Warhol initially photographed Muhammad Ali as part of his Athletes series from 1977. This group of works featured other famous athletes from the period such as Jack Nicklaus, Pele and Kareem Abdul Jabbar and was initiated by the famous West Coast art collector and sports fanatic Richard Weisman. Sports stars were a natural progression for Warhol and his preoccupation with fame and celebrity status, Warhol noted: “I really got to love the athletes because they are the really big stars”.
During this period Warhol traveled to Ali’s training camp Fighter’s Heaven in Pennsylvania to photograph and interview him with Weisman, his business manager Fred Hughes, and the author Victor Bockris. Warhol’s images from this photography session capture the essence of Ali, with his raw power and focus highlighted in this composition’s clenched fists and fixed stare.
In the present lot, a complete portfolio of four screenprints entitled Muhammad Ali from 1978, these dynamic elements from Warhol’s portraits, taken from the session with his Polaroid camera at Fighter’s Heaven, are fused with his classic pop palate of bold neon color. In tribute to this exceptional moment this set is also a rare example that has been signed by both Warhol and Ali.