ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
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ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
4 More
The Collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)


ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
acrylic, silver paint and silkscreen ink on linen
20 x 16 1/2 in. (50.8 x 41.9 cm.)
Painted in 1964.
John Armbruster, Paris
Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich
Acquired from the above by the present owner
G. Frei and N. Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné: Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, vol. 2A, New York, 2004, p. 248, no. 1252 (illustrated).
Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Alpen-Pop: Warhol und die Bauernmalerei, May-September 2002.
Kunsthauz Graz, Warhol, Wool, Newman: Painting Real/Screening Real, Conner, Lockhart, Warhol, September-January 2010, p. 51 (illustrated).
Zurich, Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Ich weiss nicht, wer der Künstler ist, ich kenne nur seinen Preis (frei nach René Pollesch), July-September 2018.
Zurich, Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, From Warhol to Twombly to Marden and Back Again, September-December 2018.

Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

An extraordinary painting from a seminal moment in Andy Warhol’s early career, Self-Portrait offers a groundbreaking look into the artist’s ceaseless quest for self-invention. Created in 1964, the present work to the second series of “photo-booth” self-portraits that Warhol made between March and April of 1964. Warhol painted just eleven such self-portraits, of with only three feature the same vivid “phthalo green” background as Self-Portrait. At least five of these are now located in major museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, and the Sammlung Froehlich, Stuttgart. The photo-booth was Warhol’s preferred method of self-portraiture in the early ‘60s, and in the present work, he mugs for the camera, jutting out his chin and projecting a defiant air of self-confidence.

Having established his flair for color with his portraits of Marilyn Monroe in 1962 - known as the Marilyn “flavors” – and continuing with his paintings of Liz Taylor and the 36-part portrait of Ethel Scull, Warhol now applied the same colorful approach to his own self-image in the “photo-booth” self-portraits of 1964. Each of these featured a different brightly-colored background, which Warhol painted by hand, using flat, high-keyed colors including cadmium red, yellow, gray, and in the present work, “phthalo green.” Warhol’s use of phthalo green is significant, as he also used that same color to stirring effect in the Death and Disaster series, including Green Car Crash and the Electric Chair paintings. In the present work, Warhol has also used the same metallic silver paint from the Elvis series for his own hair, bringing the silvery walls of the Factory into his own self-image for the first time. The eyes - long considered a “window to the soul” - are actually “empty,” as the green we see is in fact the background layer showing through. This interesting technique Warhol employed in only three of these self-portraits, including the only diptych in the group.

Warhol painted the present series of self-portraits between March and April of 1964. At that time, he was at the peak of his artistic powers. The silver-clad Factory was full swing, teeming with a fast-growing entourage of artists, poets, filmmakers and outcasts. Warhol had just completed a major series of paintings of Jackie Kennedy, which he had painted in the wake of JFK’s assassination in November of 1963. At this time, Warhol had perfected the silkscreen technique, and working with his assistants, created a sort of assembly line that helped him to detach himself from the artistic process. Warhol championed this sort of impersonal, machinelike process, saying “paintings are too hard.” “The things I want to show are mechanical. Machines have less problems. I'd like to be a machine, wouldn't you?” (A. Warhol, quoted in D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1995, p. 140).

The 1964 photo-booth self-portraits offer a glimpse into one of Warhol’s early and important attempts at creating his own self-image. A year earlier, Warhol had created a similar series of self-portraits, which he also made using a photo-booth, in 1963. But in this earlier series, Warhol concealed his appearance by dressing in a trench coat and wearing dark sunglasses over his eyes. The following year, around March and April of 1964, we see a new Warhol, one who looks directly into the viewfinder and holds a strong, confrontational gaze.

“Throughout his career, one of his most recurrent images was the self-portrait, which served as an interface between the reception of his art and the ways in which he staged his presence in the realms of art and media,” the curator Hendrik Folkerts has explained, writing in Warhol’s 2018 retrospective catalogue for the Whitney Museum (H. Folkerts, “The Factory of Self,” in Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2018, p. 97). In Self-Portrait, Warhol performed for the camera, ducking into the photo-booth and pulling the curtain across. Inside the booth, he was free to assume any persona he chose. This kind of “instant theater,” which the art historian Robert Rosenmblum so astutely acknowledged, would have greatly appealed to the artist, and in “staging” his own persona, Warhol transforms himself into the same kind of celebrity as the uber-famous ones he so recently painted. In so doing, Warhol’s photo-booth self-portraits provide a rare glimpse into a rather transformative act, in which Andrew Warhola becomes Andy Warhol.

As in Warhol’s greatest work, threats of violence and the macabre always seem to linger at the edges, and in Self-Portrait Warhol invokes the blank-faced defiance of a police mug shot. In fact, police departments had recently taken up the use of the photo booth in their precincts, which they undoubtedly liked for its efficiency, speed and standardization. As an artist obsessed with disaster and its sensationalism in the media, Warhol would have been drawn to this, the more sinister aspect of the photo-booth, and it seems to dovetail neatly with another project he was working on during the same time, known as Thirteen Most Wanted Men. In April of 1964, Warhol presented a major, epically-scaled set of paintings to the New York World’s Fair, for which he used FBI mug shots that he enlarged, cropped, and displayed onto the side of the Fair’s exterior in Flushing, Queens. The mural caused a storm of controversy, and Warhol was ordered to either remove or replace it. He chose instead to paint over the images in silver paint, in an act of “painterly disobedience” that parallels so much of the Dadaists’ refusal to comply with established norms.

Staring out at the viewer with the same air of aloof detachment that he would maintain throughout his career, Andy Warhol’s Self-Portrait conceals as much as it reveals, offering up a glimpse at the interwoven themes of celebrity, status, wealth and self-image that would be the enduring leitmotifs in his long-running career. Whereas in the earlier 1963 photo-booth self-portraits Warhol concealed himself in sunglasses and a trench coat, by 1964, Warhol confronted the viewer directly. “Ultimately, of course, Warhol’s 1964 self-portraits are uncompromisingly modern," the curator Keith Hartley has summarized. "They present a proud, alert man, unafraid to look the present and the future in the eye” (K. Hartley, “Andy Warhol: The Photomat Self-Portraits,” in D. Elger, ed., Andy Warhol: Self-Portraits, exh. cat., Kunstverein St. Gallen, June 2004, p. 54).

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