Andy Warhol - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 12, 2007 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie Daniel Templon, Andy Warhol Hammer and Sickle, May 31 - July 9, 1977; Salzburg, Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, Andy Warhol: Arbeiten/Works 1962 - 1986, August, 1987; Zurich, Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Andy Warhol - Hammer and Sickle, 1999; Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Andy Warhol: Series and Singles, September 17 - December 31, 2001; New York, Gagosian Gallery, Cast a Cold Eye: The Late Works of Andy Warhol, October 25 - December 22, 2006

  • Literature

    Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, Andy Warhol: Arbeiten/Works, Salzburg 1987, no. 21 (illustrated); Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Andy Warhol. Hammer and Sickle, Zurich 1999, no. 6 (illustrated); Gagosian Gallery, Cast a Cold Eye: The Late Works of Andy Warhol, New York 2006, no. 99 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    With his iconic imagery of the Hammer and Sickle, Andy Warhol “reduced one of the most feared symbols on the planet to a simple still life,” creating a work which turned the imposing symbol of the Soviet Union into an aesthetic triumph and powerful pop masterpiece. Painted in 1976, the Hammer and Sickle paintings were made during the height of the Cold War. As the two antagonistic superpowers wrangled for political influence around the globe, capitalism and communism went head-to-head, with the United States engaged in a policy of containment to prevent communism from spreading beyond the Soviet Union and China. Within this climate of conflict and near-crisis, Warhol intuitively honed in on the two most visible images of communism, the portrait of Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung and the hammer and sickle of the Soviet flag, and turned them into something completely his own. “The sheer repetition of the Mao image in Red China and the hammer and sickles in the Soviet Union made it easy for Warhol to appropriate them into his already repetitive style.” (Ronnie Cutrone, Warhol’s assistant, Hammer and Sickle exhibition catalogue, Haunch of Venison, London, 2002)

    Hammer and Sickle is a uniquely significant example of Warhol’s particular talent for obsessively reusing an image so that it is completely transformed through repetition. In his painting, the tools both point downwards, in direct opposition to the upward facing hammer and sickle of the Soviet flag. Warhol has literally upended the symbols, removing them from their initial political context. He has then further decontextualized the best-known symbol of the “enemy” in the Cold War through his additional series of removals, from political symbols to graffiti to props which are photographed and then recycled into a two dimensional form on the canvas. Through these steps the symbols lose their initial meaning, yet Warhol’s genius lies in his ability to invest them with an entirely new significance as a branded image, not unlike a Coca-Cola: immediately recognizable as a pop-cultural touchstone. In giving the hammer and sickle a commodified identity and offering it for sale in a commercial art gallery, Warhol exposes the inherent links between political propaganda and product placement, dissolving the distance between communism and capitalism. He has exposed the man behind the curtain, revealed the mechanics of propaganda, and fused aesthetics and history into a painting that epitomizes exactly why Warhol remains an unrivaled master of nonchalant irony and American painting.

    The hammer and the sickle were emblems on the flag of the Soviet Union from 1923 until its collapse, and still feature on the flag of the communist party of China. The two tools, entwined together, symbolize harmony between industrial and agricultural workers. Warhol became interested in the tools as a graphic construct after a trip to Italy in 1975 where the hammer and sickle were prominently featured as common graffiti throughout the country. The repetition and powerful simplicity of the image resonated with the “Pope of Pop.” Upon his return to the U.S., Warhol had his assistant hunt down images of the hammer and sickle symbols: “ Like a good American, I turned to the yellow pages to find Communist bookstores in New York…I would find myself sneaking along the skyscrapers of the Big Apple and darting into a Red bookstore, looking over my shoulder…I’d return with the books, heart racing, and Andy would say, half-joking, half-serious, “Were you followed by anyone?” (Ronnie Cutrone, Hammer and Sickle exhibition catalogue, Haunch of Venison, London. 2002)

    But Warhol found the book images too flat, and sent Cutrone back out to bring back a real hammer and sickle, which were set up as a still life and photographed in the studio. Using the silkscreen process to transfer the photographed image to canvas, Warhol painted the large scale Hammer and Sickle, emphasizing the shadows cast by the tools, giving the work depth and creating a tension between shadow and substance. He called the resulting work a “still life,” composed of the elements re-arranged and with new associations.

    The graffiti source material of the Hammer & Sickle series resonated with a bubbling undercurrent in the West of an emerging punk aesthetic. As Warhol’s close friend Bob Colacello remembered, "Andy's most successful show in 1977 was of his least obviously commercial series, the Hammer & Sickles, at the Daniel Templon Gallery in Paris.…The show sold out, despite - or perhaps because of - the opening's being invaded by three hundred Parisian punks in leather, rubber, chains, and razors.” In addition, the graphic appeal of Hammer & Sickle drew attention to the power of symbolism at the intersection between the personal and the political, and Warhol’s uncanny ability to capture the zeitgeist with this work of art. “The punk period witnessed a renaissance of tattooing…. Because of a slew of ‘primitive’ and sexual associations, the tattoo is proscribed by traditional western conventions. But tattoos persist, serving to decorate, seduce, shock, scare, to declare nonconformity . . . [Warhol’s] own tattoo-like exhibitionism at the 1977 opening for his ‘Hammer and Sickle’ paintings drew together various structures of power and pleasure: the art world/gallery system brand of capitalism; a communist emblem rendered in paintings titled Still Lifes, in which the shadow seems more real (threatening)...”(The Work of Andy Warhol, Dia Art Foundation, “Discussions in Contemporary Culture, No. 2,” ed. Gary Garrels, Bay Press, Seattle, 1989, p. 107) Warhol had succeeded in turning a state-sanctioned symbol of the communist East into an image that resonated with a section of the counter culture in the West while simultaneously impressing the art world with his talent for turning icons into something even more.

    While Warhol denied that Hammer & Sickle had any political significance, he was clearly aware of the power of symbolism and the choice he had made in selecting these loaded symbols to paint. “Politics cannot be banished entirely from this image, of course. But even if Mr. Warhol is not exactly in the forefront of the international labor movement he can certainly claim the status of an experienced (he is 50 this year) and industrious workman. In these new paintings he has taken something from sculpture (Calder's stabiles, Claes Oldenburg's giant variants of household objects), something from architecture (from the towers of San Gimignano to the World Trade Center), and something of painting (spreading the color as a schoolboy spreads jam on his first day at summer camp) and come up with an end result that combines imagination with punch.”
    (John Russell reviewing Warhol’s Hammer and Sickles exhibition at the Leo Castelli gallery, "Art: Warhol's Hammer and Sickles", The New York Times, January 21, 1977)

  • 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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Hammer and Sickle

Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas.
72 x 86 1/4 in. (182.9 x 219.1 cm).
Signed and dated "Andy Warhol 76" on the overlap. Stamped with the Estate and Foundation seals and numbered "PA25.003" on the overlap.

£2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for £2,372,000

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Evening Sale
13 October 2007, 4pm