Andy Warhol - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 17, 2024 | Phillips

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  • In Andy Warhol's Superman, the hero is placed centre stage as he soars through the air with his iconic fist-up pose, clad in his striking red, yellow and blue attire. The superhero’s form is superimposed with a repetition of his outline, whilst linear strokes glide off him, conveying dynamic motion and a visual whoosh as he soars through the sky. With use of graphic lines, two-dimensional rendering, and vibrant colours, the work charmingly pays homage to comic book illustrations. In doing so, a nod is made to Warhol’s earlier artistic explorations, where influences from newspapers, adverts, and comic strips permeated his paintings, including a 1961 painting that featured Superman himself.


    Superman, introduced to DC comics in 1938 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, further resonates on a personal level for Warhol. Having suffered from an immobilising illness in his childhood, comic books served as a refuge, a source of comfort and distraction. In the hands of Warhol, the superhero transforms into a nostalgic time capsule, embodying the artist’s formative years and the solace found within the pages of comic books. 

    “You live in your dream America that you’ve custom-made from art and schmaltz and emotions just as much as you live in your real one.”
    —Andy Warhol
    The Man of Steel’s enduring motto “truth, justice, and the American way” was introduced in 1942 and remained unchanged until 2021, encapsulating his patriotic embodiment of ideal American virtues. Through comic book narratives, film, and television, Superman faithfully supported American causes, bringing order to society in times of need. His physical attributes follow a mythological archetype, embodying muscular athletic strength reimagined in a modern context. This hypermasculine hero served as a symbol of active masculinity, inspiring young men to cultivate their physical strength and advocate for moral justice. Superman seamlessly became an American icon, emphasised through his integration into consumer culture, appearing in themed products and advertisements, representing the essence of Americana.


    Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1966. Image: Album / Alamy Stock Photo 

    In addition to being utilised as an emblem of America, Superman was furthermore a subject of the male homoerotic gaze. With his squared jaw and muscular physique, he was rendered a figure of male fantasy and a catalyst for adolescent sexual awakenings for many. Moreover, with his dual identity of Clark Kent, Superman presented a mirror to those homosexual American men during the 1940s and 50s who similarly were forced to live in secrecy, keeping their authentic identity hidden beneath the surface. Seemingly a subject of Warhol’s own desire and homoerotic fantasies, the present lot accentuates Superman’s conventionally handsome and well-groomed appearance, with sculpted muscles and perfectly slicked hair. 


    Central to Superman's character is his alternate persona, Clark Kent—a seemingly average, shy, and reserved reporter concealed behind glasses. This duality juxtaposes the hypermasculine image, providing motivation for young boys who felt misunderstood or lacked confidence. Clark Kent presents the possibility of having their own alter-ego, mirroring Superman, to which they could aspire. This notion resonates with the traits of Andy Warhol, a notably private and shy figure who lived amidst a flamboyant lifestyle of parties and socialising. Perhaps Warhol thought of his own persona as an alter-ego in some way. His famous quote, "If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface," wittily encourages others to focus on his public image rather than his inner self, which he was notoriously private about.


    SUPERMAN CARTOON: The Mad Scientist (1941) (HD 1080p) | Bud Collyer, Joan Alexander, Jackson Beck.
    Video:™ Cartoon Channel via YouTube.


    Superman emerges as an expression of Warhol’s enduring fascination with consumerism, celebrities, and mass media. This screenprint forms part of Warhol’s 1981 Myths portfolio, in which the artist created portraits of iconic characters taken from Post-War American popular culture. Standing alongside Superman in the series are well-known figures such as Mickey Mouse, Uncle Sam, Dracula, and Santa Claus. Characteristically of Pop Art, popular culture is fused with fine art, demonstrated here through the transformation of the genre of portraiture. The Myths portfolio redefined portraiture, traditionally once reserved for figures of historical, political, religious, and monarchical significance, portraying characters born from consumerist culture. These figures, extracted from their familiar backdrops of comics, television screens and silver screens, were therefore granted an elevated status within the realm of art. In Superman, the superhero transforms into a visual embodiment of fantasy, hopes, and dreams, each thematic attributes embedded within the Myths portfolio. 


    • Provenance

      Phillips, New York, Editions & Works on Paper, 17 Oct 2017, lot 87
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Literature

      Frayda Feldman and Jörg Schellmann 260

    • 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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Superman, from Myths (F. & S. 260)

Screenprint in colours with diamond dust, on Lenox Museum Board, the full sheet.
S. 96.6 x 96.7 cm (38 x 38 1/8 in.)
Signed and numbered 37/200 in pencil (there were also 30 artist's proofs), published by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., New York (with their inkstamp on the reverse), framed.

Full Cataloguing

£150,000 - 200,000 

Sold for £190,500

Contact Specialist

Because of technical difficulties our sale is delayed. We should resume soon. Sorry for the inconvenience.
+44 20 7318 4024

Rebecca Tooby-Desmond
Specialist, Head of Sale, Editions

Robert Kennan
Head of Editions, Europe

Anne Schneider-Wilson
Senior International Specialist, Editions

Louisa Earl
Associate Specialist, Editions

Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 17 - 18 January 2024