Andy Warhol (1928-1987)


Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
signed twice, dated and inscribed 'to Ethel & Bob Scull sincerely Andy Warhol ANDY WARHOL 64' (on the overlap of the red panel); signed again 'ANDY WARHOL' (on the overlap of the blue panel)
diptych--synthetic polymer, metallic paint and silkscreen inks on canvas
20 x 32 in. (50.8 x 81.3 cm.)
Painted in 1964.
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Stable Gallery, New York
Robert C. and Ethel Scull, New York
Their sale; Sotheby's, New York, 11 November 1986, lot 17
Gerald and Sandra Fineberg, Boston
Their sale; Christie's, New York, 13 November 2002, lot 8
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
G. Glueck, "Renoir 'Robbed' Them," The New York Times, 17 January 1965, Section 2, p. 20 (illustrated).
T. Hess, "Private Faces in Public Places," Art News, vol. 63, no. 10, February 1965, p. 38 (illustrated).
C. Willard, "Eye to I," Art in America, vol. 54, no. 2, March-April 1966, p. 58 (illustrated).
U. Kultermann, The New Painting, New York, 1969, p. 27, no. 61 (illustrated).
J. Coplans, Andy Warhol, New York, 1970, p. 95 (illustrated).
R. Crone, Andy Warhol, New York, 1970, p. 158, nos. 164 and 165 (illustrated).
J. Wilcock, The Auto-Biography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol, New York, 1971, p.69 (illustrated).
A. Boatto, "Andy Warhol," Data, vol. 1, no. 1, September 1971, no. 3 (illustrated).
R. Crone, Das Bildnerische Werk Andy Warhols, Berlin, 1976, nos. 324-325 (illustrated).
J. Stephan, Andy Warhol: A Radical Theological Study, Ann Arbor, 1976, p. 144 (illustrated).
L. Thorpe, Andy Warhol: Critical Evaluation of His Images and Books, Ann Arbor, 1980, fig. 1.1 (illustrated).
Gendai Hanga Center, Andy Warhol, Tokyo, 1983, p. 69 (illustrated). D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1989, p. 158, pl. 153 (illustrated). L. Romain, Andy Warhol, Munich, 1993, no. 134 (illustrated in color).
G. Frei and N. Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, vol. 2A, New York, 2002, p. 245 and 267, no. 1245 (illustrated in color).
Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Andy Warhol, February-March 1968, p. 4 (illustrated).
Pasadena Museum of Art; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Eindhoven, Stedelijk von Abbemuseum; Museé d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; London, Tate Gallery and New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Andy Warhol, May 1970-June 1971, p. 95 (illustrated, Pasadena and Chicago).
Kassel, Documenta 7, vol. 1, June-September 1982, p. 64 (illustrated).
New York, Museum of Modern Art; London, Arts Council, South Bank Centre, Hayward Gallery and Paris, Museé National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, February 1989-September 1990, p. 83, no. 2 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

The stark frontality of Andy Warhol's Self-Portrait of 1964 finds its origin in the unmediated snapshot of a four-for-a-quarter Times Square photo-booth. This mechanized mode of image-making came to dominate Warhol's portrait paintings in the early 1960s, and is vividly remembered by his famous multi-panel portrait commission Ethel Scull 36 Times of 1963. The distinguished provenance of the present work clearly indicates the significance of its place within the history of Pop art, as it also found its first home in the Scull collection, whose early support helped Warhol to become the most influential artist of his age. It is a further testament to the importance of this Self-Portrait that it was chosen to be part of Warhol's extremely selective internationally touring retrospective in 1970-71, which he explicitly ordered to be limited to representative examples of his series of soup cans, disasters, Brillo boxes, flowers and portraits.

The severely simplified visage that stares back at us in double vision from this painting is crisply screen-printed on two separate panels, placed side by side by the artist. Their flat, high-keyed colors--acra violet skin, Factory silver hair and the all-American blue and red backgrounds--are brought into shrill tension by an overlay of black and the elimination of all half tones. These brash hues echo Warhol's unusual look in real life but they are too intense to be naturalistic and only act to heighten the unreality of the image. Both panels reveal their background color through the eyes of the artist--one blue pair, one red pair--creating a strange Dr. Jekyll meets Mr. Hyde duality. This symmetry encourages the viewer to search out the similarities and differences between the impersonal leitmotif of Warhol's face, which mimics the mass-produced nature of his Campbell soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles in its label-like minimalism. Warhol would often rely on this system of pairing for the success of his paintings as the cloning of images so neatly mirrored the infinite repetition of cultural images by the mass media. However, no other examples of this portrait exist as a pair or in any other multiple configurations. It is distinctive in this series in its illustration of Warhol's ideas of seriality, where concepts of originality and uniqueness and constantly deferred.

Warhol loved how the photo-booth took most of the artistic decision-making out of his hands. Its prescriptive setting democratized its subject by ensuring the head and shoulders of the sitter were centered at a set distance from the camera and were always lit the same way. His trademark silk-screen transfer technique also provided a means of keeping a distance from his subject. Instead of painting in a conventional manner, Warhol deliberately detached himself from the artistic process. He utilized the instant snapshot as if it were a found object then replicated an assembly line effect with his Factory assistant Gerard Malanga to create the a perfect embodiment of art in the age of industry. 'Paintings are too hard,' Warhol said, discussing this process. 'The things I want to show are mechanical. Machines have less problems. I'd like to be a machine, wouldn't you?' (quoted in D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1995, p. 140). Yet despite this nod to full automation, there always remains an element of human creation to his paintings, however distant. The all-too-human slippages, uneven application and imprecise registration of the silk-screened image are cultivated accidents that undermine the implications of Warhol's methods. The hand-applied, localized color to the face, hair and background also make the paintings exclusively his, just as it did in the movie star portraits of late 1962 and 1963.

In these earlier paintings, Warhol had depicted such public figures as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Jacqueline Kennedy in the dispassionate manner of his images of consumer products, addressing their status as constructed, mass-marketed icons. In doing so, he forged a new type portraiture that overtly stated the divide between public and private personas. These portraits fed on the public's appetite for celebrity and banished the tropes of conventional portraiture such as individuality and psychological insight. They also mirror the mechanisms by which an unknown person could be transformed by fame, but how in the process personal identity could often be lost. Warhol's self-promoting Self-Portrait likewise conflates consumer culture with his own identity, revealing his personal ambition to become a star, while his private persona remains hidden from view.

This diptych forms part of the artist's second series of self-portraits to be created during the upswing of his fame. Warhol had first taken up the theme of self-portraiture in late 1963 on the urging of Ivan Karp who had told him, 'people want to see you. Your looks are responsible for a certain part of your fame - they feed the imagination' (A Warhol, quoted in POPism, New York, 1980, p. 17). Like the ebullient painting of Ethel Scull, Warhol's first self-portrait series juxtaposes a selection of stills culled from strips of photo-booth images, with the compositions becoming animated by expressive poses and an almost filmic sense of montage. Warhol uses disguise and theatricality to stage his personality in these works, representing himself as a hounded celebrity in trench coat and dark glasses as if he were trying to escape the glare of popping paparazzi flashbulbs. Their staginess makes them purposefully elusive and they disclose little about Warhol's inner life but reveal much about his consciousness of the artificiality of personal image.

The early 1964 date of this Self-Portrait series follows closely on from the first but they take an entirely different approach. Here, he has selected and repeated a single exposure, effectively removing the element of time or any sequential narrative. The image becomes static, even more a sign of commoditization and branding for public consumption. Of all the self-portraits Warhol would go on to produce throughout his career, this one is remarkable as it appears to be the least performative in nature. There is no evasion by costume, shadows, camouflage or gesture, which would often serve his need to remain enigmatic. Warhol certainly admitted he preferred to be a mystery to others, stating, 'I never like to give my background and, anyway, I make it different all the time I'm asked' (A. Warhol, quoted in G. Berg "Andy Warhol: My True Story," The East Village Other, 1 November 1966). The exposed nature of his frontal positioning in this portrait seems entirely straightforward, yet the mask has not been entirely dropped here. Warhol's defiant stance still manages to cultivate an air of detachment and impersonality and direct eye contact is avoided by the tilting of his chin, making it the viewer who is being observed, while the artist remains resolutely aloof from his audience.

The blank, unanswering gaze of Self-Portrait shares an overwhelming affinity to a police mug shot. In fact it was in April of the same year that Warhol presented his Thirteen Most Wanted Men paintings at the New York World's Fair. These grainy portraits, lifted from FBI posters advertising for the arrest of notorious criminals, identified them as stars of sorts, thanks to their appearance in the public barrage of images. The paintings elicited a storm of controversy when they were mounted onto the Fair's building exterior and following complaints from government officials, Warhol was given 24 hours to remove or replace the mural-sized canvases. He instead chose to obliterate the images with a layer of silver pigment. This act of negation was worthy of the Dadaists at their height, and indeed the paintings themselves including the present work, can be credited to the influence of Marcel Duchamp, a key member of that iconoclastic art movement.

It is no coincidence that Warhol addressed the notion of using criminals as the subject of his art, and in turn blatantly identifies himself as an outsider/outlaw in his Self-Portrait during this period. The previous year, Warhol attended the opening of Duchamp's retrospective exhibition at the Pasadena Art Museum while he was in Los Angeles for his own exhibition of Liz's and Elvis's at the Ferus Gallery. He was enormously impressed by the show and it would surely not have escaped his attention that its promotional poster featured a tongue-in-cheek work from 1923 in which the French artist's front and profile mug-shot was pasted beside the declaration: WANTED/$2000 REWARD. Warhol's own Self-Portrait appears to have absorbed the lesson of this artwork and developed it in an entirely new direction. The impassive photo chosen for the present work similarly casts the Pop artist into role of "wanted" individual but pushes the implications of Duchamp's idea into the realm of all-out commercialism through the act of repetition. In doing so, Warhol further stresses the relationship between art and economics by showing a willingness to render his own self-image as a unit for sale. He exposes the artifice that underlies self-portraiture while also revealing the fact that his own identity as an artist is subject to the same publicity strategies and market fluctuations as soap boxes and movie stars. No doubt Warhol would have been thrilled that the US Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp depicting a portrait from this series in 2002. It would have fully realized his fame-seeking ambitions by presenting his image as a logo on actual currency to be distributed around the globe.

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