Andy Warhol - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 14, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    The Ambassador’s Wife forms part of Andy Warhol’s iconic collection of 40 x 40 inch portraits carried out during the mid 1980’s. The portraits amass to form an artistic rolodex of socialites, pop icons and tycoons from the late twentieth century. Each individual portrait, once subjected to the artist’s celebrated process, transforms into a version of his familiar, idealised image. Untitled (The Ambassador’s Wife), 1982, employs the modus operandi that underpins all of Warhol’s portraits: the standardisation of the head shot renders the image subject to immediate recognition and identification as part of his oeuvre. Its vibrant palette, idealised features and glamorised representation remove the absolute integrity of the individual portrait and transform it into a graphically alluring façade.

    In the case of Untitled (The Ambassador’s Wife) the subject depicted is that of Patricia Segues, mother of Agustin Barrios and wife to the ambassador Agustín Barrios-Gómez Méndez. Gaetana Enders, the wife of Ambassador Thomas Enders and friend to Segues, was a contact of Warhol’s and requested that he paint Segues’ portrait. The occasion on which the portrait was produced was following a dinner in the esteemed company of writer Bob Collacello, fashion designer Carolina Herrera and Warhol himself. The following day Segues went to the factory on Broadway to take the head shots that would provide the primary material for the portrait. The original arrangement was to compose a single image but, making use of the numerous polaroids that had been taken, two complementary images were completed. Segues explains: 'He was to make one portrait, but he made two, so when I went to pick it up and saw the 2 of them, I asked my husband for both. He invited us to lunch in a sort of dining room he had in one of the stories of The Factory, where he made Interview Magazine, and I left with my portraits. So that is the story.”

    Untitled (The Ambassador’s Wife) utilises a methodical formula: the simplified photographic image has been reduced to a decorative template. The bright, glossy lips of the sitter stand out from the otherwise monochrome image and highlight the purity and power of the depiction. The repeated image adds to the superficial artificiality of the prospect and highlights its purpose as model rather than entity, this principle enables the flattery and romanticism of the client. To Warhol, his sitters were 'dimensionless, plastic objects of high style.' (Callie Angell, Andy Warhol Screen Tests: The Films of Andy Warhol Catalog Raisonne, 2006).

    Having been described as the last of the truly successful social portrait artist; Warhol’s expansive repertoire covers numerous individuals, escalating from face to face in an endeavour to conquer and comprehend elitism. Yet his own public character contradicts his creations: silent, withdrawn, and observant, he fulfils Stuart Davis’s definition of the new American artist as 'a cool Spectator-Reporter at an Arena of Hot Events.' The unique interaction with his sitters creates a co-dependence unique to his work. Warhol offers absolution and idealisation to his subjects and in turn they offer him media attention and publicity. His paintings mimic the dissociation of the mass media and his purposeful abandon reflects the increase in pace of modern life. The opus seems to work towards the development of a product rather than an investigation of discernible particulars. Yet reproduction does not render his paintings monotonous: 'It’s so boring painting the same picture over and over' (Andy Warhol). Each interpretation includes a variation on a theme that both assures its rarity and insures its acknowledgement and recognition. Screen sirens such as Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot, to name a few, have been immortalised by his hand. These high-profile subjects are projected to another level of celebrity in his oeuvre and acquire a timeless quality where portraits become a type of memento mori for the human figure. The celebrity backdrop and fast track process behind the portrait, as well as the inclusion of its replicated image, reflect and characterise the superficial, assorted and temporal elements of contemporary society. Yet, in Segues’ portrayal, the female figure is elevated to an unconstrained celebrity status: immortalised and publicised through the artist’s image. In the twentieth century Warhol has managed to re-evaluate the genre of portraiture and re-invent its importance as one at the forefront to the modern world.

  • 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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Property from the Collection of the late Ambassador Agustín Barrios Gómez


Untitled (The Ambassador's Wife)

acrylic, silkscreen ink on canvas, in two parts
each 101.5 x 101.5 cm (39 7/8 x 39 7/8 in.)
Each signed and dated 'Andy Warhol '82' on the overlap.

£300,000 - 500,000 

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2014 7pm