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  • 'I want to be as famous as the Queen of England.'
    —Andy Warhol

    From postage stamps to currency, the image of Queen Elizabeth II is omnipresent. As Britain’s largest export, the Queen entered the world of consumer culture in the 1980s, when the Royal Family invited the public into their home through television broadcasts. They have since become Europe’s equivalent to Hollywood - style icons, environmental ambassadors, and mental health campaigners. With a profile recognised globally, the Queen provides an ideal subject for an artist obsessed with fame.

     

    In 1985 Andy Warhol became fascinated by the exponential infatuation with British Royalty and immortalised the Queen in his contemporary aesthetic, transforming her into the celebrity he imagined her to be. His Reigning Queens series featured the four sitting queens of the day, who assumed the throne through birth right alone, not by marriage: Queen Elizabeth II of England, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, and Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland. Using a photograph taken from her 1977 Silver Jubilee portrait, Warhol fragmented the image of Queen Elizabeth II with overlaid shapes and stylized her face with graphic lines and flat colours. Taking advantage of his well-established screenprinting technique, the artist mirrored the
    mass-production of the official event portrait and, in so doing, created his own monumental postage stamp. While reinvigorating the traditional presentation of royalty he simultaneously addressed a fascination with social hierarchy. Even though the Queen sits at the apex of the social pecking order, she received the same treatment as that of Warhol’s other female muses, remodelled into a vibrant screen goddess with a mask-like façade alluding to ultimate power.

     

    Derek Hudson, Andy Warhol holding a screenprint of Queen Elizabeth II in his studio, The Factory New York, 1985. Image: © Derek Hudson/Getty Images © 2021 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by DACS, London
    Derek Hudson, Andy Warhol holding a screenprint of Queen Elizabeth II in his studio, The Factory New York, 1985. Image © Derek Hudson/Getty Images, Artwork © 2021 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by DACS, London

    After the series was first shown at Leo Castelli Gallery in New York in 1985, Warhol wrote in his diary
    "I just hate George Mulder for showing here in America. They were supposed to be only for Europe—nobody here cares about royalty and it'll be another bad review."  If only Warhol could have foreseen his success - in 2012, to celebrate the Queens Diamond Jubilee of sixty years on the throne, the Royal Collection purchased four of Warhol’s Reigning Queen portraits of Her Majesty, in varying colourways. The longest reigning monarch in British history, the Queen celebrates her Platinum Jubilee in 2022, with seventy years of service to her nation since her inauguration at the age of 25.

    • Literature

      Frayda Feldman and Jörg Schellmann 337

    • 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

48

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, from Reigning Queens (F. & S. 337)

1985
Screenprint in colours, on Lenox Museum Board, the full sheet.
S. 100.1 x 80 cm (39 3/8 x 31 1/2 in.)
Signed and numbered 'PP 1/5' in pencil (a printers proof, the edition was 40 plus 10 artist's proofs), published by George C.P. Mulder, Amsterdam, framed.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£70,000 - 100,000 

Sold for £352,800

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 19-20 January 2022