Andy Warhol - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, September 14, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'Politics…combines two of the themes that interested Andy most: power and fame'
    —Bob Colacello, Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, 2014
    Divesting his subject of political ramifications, Andy Warhol strips Russian political revolutionist Vladimir Lenin into his most basic forms. Clear graphic lines, solid blocks of colour, and lack of extraneous detail deters the viewer from focusing on anything other than the subjects face. Warhol’s imitable aesthetic is a celebration of culture stripped of context: how else could controversial material achieve artistic appeal without provoking indignation?
    Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik Party from 1918 to 1924, oversaw the violent transition from the Russian Monarchy to the Soviet Union. Following two revolutions in 1917, first the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and disintegration of the Russian Empire, and then the Bolshevik seizure of power through a bloody civil war, Leninism reigned supreme as an ideology. Remembered by biographer Louis Fischer as ‘a lover of radical change and maximum upheaval,’ the politician represents one of the most significant turning points in European history. Decades later, comparatively, Warhol presided over a different kind of revolution: repackaging cultural figures as ornaments to invite conversation on artistic implication rather than historic significance.
    Based on Philipp Schönborn’s photograph of Lenin and successor Joseph Stalin, the Lenin series was printed and published after Warhol’s death in 1987, and formed through a complex development period. Bernd Klüser, who published the works, recalls this germination: ‘Our experiments with the prints over a period of several months had a considerable influence on the eventual look of the series as a whole. The range of colours was reduced, the drawing round the head was modified, and the background became a deep black, as in the original photograph.’


    Philipp Schönborn, detail of Vladimir Lenin from a photograph taken in 1897, 1948 
    Philipp Schönborn, detail of Vladimir Lenin from a photograph taken in 1897, 1948 

    This final portrait highlights Warhol’s fascination with the boundary between politics and celebrity and forms the pinnacle of development in his extensive lexicon of political portraiture that included John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and famously Chairman Mao Zedong. The use of colour in the series is more austere and markedly more symbolic than Warhol’s earlier work. It echoes the predominant colourway of the Hammer and Sickle paintings from ten years earlier. In the Lenin’s, Warhol restricts the background colour to either black or red – the historic colours of left-wing policies and the communist party. The deep red of Red Lenin is as symbolic to the Russian revolution as the man who led it.

    • Provenance

      Christie's Online, Prints & Multiples, 28 Sept 2021, lot 9
      Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

    • Literature

      Frayda Feldman and Jörg Schellmann 403

    • 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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Property from a Private London Collection


Red Lenin (F. & S. 403)

Screenprint in colours, on Arches 88 paper, the full sheet.
S. 100.3 x 75 cm (39 1/2 x 29 1/2 in.)
Signed by Frederick W. Hughes (Executor of the Estate of Andy Warhol), and numbered 102/120 in pencil on a stamped Certificate of Authenticity on the reverse (there were also 24 artist's proofs), published by Andy Warhol, New York, framed.

Full Cataloguing

£50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for £75,600

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 14 - 15 September 2022