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Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

Hamburger

Details
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Hamburger
stamped with the Estate of Andy Warhol and the Andy Warhol Foundation stamps and numbered 'VF PA10.612' (on the overlap)
acrylic on canvas
50 x 68 in. (127 x 172.7 cm.)
Painted in 1985.
Provenance
Estate of Andy Warhol, New York
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., New York
Gagosian Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1997
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Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis

Lot Essay

This large-scale painting, featuring one of America’s most enduring cultural symbols, demonstrates the remarkable endurance of Andy Warhol’s visionary career, and his life-long role as one of the most perceptive cultural critics of his generation. From his earliest days as an artist, Warhol examined American society through the lens of Pop art, a visual language derived from advertising and the mass media, to produce iconic works that questioned the country’s role in the world. From his ground breaking paintings of Campbell’s soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles in the early 1960s to his later reproductions of advertisements found in the newspaper classifieds, for over two decades Warhol was a perceptive artist who traced the rise of the consumer society, and reflected back what he saw in a way that he knew his audience would understand. Painted in 1985, towards the end of his career, Hamburger not only sees Warhol return to one of his most important subject matters, but he also continues to act as one of the most prophetic cultural commentators of his generation, constantly updating both his artistic practice with his persistently insightful view of the world.

Across a canvas measuring nearly six foot across, Warhol depicts a single, solitary juicy hamburger; painted in a striking palette of red and yellow, Warhol renders the sandwich with a series of rapidly executed—almost expressionistic—brushstrokes that depict the golden surface of the toasted bun with a palpable sense of dynamism—the epitome of fast food. While the deep yellow defines the surface of the buns, the succulent patties are produced by dramatic swaths of red pigment. So rapidly executed were these brushstrokes that trails of red pigment run down the surface of the canvas like the succulent juices of the meat escaping from the freshly cooked burger. Unlike the deliberate flatness of his earlier Pop masterpieces, in Hamburger, Warhol introduces a highly stylized form of chiaroscuro by adding a series of red dots to the edges of the burger buns to give a sense of depth and three-dimensionality. Finally, as if to emphasize the unflinching nature of his composition, underneath the sandwich, Warhol writes out the word ‘hamburger’ in bold, capital letters audaciously proclaiming his subject matter with unwavering brashness. The painterly style of this particular work—the rapidly executed brushwork, the animated sense of energy—recalls Warhol’s early days as a commercial illustrator. The graphic quality of his hand-painted burgers also recalls some of the artist’s earliest Pop works, including other quintessentially American icons such as those featured in Coca-Cola [1] painted in 1961. However, while in these early works Warhol was clearly still formulating his Pop aesthetic, the present work displays a bold confidence that could only have been gained through years of continuous advancement.

Food, particularly the changing habits of American consumption, was a theme that ran throughout Warhol’s career. From some of his earliest works, such as his 1961 painting Advertisement (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Collection Marx, Berlin) which prominently features the Pepsi Cola logo, through to his early drawings of Campbell’s soup cans and his iconic Coca-Cola bottles, the burgeoning mass production of food proved fertile ground for Warhol. Along with Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg, Warhol was a child of the Depression era and as such he was only too aware of the struggle that his mother went through to put food on the table for her family. This struck a chord with him, one which remained with him throughout his life. Indeed, when recalling the origins of his famous Campbell’s Soup Cans paintings he remembered those days with mixed emotion. "Many an afternoon at lunchtime Mom would open a can of Campbell's for me, because that's all we could afford," he said. "I love it to this day"' (A. Warhol, quoted by R. Heidie, quoted in V. Bockris, The Life and Death of Andy Warhol, London, 1998, p. 144).

By the time Hamburger was painted the elevation of the burger to that of a global icon was complete. The golden arches of McDonald’s had become as ubiquitous as Coke and by the mid-1980s had even begun it’s march into Asia having opened its first store in Hong Kong in 1975, becoming its first restaurant in the region that included Greater China, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. Speaking about the democratizing nature of American consumer products, Warhol once said “What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.’ (A. Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again, London, 1975, pp. 100-101). By the mid-1980s the same could be said about the billions of humble hamburgers produced by American fast food chains around the world and Hamburger has become a potent symbol of the continued importance of American culture around the world.

Warhol spent much of his career striving to capture on canvas the constantly shifting nature of modern society. From the soft power of celebrity to the commercial might of the growing consumer culture Warhol’s perceptive practice reflected back a view of America to itself, and he found that his distinctive form of Pop art was the perfect vehicle for doing so. Works such as Hamburger demonstrate that these ideas were still important to Warhol, and the size, visual power and vibrancy of this particular example prove that they still excited and challenged him nearly three decades after he first explored them.

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