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  • Provenance

    Art & Public, Geneva; Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    "Warhol turned Marilyn Monroe into an emblem for our age: By constant visual reiteration, he distanced her Humanity. It may be that Warhol found her humanity painful and the distancing anodyne. I give him doubt's benefit there. Nonetheless, Marilyn-victimised by publicity in life-became, in death, a kind of two-dimensional slogan after what Warhol had done with her." (D. Keith Mano, ‘Warhol-Andy Warhol' in National Review, 22 January, 1988)
    The notion of celebrity status has become one of the essential phenomenon's of the 20th century – a concept of being, mostly developed through the vast world of the media. Defined as being someone whose persona has made it into the culture of high society and whose image has become, perhaps even more famous than the actual person, is the world in which Andy Warhol would find the way to his Marilyn series of silkscreens.
    The ultimate celebrity of a specific American era, actress, singer and female icon Marilyn Monroe committed suicide in August of 1962. Having been described as a ‘sex symbol' and standardised screen image, Warhol's growing obsession with fame grabbed the idea of Monroe as a pre-fabricated media product and translated it into some of his finest and best-known canvases to date. Basing his paintings on a photograph of her, a publicity still for the 1953 movie Niagra, Warhol would then paint the canvas with a single colour – turquoise, green, blue, lemon yellow, silkscreen Monroe's portrait on top, sometimes alone, sometimes doubled or even sometimes multiplied in a grid. In reproducing this photograph of a heroine shared by millions, Warhol chose to cononise Monroe – a figure, whose image encompassed glamour, celebrity and suicide, would simultaneously provide the most haunting imagery with the most lasting resonance. Captivated by the Monroe mania, Warhol, upon her untimely death transformed her into a powerful icon of the 1960s Pop movement and an instantly recognisable ‘logo' of Warhol's art.
    Basing his Marilyn series on a pre-existing image, Warhol was borrowing an already public picture of the icon as his basic source material. Changing and reinventing the original motif, Warhol gave his paintings a new context and mood in another time and in another space. The present lot, Nine Multi-Coloured Marilyns (Reversal Series), which was executed between 1979 and 1980 is a prime example of Warhol's later Marilyn paintings which would re-explore the potential of his earlier works to become something different, whilst maintaining the original allure. By silkscreening the negative image of the original photograph and illuminating its shadows, the resultant image seemingly presents the alter-egos of his celebrated icons. From his Mona Lisa to his details from the Last Supper, it is by far the image that has become most successful in his artistic repertoire of reversals. It is through the reversal image of Marilyn Monroe and through the knowledge of her life that help transform this work into haunting and nostalgic representations of an icon, of the magical but shallow artifice of a Hollywood star.
    Set against a pitch black background, Nine Multi-Coloured Marilyns (Reversal Series) are illuminated through radiant contours of shades of red, blue, purple and green. Glowing through the canvas, as if being lit by footlights from behind, the image is repeated as if in a filmstrip. Executed in a stylish manner, enhanced with the mystique of Warhol's own legend, Nine Multi-Coloured Marilyns (Reversal Series) is a seminal work in the artist's oeuvre visually depicting an image of fame, engaging with fame-conferring power of a culture saturated with image-reproduction and the disastrous effects of its time. The work is a powerful example of one of the world's most recognisable celebrities, whose fame and misfortune are captured in a painting, which serves the purpose to immortalise her status, whilst equally eternalising it as one of Warhol's most famous subject-matters ever to have been put onto canvas.
    "I knew I belonged to the public and to the world, not because I was talented or even beautiful, but because I had never belonged to anything or anyone else."(Marilyn Monroe)

  • 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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225

Nine Multicolored Marilyns (Reversal Series)

1979-1986
Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas.
138 x 106 cm. 954 3/8 x 41 5/8 in).
Signed and dated ‘9 coloured marilyns Andy Warhol reversal series’ on the overlap.

Estimate
£2,200,000 - 2,800,000 

Sold for £2,505,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

29 June 2008, 5pm
London