Robert Rauschenberg - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, October 24, 2023 | Phillips

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  • On October 14, 1994, Robert Rauschenberg invited leaders in the fields of arts, politics, fashion, and commerce to his Lower Manhattan studio to witness the unveiling of a monumental endeavor. He had partnered with Japanese lifestyle company Felissimo to conceive of Tribute 21, a series of twenty-one prints in support of a newly formed humanitarian aid project of the same name. In bringing together some of the world’s most influential people, Rauschenberg and Felissimo sought support for their mission for the Tribute 21 program to provide tangible means for a better future through nonprofit activities in twenty-one proposed areas. Rauchenberg gushed to his guests that night, “There is a lot of concern and love here that is uncontrollable and should continue…”1 Through his energetic and striking imagery, Tribute 21 brings to light the values and figures that shaped and progressed society and culture throughout the twentieth century in its final decade.


    “The twentieth century is no time to be drawing on rocks.”
    —Robert Rauschenberg


    In typical Rauschenberg collage-like style, each print explores a different aspect of humanity by employing the synthesis of two or three images to translate the multitudes of human experiences. Each print was inspired by a contemporary figure who epitomized the fields Rauschenberg and Felissimo found most pertinent to Tribute 21’s objective, for example Mikhail Gorbachev for Peace, Bill Gates for Technology, Al Gore for Environment, Bonnie Blair for Sports, and Toni Morrison for Literature. With Tribute 21, Rauschenberg believed he could spread the message of art in service of a more peaceful and just society.  The series was included in the exhibition “Dialogues of Peace” at the Palais des Nations in Geneva in celebration on the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, organized by Adelina von Furstenberg, who called the lithographs “the key” to the narrative.2


    Rauschenberg’s work centers contemporary life through the immediacy of its imagery. Images used for this series are sourced exclusively from his own photographs. The choice and combination of images can be visually unexpected yet evocative, for example, Music is represented by the two rectangle washes of colors, a deep mauve and seafoam green dusk sky over ocean waves. Rauschenberg’s image selections appear more straightforward in other prints in the series; Nature is represented by the head of a falcon placed above a field of texture similar to feathers. The individual images unite in each composition to create a dynamic, sensory experience.


    In alignment with his values and hopes for a greener future, Rauschenberg was an early adopter of a more sustainable form of printmaking called “vegetable dye transfer.” He chose to use vegetable dyes that were water soluble to avoid using toxic chemical solvents. The substitution of vegetable dyes in place of the traditional oil-based inks contributes to the prints’ overall fluid appearance. Tribute 21 exemplifies Rauschenberg’s critical eye in rethinking our understanding of art, technology, and life and emphasizes his passion for a holistically prosperous society.



    “Bon Anniversaire: 50th Anniversary of the United Nations Showcases Tribute 21 Artworks July 3 – October 26,” Tribute 21, Newsletter.

    2 Alan Riding, “Politics, This Is Art. Art, This Is Politics,” New York Times, August 10, 1995

    • Catalogue Essay

      Including: Education; Sports; Happiness; Environment; Technology; Music; Art; Theatre; Space; Literature; Nature; Ethnic Cultures; Cinema; Fashion; Labor; Dance; Health; Peace; Children; Architecture; Human Rights; and Communication.


Tribute 21

The complete set of 22 lithographs in colors, on Arches Infinity paper, the full sheets, all contained in the original white cloth-covered clamshell portfolio box.
all S. 41 x 27 in. (104.1 x 68.6 cm) (two horizontal)
portfolio 43 1/8 x 28 7/8 x 1 3/4 in. (109.5 x 73.3 x 4.4 cm)

Incised with signature and title on a metal plaque affixed to the front of the portfolio box, all prints signed, dated and numbered 22/50 in pencil on the reverse (there were also 20 artist's proofs), published by Felissimo Corporation, Tokyo (with their blindstamp).

Full Cataloguing

$40,000 - 60,000 

Contact Specialist
212 940 1220

Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 24-26 October 2023