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  • 'Andy has sought by repetition to show us that there is no repetition really, that everything we look at is worthy of our attention. That’s been a major direction for the twentieth century, it seems to me.'
    —John Cage
    Instantly recognisable and indisputably iconic, Andy Warhol’s Flowers represent a defining moment of American Pop Art and post-war culture. At once naïve and ironic, exuberant and meditative, the four exaggeratedly simplified and starkly contrasted flowers embody all the compelling contradictions of a rapidly changing era where consumerism and mass-production flourished alongside counterculture idealism and artistic experiment.


    First executed in the summer of 1964, the series also represents an important period of transition for the artist. Produced for the occasion of his first exhibition with the legendary Leo Castelli Gallery, Flowers marks Warhol’s public transition from commercial illustrator to major contemporary artist. Although a series of exhibitions throughout the early years of the 1960s had introduced his Campbell Soup Cans, celebrity silkscreens and Brillo pad box sculptures to a wide and receptive audience, Castelli’s validation ultimately secured Warhol’s reputation as the ‘King of Pop’. It was a surprise then when, at the height of his success, Warhol announced his retirement from painting the following year at the opening of his second Flower Painting show in Ilena Sonnabend’s Paris gallery. Returning to New York he radically diversified his practice, moving away from painting and into film, fashion, music, and the immersive environments, which to a great extent were already anticipated in the simple and bold imagery and reproducibility of Flowers.

     

    Andy Warhol signs a book at his exhibition, pictured at the Kunsthaus Zurich in Switzerland, in May of 1978. Image © Photopress Archiv/Keystone / Bridgeman Images

    Absolutely contemporary in its pioneering execution and relationship to notions of seriality and mechanical reproduction, the silkscreened Flowers series maintain a lively dialogue with art historical tradition. Playfully engaging with the centuries-old genre of still-life painting and Duchampian ‘anti-art’ categories of the found object and Readymade, Flowers also prefigures twenty-first century conversations around the production and dissemination of digital art, as the recent minting of NFTs from Warhol’s restored ‘Amiga’ drawings by the Andy Warhol Foundation highlights.

     

    Flowers in Context:

    'In a funny way, he was kind of repeating the history of art. It was like now we’re doing my Flower period! Like Monet’s Waterlilies, Van Gogh’s Flowers.'
    —Gerard Malanga
    Just as the masterworks of the Dutch and Flemish Golden Age employed flowers as a symbol of the wealth and power amassed by the rapidly expanding colonial nation and of its reorientation to the principles of market capitalism in the early years of the seventeenth century, Warhol’s Flowers similarly articulate a sense of America’s emergence as the centre of twentieth century consumer capitalism. A son of Austro-Hungarian immigrants who became an icon of American Pop culture, Warhol was profoundly shaped by the aspirational promises of the ‘American Dream’ and, after working as a commercial illustrator, was uniquely attuned to the visual language of commodity culture and consumerism. More than any other artist of his time, Warhol worked at the cutting edge of mass media technologies, documenting the rapidly changing landscape of post-war America in a vocabulary that still feels absolutely relevant today.

     

    Daniel Seghers, Flowers in a Vase, oil on copper, c. 1629-1637. Residenzmuseum Bamberg, Germany. Image Wiki Commons
    Daniel Seghers, Flowers in a Vase, oil on copper, c. 1629-1637. Residenzmuseum Bamberg, Germany. Image Wiki Commons

    Executed in vivid bursts of tangerine and hot pink and floating against the monochromatic grass pattern behind, the four flowers initially seem like a radical thematic departure for the artist whose visual vocabulary was saturated with images of death, destruction and the ephemerality of beauty and celebrity. Given the proximity of still life painting to the memento mori or vanitas tradition however, Flowers, it seems, absolutely encapsulates Warhol’s obsessional focus on mortality, the multiplication and preservation of beauty enabled by the silkscreen technique a triumph of the artificial over the natural, of intransience in the face of death.

     

    Flowers and the Factory:

    '…I looked around the studio and it was all Marilyn and disasters and death. I said, ‘Andy, maybe it’s enough death now.’ He said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘Well, how about this?’ I opened a magazine to four flowers.'
    —Harry Geldzahler
    Happening upon a photographic spread of hibiscus flowers by Patricia Caulfield in the June 1964 edition of Modern Photography, then assistant curator of the Metropolitan Museum of art Henry Geldzahler apparently introduced the motif to Warhol. Appearing in an article focused on a new Kodak home colour processing system and including four variations of the image manipulated to highlight different degrees of colour saturation, the blossoms seemed, as Michael Lobel has quipped, ‘ripe for Warholian plucking.’i


    Appropriating the found image, Warhol then cropped, flattened and inverted it into a versatile square format which he could present the works ‘longer-longer or shorter-shorter or longer-shorter’ as he liked.ii With the help of studio assistants the image was further flattened by being repeatedly run through a photostat machine. The team then exaggerated the contrast and sharpened the background detail before making the silkscreen.


    The infamous Factory on 231 East 47th Street, which Warhol occupied from 1963 to 1967 provided the perfect environment for the assembly-line model of labour demanded by the silkscreen production, allowing Warhol to more fully explore his relentlessly experimental and democratic approaches to art production in the age of mechanical – and digital – reproduction.
    'Factory is as good a name as any. A factory is where you build things. This is where I build my work. In my art work, hand painting would take much too long and anyway that’s not the age we live in. Mechanical means are today, and using them I get more art to more people. Art should be for everyone.'
    —Andy Warhol

    Andy Warhol screen-printing in the Factory, interviewed by Andrew Sarris for from Show on Shows, 1965, CBC Archives

     

    i Michael Lobel, Andy Warhol, Flowers, exh. cat., Eykn Maclean, New York, 2012, n.p.
    ii Andy Warhol, quoted in David Bourdon, Andy Warhol, New York, 1989, p. 191

    • Provenance

      Marco Fila Collection, Italy
      Gagosian, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2010

    • Literature

      Georg Frei and Neil Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné: Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, Volume 02B, New York, 2004, no. 1482, pp. 42, 47 (illustrated, p. 42)

    • 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

Ο ◆23

Flowers

signed and dated 'Andy Warhol 64' on the overlap
acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
60.9 x 60.9 cm (23 7/8 x 23 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1964-65, this work is stamped by the Andy Warhol Authentication Board and numbered 'A100.0911.'

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for £1,353,500

Contact Specialist

Simon Tovey
Head of New Now Sale
+44 20 7318 4084
[email protected]

New Now

London Auction 13 July 2021