. Crone, Andy Warhol, New York, 1970 & 1976 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Andy Warhol is the Twentieth Century’s undisputed king of the portrait. While his approach to portraiture evolved throughout his career, and the style and subject matter of the portraits varied widely, the concept of the portrait itself remained an important, recurrent, and imminently recognisable element of his artistic oeuvre. From the haunting and introspective self-portraits which reflect Warhol’s obsession with death and his own mortality to the flamboyant and colourful celebrity and society portraits of the 1970s and 1980s (a veritable chronicle of an era whose vivacity and liveliness are still arresting today), an examination of Warhol’s portraits offers not only an exploration of the range of his artistic expression but also reveals his obsession with celebrity and nearly verifies his wry aphorism that “in the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” (Andy Warhol) His images may have come from diverse sources, both public and private – from newspaper photographs, Hollywood film stills, and official portraits as well as intimate photo booth sessions – but the effect is always equally profound and striking. By consciously idealising the image and removing all flaws – indeed, all traces of humanity – Warhol and his machine-like approach to art reduce his subjects to a mere two-dimensional image, albeit a stunning one. Warhol perverts our perceptions of these public figures and condenses living beings into idealised, superficial images which exist solely for the sake of visual pleasure. The vicissitude of emotions displayed by Jackie Kennedy in newspaper photographs taken before and after her husband’s death becomes nothing more than a series of images for public consumption; the mask-like expression on a cartoonishly made-up Marilyn Monroe and even the carefully-chosen flashes of colour which obscure Lenin’s menacing stare make us forget the legend behind the image. It is no surprise, then, that Warhol, whose obsession with celebrity culture and incessant need to document his surroundings dominated his daily existence, would choose Sidney Janis as a portrait subject. Janis, who was entering his seventh decade when Warhol created his iconic portrait in 1967, was an art world star whose credibility and collector’s eye were widely recognised and whose gallery was second in prestige only to Leo Castelli’s. Although Sidney Janis may have made his initial fortune in the clothing business, his true passion had always been art. During the 1920s, Janis and his wife Harriet visited galleries and studios in New York and Paris. It was in Paris that he met Mondrian, Picasso, and Léger, whose works he acquired in addition to those by Matisse, Dalí, and Henri Rousseau. As a result of his extraordinary collection and his personal friendship with important artists such as Gorky, Ernst, Léger, Mondrian, and Duchamp, Janis was invited to join the Advisory Board of the Museum of Modern Art in 1934, which exhibited paintings from his private collection in that same year. Andy Warhol, Seven Decades of Janis, 1967 In 1948, Janis opened the Sidney Janis gallery, which quickly grew to prominence as a result of its reputation for scholarly exhibitions of contemporary artists and Twentieth Century movements such as Dada (organized by Duchamp), Futurism, Cubism, and Surrealism. Throughout the 1950s, Janis represented the most important artists of the mid-century New York school – Pollock, de Kooning, Guston, Kline, Rothko, Baziotes, Motherwell, Gorky, Gottlieb, and Albers. Janis had a reputation as a trend-spotter, and he was to anger many of these abstract expressionists when he organised The New Realists, a 1962 group show of 54 international Pop artists including (most famously) Warhol, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, Rosenquist, Dine, Wesselmann, Indiana, and Thiebaud. Janis was the first blue chip New York dealer to include Warhol in an exhibition (The New Realists ran concurrently with Warhol’s first solo exhibition at Eleanor Ward’s much smaller Stable Gallery), and he continued to represent many important Pop artists throughout the 1960s. Portrait of Sidney Janis owes more debt both in colour scheme and technique to Warhol’s Jackie portraits or to his contemporaneous Death and Disaster Series than to the technicolour Marilyns or Soup Cans which established his reputation. But unlike the Jackies or the Death and Disasters, which depict individuals in extraordinary circumstances, Portrait of Sidney Janis has a subject matter which is nascent in the banal. One immediately feels the presence of Warhol’s affinity for the photo booth snapshot – the three-quarter cropping of the image, the frontal stare, Janis’s benign smile and unexceptional attire in addition to Warhol’s trademark elemental reduction render the subject almost anonymous. If it weren’t Sidney Janis, artistic tastemaker, depicted on the canvas, it could be anyone: to the eye of the camera, and indeed to Warhol’s mechanistic hand, what differentiates a husband on his way home from work in Anytown, USA, quickly stopping at the train station to take an identification photo, from Sidney Janis? Warhol once again has committed the ultimate charade: the great and the good become anonymous figureheads, their life and personality – indeed the very reason their portrait was even created – are rendered insignificant. This particular image (though slightly cropped) is also featured in Warhol’s 1967 Seven Decades of Janis, an eight-canvas frieze in varying shades of green and grey which is included in the Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection at MoMA. This commemorative work – like all of Warhol’s multiple image friezes – conveys the passage of time as well as exceptionally documents the subject’s journey from anonymous young man in a large, provincial American town (Buffalo, NY) to self-made art world celebrity – a trajectory not so different from Warhol’s own. It is fitting that this man who contributed to the rise in Warhol’s star would be immortalised in one of his canvases, ensuring Janis more than his allotted fifteen minutes of fame.

  • 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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143

Sidney Janis

1967
Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen inks on canvas.
190.5 x 142.2 cm. (75 x 56 in).
Stamped with the Estate and Foundation seals and numbered ‘P060.053’ twice on the overlap.

Estimate
£1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for £1,028,500

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

28 Feb 2008, 7pm
London