Sturtevant - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 17, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Study for Warhol Marilyn, 1973, presents three large panels with Andy Warhol’s iconic screenprinted representation of Marilyn Monroe gridded across the surfaces. The work repeats these multiples in a variety of arrangements: at the right, Marilyn is repeated twenty-five times in black and white; at center, she’s in yellow and pink against a teal ground, again twenty-five times; and at left, there is just one Marilyn, floating in metallic gold like a Byzantine icon. At first glance, Study for Warhol Marilyn appears like any other Warhol. But is it?


    Sturtevant created Study for Warhol Marilyn concurrent to her 1973 exhibition, Sturtevant: Studies for Warhol’s Marilyns, Beuys’ Actions and Objects, Duchamp’s etc. Including Film, at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York. Sturtevant, who preferred to be known by her (ex-husband’s) surname, was a controversial figure in New York art world of the 1960s and 1970s, as her practice—creating works that are near-copies of other artists’ work—bruised egos and raised wider questions of the importance of originality and creative genius in art, ideas inherited from the Italian Renaissance that still held merit in mid-20th century art discourse. 

    “I decided to find the original Hollywood still, one chance in a million and I found it. I took it to Andy’s silkscreen man and it was perfect. A Warhol screen from my photo which was his photo.”

    Sturtevant’s practice centers on her ability to embody the mannerisms and techniques of other artists; she is interested in performing the identity of the artist-as-celebrity, and works such as Study for Warhol Marilyn are the products of these performances.i Her choice to include the “original” artist’s name in her titles—Warhol Marilyn, Warhol Flowers, etc.clue the viewer into the fact that performing the “original” artist’s persona is part of the work at hand; Sturtevant is not a cheap copyist, trying to pass off the work of another artist as her own. Peter Eleey articulates this well, in describing Sturtevant’s Rainer’s Three Seascapes, 1967, based on choreographer Yvonne Rainer’s work: one cannot “’re-perform’ a dance—you just dance it.”ii Sturtevant’s work characterizes an artist’s process as choreography that can be embodied and performed again and again.iii


    Sturtevant performing Study for Yvonne Rainer’s “Three Seascapes,” 1967. Image: Photograph by Peter Moore; © Northwestern University

    Warhol, whose celebrity persona as king of The Factory was part and parcel with the rest of his art practice, was one of Sturtevant’s first subjects. In 1965, Sturtevant approached Warhol asking if she could have one of the silkscreens used in his 1962 Marilyn series, but his assistant couldn’t find it anywhere.iv Sturtevant recounts her next steps in a tone that mimics Warhol’s own wandering speech pattern: “I decided to find the original Hollywood still, one chance in a million and I found it. I took it to Andy’s silkscreen man and it was perfect. A Warhol screen from my photo which was his photo.”v


    Andy Warhol’s annotated publicity image of Marilyn Monroe, c. 1962.

    Sturtevant’s delineation of events here is telling. Not only does she speak the story as if she were Warhol, but she explains how she followed Warhol’s process: just like Warhol in 1962, Sturtevant in 1965 went through the “one chance in a million” artistic process of finding the original still, and bringing it to a particular silkscreen manufacturer. After this process, Sturtevant’s photo “was his photo;” the verb signifying that the two images are one and the same. If the sourcing of the silkscreen for Study for Warhol Marilyn thus follows the exact same process as that for Warhol’s own Marilyn works, then the only difference, really, is that one work is made by Sturtevant’s hand, and the other, Warhol’s, a few years apart. Sturtevant’s work asks, is the identity of that artist’s hand in that moment in time really so significant?


    [Left] Andy Warhol, Gold Marilyn Monroe, 1962. Museum of Modern Art, New York.  Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2023 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    [Right] Andy Warhol, Marilyn Diptych, 1962. Tate Modern, London. Image: © Tate, London / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2023 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Indeed, Study for Warhol Marilyn is compositionally unique from any of Warhol’s known silkscreens of Marilyn Monroe. According to the artist’s catalogue raisonné, he never created a triptych of Marilyns; only diptychs, and single canvas Study for Warhol Marilyn, then, seems to pull from multiple Warhol sources, creating a visual product that appears as if it is a Warhol “original,” but in reality, is original to Sturtevant herself.


    Study for Warhol Marilyn combines three of Warhol’s Marilyn compositions. The left, gold panel recreates the composition of Warhol’s Gold Marilyn Monroe, 1962, Museum of Modern Art, New York.vii The center and right repetitions of 5x5 grids of Marilyns recall Marilyn Diptych, 1962, Tate Modern, though Sturtevant exchanges Warhol’s orange at center for a teal reminiscent of works such as Four Marilyns, 1962, Sonnabend Collection. Further, the particularity of silkscreen as a medium allows for further variation, revealing to the viewer that Study for Warhol Marilyn is its own unique production. The difference is perhaps most evident when one compares the black and white panel of Study with that of Marilyn Diptych. While Sturtevant has applied more ink in the second column of Marilyns, resulting in the iconic, darker impression seen in Marilyn Diptych, the “one in a million chance” of how that ink pools and pulls through the screen leaves a level of variation—originality, perhaps—that neither Sturtevant nor Warhol can perfectly control.viii

     “See, in the 60s, there was the big bang of pop art. But pop only dealt with surface. I started asking questions about what lay beneath the surface. What is the understructure of art? What is the power of art?”

    Two years before Study for Warhol Marilyn, Sturtevant wrote a letter with a list of what her art was not doing to dealer Reinhard Onnasch: “I’m not in the process of celebrating process / I am not making copies / I am not making imitations… / I am not interested in being a ‘Great Artist’ / That’s real medieval thinking.”ix The idea of the “Great Artist,” rather than being “medieval” thinking, actually dates to the Italian Renaissance, with Giorgio Vasari’s influential Lives of the Most Excellent Artists, Sculptors, and Architects, 1550, a series of biographies of great Italian artists. Vasari’s work created a canon of great men of art history, and this art historical model of the cult of artistic genius carried on into the 20th century, with the personas of men like Warhol, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning dominating the artistic conversation. Ironically, Sturtevant’s approach to art is medieval, as, like medieval artists, her work emphasizes the importance of widespread beliefs and icons on a culture’s visual expression, rather than over-glorifying the impact of an individual artist’s hand.x

    “… Sturtevant prompted the viewer to question whether originality is a function of style or characteristic imagery, and to ask who says so, and why.”
    —Patricia Lee

    Study for Warhol Marilyn dates to the year before Sturtevant took a ten-year hiatus from the art world, returning in the mid-1980s to newfound appreciation as the long-lost forebearer of the Pictures Generation Appropriationists, including Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince, and Cindy Sherman. However, Sturtevant herself never accepted this ancestral designation.xi To her, the artistic problem was about a concept larger than the loss of originality. In her words, “I was about the power of thought;” meaning, how our thoughts about what makes an artwork original, and how that work should be made, shape our perceptions of authentic work.xii


    As a result, the viewer’s thought process is central to the success of her work: Study for Warhol Marilyn works because the viewer thinks it is a Warhol, until realizing that, actually, it’s a Sturtevant.xiii This cognitive shift is Sturtevant’s conceptual key. What happens in the middle of this double-looking? What happens between the first glance, full of cultural assumptions and artistic ideals, and the second, sobered stare? As Patricia Lee writes, “[with Sturtevant] you think you know what you are seeing, and have seen it all before, but what does one miss by relying on assumed knowledge?”xiv The missing link is “the power of thought” Sturtevant is all about.



    i Patricia Lee, Sturtevant: Warhol Marilyn, London, 2016, p. 71-72.

    ii Peter Eleey, quoted in Lee, 71.

    iii Lee, 71.

    iv Lee, 19.

    v Sturtevant, quoted in Lee, 20.

    viAndy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné vol. 1: Paintings and Sculpture, 1961-1963., cat. rais., Georg Frei and Neil Printz, eds., Phaidon, 2002, no. 248-285.

    vii Ibid., cat no. 248.

    viii Lee, 50.

    ix Sturtevant [1971], quoted in Peter Eeley, ed., Sturtevant: Double Trouble, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2014, p. 54.

    x See Sherry C.M. Lindquist and Stephen Perkinson, “Artistic Identity in the Late Middle Ages: Foreword,” Gesta, vol. 41, no. 1, 2002, online; Lee, 51, 54.

    xi Lee, 18.

    xii Sturtevant, quoted in Ivan Ogilvie, “Sturtevant: Leaps Jumps and Bumps” [video], NOWNESS, Jul. 25, 2013, online.

    xiii Sturtevant, quoted in Lee, 31.

    xiv Lee, 49.

    • Provenance

      Private Collection
      Private Collection (acquired from the above)
      Thence by descent to the present owner

    • Artist Biography


      Elaine Sturtevant, known professionally as Sturtevant, was an American artist whose practice considered issues of authorship, authenticity, and the nature of reproduction. Her carefully inexact recreations, referred to as “repetitions,” of the work of her contemporaries attracted almost immediate attention as Sturtevant embarked on this practice in 1964, copying the work of fellow artists and friends like Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, and Roy Lichtenstein. Sturtevant mastered several artforms including painting, sculpture, photography, and film in order to faithfully repeat the work of her contemporaries, continually updating her process in order to keep pace with the changing tides of the avant-garde. Many of the artists Sturtevant repeated, often before they became famous, would later be considered the iconic artists of their respective movements and generations. Her late work is concerned with reproduction and repetition in the digital world.  

      Sturtevant’s work has attracted simultaneous acclaim and criticism for its close copying of the work of other artists. Her work has been praised as innovative and insightful, and the artist has been the subject of major retrospectives at institutions such as the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, the Serpentine Galleries, London, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris. Sturtevant received the Golden Lion at the 2011 Venice Biennale for lifetime achievement. She died in 2014 in Paris, where she had been living and working since the 1990s. 

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Property from an Important Collection


Study for Warhol Marilyn

each signed, titled, respectively inscribed and dated “[I-III] "Study for Warhol Marilyn" E. Sturtevant 1973” on the reverse
synthetic polymer silkscreen and acrylic on canvas, triptych
each 84 1/4 x 62 7/8 in. (214 x 160 cm)
overall 84 1/4 x 188 5/8 in. (214 x 479.1 cm)

Executed in 1973.

This group of works will be part of the updated catalogue raisonné.

Full Cataloguing

$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for $2,419,500

Contact Specialist

Carolyn Mayer
Associate Specialist, Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1206

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2023