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PWC Eve 67B and 33b Green and Warhol
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
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Andy Warhol (1928-1987)


Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
signed, inscribed and dated 'Zurich. Andy Warhol 1978 Elsa Peretti' (on the overlap)
synthetic polymer and silkscreen ink on canvas
40 x 40 in. (101.6 x 101.6 cm.)
Painted in 1978.
Elsa Peretti and Victor Hugo, New York
Blum Helman Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1989
Kunsthaus Zürich, Andy Warhol, May-July 1978, p. 210, no. 165 (illustrated in color on the cover).

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Sara Friedlander
Sara Friedlander

Lot Essay

Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy, Elvis Presley—Andy Warhol took the most famous celebrities the worlds of film, politics, and music as the subjects for his paintings from the beginnings of his career in the early 1960s. But the artist also turned the camera’s lens on himself several times, entering his own image into the canon of the famous. This self-portrait from 1978 features a triple image of Warhol, who looks outward from his three-quarter profile from the side of his eyes so that his gaze appears suspicious. The irregularities of his iconic screen printing process—a medium that replicates mechanical processes by hand, and thus is subject to the variations and discrepancies to produce a unique image—has skewed the second rendering of Warhol’s image, giving it a sharper jaw that the first and resulting in two images of the artist that appear to be two different people or a younger and older version of the same person. Warhol’s double portrait occupies the center of the canvas, in the area rendered silver on the tonal scale between red and black that flank either side of the image. With the collar of his black coat turned upwards and his sideways glance, Warhol’s portrait epitomizes the aesthetic of cool, detached, nonchalance that the artist strove for during his Studio 54 days, contradicting the function of the portrait genre to give access to the person portrayed. Instead, as the art historian Robert Rosenblum has noted about Warhol’s portraits: “We end up knowing everything and nothing. So it is that artist’s self-portraits, whether intended as disclosure or as concealment, remain as fictional as their other work… Andy Warhol’s self-portraits constantly shift back and forth between telling us all and telling us nothing about the artist, who can seem, even in the same work, both vulnerable and invulnerable, both superficial and profound” (R. Rosenblum, ‘Andy Warhol’s Disguises’ in Andy Warhol, Self Portraits, exh. cat., St. Gallen Kunstverein Kunstmuseum, 2004).

Warhol was a master of controlling his own public image, and he extended that duty to the control of his own photographic image. His self-portraits played a central role in both endeavors. From the artist’s first self-portrait in 1964 to his last from 1987, the year of his death, Warhol would return over and over to his own self-image. Rosenblum writes about each of these portraits as Warhol’s ‘disguises’ while Christiana Spens wrote of them as the artist’s ‘masks’ “A mask can have a number of uses,” Spens said, “to scare, to entertain, to conceal, to deceive and to exaggerate. Warhol’s self-portraits do all of these things; his works are an expansion of his masquerade and an insight into an artist who was a clown. Ultimately, in their vacancy, the self-portraits are not informative or insightful, but disarming. There is no person, no celebrated artiste, behind the masks any longer; only these portraits—the masks themselves—that will never fulfill the audience’s curiosity towards an invisible man whose legacy was a collection of his own and others’ masks. Warhol gives the viewer nothing more than the superficial, and the implications of absence. Here, there is no record of the actor, only the act. If Warhol was speaking the truth when he said, ‘Just look at the surface of my films and my paintings and me, and there I am. There is nothing behind it’, then he admits that behind his mysterious persona there was no substance, no meaning. Either the self-portraits are an accurate portrayal of a man who was nothing but a superficial construction, or a portrayal of a man who did not want to be seen as anything more than that; they are the invisible man’s silver-grey hairpiece and dark glasses. He appears to have been dehumanized by his art, which often represented the nihilistic vacancy of society and celebrity. He came to epitomize his subject matter, or rather, the artist used the actor to represent the insubstantial masquerade that he became a part of” (C. Spens, “Andy Warhol’s Self-Portraits, Studio International, April 27, 2005, http://www.studiointernational.com/index.php/andy-warhol-self-portraits [Accessed March 5, 2017]).

Warhol famously said his goal in using the silkscreen technique was to “completely remove all the hand gesture from art and become noncommittal, anonymous” (A. Warhol quoted in P. Hackett, Popisms: The Warhol Sixties, Toronto, 1980, p. 7). About his self-portraits, the artist said, “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it” (A. Warhol quoted in T. Shafrazi (ed.), Andy Warhol Portraits, London 2007, p.19). Such statements suggest a nihilistic erasure of self in that increasingly mechanized and industrialized society that was the late 20th century in the United States. In his essay for an exhibition of Andy Warhol’s portraits at Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Carter Ratcliff argued for a reading of Warhol’s portraits beyond their cool detachedness. He writes, “as blank and anesthetized as his surfaces sometimes are, they hide depths of a traumatized self or a deep sense of the random and depersonalized tragedy of the modern world” (C. Ratcliff in T. Shafrazi (ed.), Andy Warhol Portraits, London 2007, p.21).

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