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  • Provenance

    Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
    Akira Ikeda Gallery, Tokyo

  • Catalogue Essay

    Emblematic of twentieth century popular culture, Andy Warhol’s One Multicolored Marilyn (Reversal Series) is a study in contemporary iconography – an important homage to a commercial and fame-driven society captured through Warhol’s lens. Revisiting arguably his most renowned subject almost two decades after his first portrayal in 1962 of America’s femme fatale, Warhol re-imagines Marilyn Monroe’s iconic beauty in a cool prism of color, reflecting not only the end of the colorful age of disco, but also the artist’s desire to distinguish this later body of work from his earlier silkscreen depictions of the actress. As the artist himself noted, “They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” (quoted in K. Honnef, Andy Warhol 1928-1987 Commerce into Art, Cologne 2000, p. 90). One Multicolored Marilyn is, then, the manifestation of this Warholian philosophy; in transforming the visual motifs that came to define the genre of Pop Art, Warhol reinvented himself and his work, once again exhibiting the artistic bravado that established his own cultural legacy.

    Immortalizing one of Hollywood’s most beloved and tragic figures, Warhol’s fascination with Marilyn Monroe extended beyond her celebrity and striking beauty. Considering the actress a kindred spirit whose acting and performance talent was often underestimated and overlooked by her peers, Warhol eschewed this pre-fabricated reputation, instead manufacturing a legacy of his own for Monroe, and in turn, creating one of the most enduring images of his career. Describing his enchantment with the legend and her persona, in 1966 Warhol explained, “As for whether it’s symbolical to paint Marilyn in such violent colors: it’s beauty, and she’s beautiful…” Warhol returned to his images of the screen beauty throughout his career, rendering her broad lips and seductive gaze in the neon colors of Pop Art – a marked break from his New York School predecessors that ushered into the broader American consciousness the recognition of a new, artistic representation of commerciality. Re-examining his own imagery in the late 1970s, Warhol became acutely aware of his own celebrity and role in the saturation of contemporary culture. Exploiting the visual discourse manufactured in the 1950s and ‘60s, Warhol revived and reversed his Pop Art subjects – from his own portrait to the pervasive Campbell’s soup cans - producing reimagined icons in the negative, as in One Multicolored Marilyn.

    An electrifying combination of neon blue heightened with powdery pinks and purples, One Multicolored Marilyn is Warhol’s transfigurement of the Hollywood star in an inverted palette, relying upon the canvas’s negative space to recapture Monroe’s glamour. Echoing yet inverting his earlier impressions, Warhol’s Reversal here derives not from the icon’s youthful features, but from the absence of color in juxtaposition. Elaborating upon the philosophy behind the production of his silkscreens, and the later Reversals, the artist noted in 1975: “I really believe in empty spaces, although, as an artist, I make a lot of junk. Empty space is never-wasted space. Wasted space is any space that has art in it. An artist is somebody who produces things that people don’t need to have but that he, for some reason, thinks it would be a good idea to give them.” In One Multicolored Marilyn, it is the absence of color that intimates the legacy of a fallen idol, now etched into the collective memory of a bygone era – a shadow of her former self, the colors call forth Monroe’s powerful spirit. In this sense, Warhol invites us into his psyche, and that of his subject: “Warhol’s Reversals recapitulate his portraits of famous faces…but with the tonal values reversed. As if the spectator were looking at photographic negatives, highlighted faces have gone dark while former shadows now rush forward in electric hues. The reversed Marilyns, especially, have a lurid otherworldly glow, as if illuminated by internal footlights” (D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1989, p. 378).

    Though One Multicolored Marilyn references the now ubiquitous publicity shot of Monroe used for her 1953 film Niagara, Warhol introduces his reversed version of this image with both irreverence for the past and anticipation of the future. Questioning the nature of art, particularly the self-referential implications of Pop Art, Warhol blatantly refuted the notion that his mass-produced images and vibrant reproductions of the mundane be elevated to the strata of ‘high art;’ immediately accessible and created en masse, the broad recognition that Warhol’s work received only encouraged the artist to reinterpret his past vision. The genesis of Warhol’s work, from appropriation to re-appropriation, the quotidian to the extraordinary, poetically culminates where his iconography began: with Monroe. Perhaps the most recognizable beauty of the twentieth century, Monroe was part muse, part cultural commentary for Warhol. It is then fitting that the electrifying One Multicolored Marilyn (Reversal), a simultaneously haunting and dynamic impression of the screen siren, represents not only the cultural zeitgeist of a generation, but the artistic apex of one of the twentieth century’s most influential innovators, ushering into our consciousness a renewed understanding of past and present.

  • 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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One Multicolored Marilyn (Reversal Series)

acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
45.7 x 35.2 cm. (18 x 13 7/8 in.)
Signed and dated “Andy Warhol 79/86” along the overlap; further stamped by the Andy Warhol Authentication Board and numbered A105.1110 along the overlap.

£600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for £1,082,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Evening Sale 10 February 2014 7pm