Andy Warhol - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 17, 2008 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist; Marvin Ross Friedman & Company, Miami; Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco

  • Catalogue Essay

    Andy Warhol’s portraits of Chairman Mao are the most paradoxical of modern masterworks. Television coverage of Nixon’s historic trip to China in 1972 exposed the artist to the world’s most famous political image. In love with fame, Warhol fearlessly placed Mao’s smiling, seemingly benign face at the very core of a stunning, original body of painting. (R. Mnuchin, D. Lévy, Andy Warhol: Mao, New York, 2006.)
    Warhol was redefining the American avant-garde landscape during his rise to fame in the beginning of the 1960s, upending high-Modernism’s potentially stifling seriousness. Doing so with a rash of bold colours, graphic imagery, repetition, experimental film-making, irony, and an unforgiving celebration of capitalism, consumer culture, and the
    entrepreneurial ethos.
    The 1970s would see Warhol leap successfully from his previous somewhat faltering role as the avant-garde darling to the most influential society portraitist of his generation, this is in no small part thanks to his inspired
    choice for an uncommissioned portrait – the massively influential and recognisable Chinese revolutionary leader Chairman Mao Tse-Tung. It was Warhol’s stated goal in producing the Mao series to obtain the Chairman’s
    patronage in the hopes that an official mandate from Mao would result in an endless supply of revenue in the form of commissioned portraits for every government office, school and public venue in China. Naturally the communist revolutionary did not elect to do business with Warhol, the foremost purveyor of American capitalist imagery. The Mao series did, however, manage to cultivate a renewed interest in Warhol, the portrait artist and would lead him to produce thousands of commissioned portraits of almost every noteworthy American icon of the period.
    What is most notable about the Mao series, in particular this present lot, from a stylistic point of view, is the use of visible, expressionistic brushwork over his standard off-register silkscreen technique. The present lot, for example, sees the Chairman’s face rendered in a neon orange, suspending it over a restless cloud of blue and white, the brush marks more clearly visible than ever before. For his Mao series Warhol revived the expressionist
    aesthetic that succeeded the then current Pop aesthetic, with the interest of having the piece express nothing. Ever the ironist  Warhol was quoted as having declared that ‘“The hand-painted look” was now in fashion’,
    (N. Hiromoto, Andy Warhol: Conditions of Art, Andy Warhol, Tokyo, 2000), in doing so Warhol reduced the entrenched connection between personal vision and painterly gesture that was a basic theory of Abstract Expressionism to a look. With Mao, Warhol stamped yet another indelible icon onto the American consciousness and in doing so helped breath a second wind back into his career as the ne plus ultra of portraiture.

  • 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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Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas.
30.8 x 25.7 cm. (12 1/8 x 10 1/8 in).
Signed and dated 'Andy Warhol 74' and stamped with the Authentication Board seal and numbered 'A108.042' on the overlap.

£250,000 - 350,000 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

18 Oct 2008, 7pm