• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1998

    Post -War And Contemporary Art Morning Session

    14 May 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 169

    Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

    Skull

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
    Skull
    signed 'Andy Warhol' and stamped with the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, Inc. stamp and numbered 'A107.025' (on the overlap)
    synthetic polymer and silkscreen inks on canvas
    15 x 19 in. (38.1 x 48.3 cm.)
    Painted in 1974.


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Dating to the mid 1970s, Andy Warhol's Skull paintings are among the artist's finest achievement of that decade. Skull is such a work: a powerful and tragic utterance. The painting is stark. The profuseness of Warhol's sixties paintings-with their Marilyns and car crashes and aisles of Campbell soup cans-has been replaced, extinguished perhaps, by the image of a human skull, staring mutely and hugely from the canvas.

    The work is particularly harrowing, even for the Skull series. The work has a confidence-rattling power that is attributable-but not entirely explained-by Warhol's use of color: roman red starkly set against brown and black. Death of course, was a major theme of Warhol's art. But looking at Skull there is a sense of Warhol interrupting, if only for a moment, his deadpan acts and surface vacuity, for a profound and troubling meditation on death. Warhol is normally such a 'cool' surveyor of the Car Crash and Electric Chair paintings, that one sometimes forgets that the artist was at one time also a deeply devout Roman Catholic. In fact, Skull belongs to a tradition of Memento mori in European Religious Art, from the spectral blur of Holbein's "The Ambassadors" to the upturned skulls of Dutch still life, silent in their reprieve. A scarred veteran of the proceeding decade, Warhol's sense of tragedy and the fleet of vanity was hard won, coming, as it did, after the artist's near-death experience in 1968.

    In his 1975 book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) Warhol wrote that "During the 60s, I think people forgot what emotions were supposed to be. And I don't think they've ever remembered. I think that once you see emotions from a certain angle you can never think of them as real again. That's what more or less has happened to me." (A. Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), New York, 1975, p. 27). This time, one needn't believe the master's bluff. A sense of the tragic gives the Skull paintings their singular place in Warhol's oeuvre, and Skull so much of its power.

    Special Notice

    On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.


    Provenance

    Lucio Amelio, Naples
    Private collection, Italy


    Exhibited

    Zurich, Galerie Andrea Caratsch, Andy Warhol: Skulls, June-July 2006.