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  • Provenance

    Estate of Andy Warhol
    Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., New York
    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above in 1998)

  • Exhibited

    New York, Gagosian Gallery, Andy Warhol Drawings and Related Works 1951-1986, 13 February-22 March 2003
    Los Angeles, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, Andy Warhol Retrospective, 25 May-18 August 2002 then traveled to Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie; London, Tate Modern
    New York, Christophe Van de Weghe Fine Art, Andy Warhol: Works on Paper from the early 60's, 10 November-16 December 2000

  • Literature

    Andy Warhol: Works on paper from the early 60’s, exh. cat., Christophe van de Weghe Fine Art, New York, 2000, cat. no. 15 (illustrated)
    Andy Warhol Drawings and Related Works 1951-1986, Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2003, p. 87 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    The car is a recurrent subject in Andy Warhol’s oeuvre. As Renate Wiehager writes, it functions as a ‘marque and a prophetic warning, as a symbol of economic prosperity and individual freedom, a fulfilment and undoing.’ (Renate Wiehager, Andy Warhol: Cars and Business Art, Stuttgart: DaimlerChrysler AG, 2002, p.7). From the ruination of Burning White Car III to the elegance of Mercedes Benz 300 SL Coupe, 1954, it recurs as a startling and ambiguous vision of modernity. In the present lot, the car takes a graceful form: an embodiment of quiet majesty.

    Dating from 1962, Untitled (Car Detail) finds Warhol at a stylistic intersection. For much of the previous decade he had worked as an advertising illustrator. Using a ‘blotted line’ technique that involved a painstaking process of ink transferral, he created a series of images distinguished by tremulous lines amid open space. Untitled (Imperial Car Detail) derives a compositional influence from these pieces; Warhol leaves much of the upper portion blank, effectively imaging the smooth surface of the vehicle. Elsewhere in the drawing, he takes a less minimal approach. Depicting the headlight he makes deft use of charcoal to create depth and texture that is largely absent from previous works.

    In 1963, Warhol defined Pop Art as ‘liking things.’ (Andy Warhol in conversation with Gene Swenson, Art News, 1963). As is often the case with Warhol, blunt phrasing reveals complex thought. Implicitly responding to the non-representational work of the Abstract Expressionists, he challenges the hegemony of subjectivity and the artist’s mark. Instead, he proposes a radical affirmation of external reality as a legitimate subject. Questions of individual artistry, he implies, might be less important than the depicted object. In part Untitled (Imperial Car Detail) is an expression of this sensibility; an avowal of surface, it is concerned with image rather than artist. It resonates with many of Warhol’s prints from the period; in pieces like 191 One Dollar Bills and 210 Coca-Cola Bottles, he reproduced familiar images from consumer culture rather than individualised marks.

    This disavowal of subjectivity found extreme expression in a desire for obscured authorship; ‘it would be so great if more people took up silk screens so that no one would know whether my picture was mine or somebody else’s’ (Andy Warhol in conversation with Gene Swenson, Art News, 1963). In his printmaking, Warhol harnessed near-industrial strategies of replication to remain at a distance from his work. As Heiner Bastian writes, this proved the ‘ideal medium to depersonalise production: the print reflects the actual commensurability of the sheer facticity of the depicted object.’ (Heiner Bastian, ‘Rituals of Unfulfillable Individuality – The Whereabouts of Emotion’, in Andy Warhol: Retrospective, London: Tate, 2002, p.27). Drawing in graphite is rather more intimate. In the gently wavering lines and gestural shading at the bottom of Untitled (Imperial Car Detail) we encounter the signs of artistic process. In his prints, Warhol’s hand is elided; individuation occurs but within a mechanistic framework, and often amidst serial repetition. However, in the present lot, we are privy to the unmistakable trace of an artist moving graphite across paper.

    In focusing on a fragment of an object, the work is rather more typical. Warhol’s oeuvre is full of isolated parts; often human and animal forms are bisected, but on a number of occasions he directs his gaze to vehicular forms. Composed of casein and pencil on canvas, Pontiac (1961) is the most striking compositional antecedent to the lot at hand. Depicting the front of the car, it closes in on a section of the vehicle, cutting it roughly in half. The silk screen print Twelve Cadillacs dates from the same year as Untitled (Imperial Car Detail). A 3x4 grid apportions a dozen nearly-identical sections of the titular vehicle, accentuating the gleaming bonnet. In each instance, Warhol draws attention to the form rather than the function of the subject. Dividing the car for the purpose of the image, he treats it as a largely aesthetic phenomenon. Again, attention is directed to surface.

    Given how central mass production and consumer aesthetics are to Warhol’s work, the car is an ideal subject. However, in Untitled (Imperial Car Detail), Warhol creates an unexpected and densely layered piece. As in much of his work, he invites the viewer to luxuriate in exteriors; sketching out the logo and insignia, his interest seems to lie in the particularity of the object’s appearance and in its status in consumer culture. But in its sketched lines and human fluidity, he positions it outside the mechanised processes that characterise much of his work. His distinctive cool is brought into tension with a rather less distanced aesthetic practice.

  • 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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Untitled (Imperial Car Detail)

graphite on paper
45.7 x 61 cm (18 x 24 in.)

£150,000 - 250,000 

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

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 29 June 2015 7pm