Andy Warhol - Evening & Day Editions London Thursday, June 6, 2024 | Phillips
  • Andy Warhol’s The Star marked the artist’s celebrated late return to one of his most enduring preoccupations: celebrity and commodification. The Star extends the legacy of Warhol’s earliest investigations into these concepts, defined by his now iconic images of starlets such as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. Closely related to the candy-coloured prints of Marilyn and Liz from the 1960s, in The Star Warhol once again displays his prowess with colour. Bathed in striking vermillion, he articulates the details of Mata Hari’s elaborate costume and boldly offsets Greta Garbo’s luminous skin with blue eyeshadow and scarlet lips. Conceived as part of his Myths series in 1981, The Star is an iconic tribute to one of the major silver screen goddesses in Warhol's Pop pantheon.


    Greta Garbo in Mara Hari, 1931. Image: Everett Collection Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

    In The Star, Warhol immortalises Greta Garbo at the peak of her celebrity in the guise of the eponymous character from the 1931 film Mata Hari. Based on the exotic dancer convicted as a German spy during World War I, the film became a sensation in America and Europe, cementing the legend of Mata Hari and the stardom of Garbo. Warhol’s tribute, however, is not celebrating the infamous character the actress played but the iconicity of Garbo herself. While his female icons of the 1960s were born out of his contemporaneous preoccupations with the cult of celebrity, The Star derives from the theme of reinvestigation that embodies the artist’s mature practice from the late 1970s until his death. Here he takes his own visual lexicon developed in the early 1960s one step further by selecting the press photo of the actress in the guise of her character as his source image. Warhol’s insistent link between fame and nostalgia often generated from his appropriation of earlier photography is abundantly present here. Indeed this publicity photo of Garbo predates the painting by nearly half a century and foreshadows her sudden retirement from acting in 1941 at the age of 35 after starring in nearly 30 films. His choice to return to the image some five decades later underlines his fascination with the endurance of iconicity.

    “Someone once asked me to state once and for all the most beautiful person I’d ever met. Well, the only people I can ever pick out as unequivocal beauties are from the movies.”
    —Andy Warhol

    The Star forms part of Warhol’s Myths portfolio, which assembled a cast of nine nostalgic figures from childhood, such as Santa Claus, Mickey Mouse and Superman, as well as an eerie self-portrait of Warhol entitled The Shadow. As Greg Metcalf notes, “While these mythic figures carry a range of important cultural attributes, their shared celebrity stature arises from their being heroes of commercial art. Each of these cultural icons is also a commercial icon, a “logo,” the symbol of a corporate identity. Each is also an artistic creation from which the artist has been erased.” However, both The Star and The Shadow, which sees Warhol place himself in the character of the crime-fighting hero from a 1930s radio show, are distinguished in the series: it is not the characters themselves which act as the protagonist but rather Garbo as Mata Hari and Warhol as The Shadow who are the commercial icons. In so doing, Warhol intentionally blurs the boundary between individual and symbol, artist and celebrity, hero and commodity.

    • Provenance

      The Taylor Gallery, Belfast
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2010

    • Literature

      Frayda Feldman and Jörg Schellmann 258

    • 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 Distinguished Private Collection


The Star, from Myths (F. & S. 258)

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 56/200 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

£40,000 - 50,000 

Sold for £50,800

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 6 - 7 June 2024