Andy Warhol - Evening & Day Editions London Thursday, June 6, 2024 | Phillips
  • Divesting his subject of political ramifications, Andy Warhol stripped the Russian political revolutionist Vladimir Lenin to his most basic forms. In Warhol’s portrait, clear graphic lines, solid blocks of colour, and lack of extraneous detail deter the viewer from focusing on anything other than the subject’s face. This Warholian 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 historical significance.


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

    We had already been planning for two years to cooperate on a project which was to strike out in a new direction: instead of reproducing the stereotyped icons of everyday life in America, Warhol would be confronted with an image which went against the grain of his usual preoccupations. By virtue of both its content and formal quality, the photograph of Lenin seemed ideal for the purpose.”
    —Bernd Klüser

    Based on an unusual photograph of Lenin acquired by a friend of Warhol’s publisher and gallerist Bernd Klüser, Red Lenin shows the Russian revolutionary as a young man with a sharply focused stare, his arm resting authoritatively on a pile of books, emphasising the intellectual roots of his political philosophy. Instantly recognisable as one of the most important political and cultural figures of the 20th century, Warhol reduced the figure to the most basic elements of line and colour. Klüser recalls the lengthy process of achieving this: “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.” In the final Lenin screenprints, the backgrounds are either black or red – the historic colours of left-wing policies and the communist party. Fittingly, Warhol's use of colour in these portraits is more austere and markedly more symbolic than in Warhol’s earlier work.


    Conceptually connected to Warhol’s earlier Hammer and Sickle and Mao series of the 1970s, the Lenin works belong to the last series completed by the artist before his death in 1987. This final portrait series highlights Warhol’s fascination with the boundary between politics and celebrity, forming the pinnacle of development in his extensive lexicon of political portraiture that includes John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and famously Chairman Mao Zedong. Executed in the dying years of the Soviet Union and after the long decades of violent ideological opposition between east and west that prolonged the Cold War, Warhol’s Red Lenin collapses the ideological distinctions of “capitalist” and “communist”, highlighting how both rely on visual culture to embed and promote their message.

    • Provenance

      The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2005

    • 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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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 and numbered 'AP. 10/24' (an artist's proof, the edition was 120) by Frederick W. Hughes in pencil (executor of the Estate of Andy Warhol) on a stamped Certificate of Authenticity on the reverse, published by the artist (with his copyright inkstamp on the reverse), framed.

Full Cataloguing

£40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for £57,150

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 6 - 7 June 2024