ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
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ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
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ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)


ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
stamped with the Estate of Andy Warhol and the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, Inc. stamps, and numbered ‘A105.0210’ (on the overlap); numbered 'P050.539' (on the stretcher)
acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm.)
Executed in 1984.
Estate of Andy Warhol, New York
Private collection, France
Anon. sale; Christie's, London, 28 June 2002, lot 222
Private collection, London
Anon. sale; Sotheby's, London, 16 October 2015, lot 364
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
H. Geldzahler and R. Rosenblum, Andy Warhol: Portraits of the Seventies and the Eighties, London, 1993, n.p., no. 32 (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

Painted in 1984, Prince brings together two giants of popular culture. Andy Warhol’s obsession with celebrity and consumerism defined the Pop era of the 1960s, and Prince’s chart topping musical career made him one of the most recognizable voices (and faces) of the 1980s. In the present work, Warhol captures Prince’s unique features as a ghostly apparition in the pop star’s iconic shade of purple. When Warhol committed Prince to canvas, the musician was at the height of his fame, his Grammy Award winning album Purple Rain having been released the same year, and would go on to spend six months at the top of the Billboard chart. Thus, with this work, Prince joins Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Elvis Presley in Warhol’s pantheon of celebrity icons, captured by the ultimate chronicler of twentieth century culture.

The present work captures the essence of Prince’s multifaceted identity, showcasing his iconic fashion, distinctive expression, and overall charismatic presence. Warhol turns to bold colors and his silkscreen process to add depth and intrigue to his portrayal of the legendary musician. The neon shock of red carefully zig zagged across the center of the canvas draws the viewer’s eye deep into the painting, allowing them to connect with the subject. The bright orange and soft blue complement this, while adding balance to the composition, breathing life into the painting. Prince, of course, is rendered in purple, a nod to the singer’s iconic Purple Rain. The geometricity of the composition creates a unique layout, differing from other works in Warhol’s Prince series. Yet the present work is also steeped in Warholian traditions. Here, Warhol takes this ubiquitous image and transforms it using the silkscreen process, aligning it with Warhol’s other quintessential works, such as the Marylin, Jackie and Elvis series.

Prince was a musical virtuoso, who left an unparalleled mark on the music world. With his extravagant style, supreme talent, and genre-defying approach to music, he became an icon of the 20th century. From Purple Rain to When Doves Cry, he weaved a sonic tapestry that encompassed funk, R&B, and pop. Beyond his musical prowess, Prince challenged conventions, embracing individuality, and advocating for artistic freedom. His enigmatic persona and electrifying stage presence made him a legend, and his legacy continues to inspire and resonate with individuals across the globe. With Prince reigning over the music industry and Warhol dominating the pop art scene, Warhol’s homage to Prince was inevitable.

Warhol’s musical collaborations extended far beyond the canvas of Prince. Former director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Nathalie Bondil, notes that Warhol was “the pop artist who wanted to be a pop star” (N. Bondil quoted in S. Aquin, Warhol Live: Music and Dance in Andy Warhol's Work, Montreal, 2008, pg. 6). In 1965, Warhol started his legendary relationship with The Velvet Underground, one of the most notable rock bands of the age. He served as their manager as well as providing the band with artistic direction, and creating the classic banana peel cover for the band’s debut album. This collaboration not only introduced Warhol’s innovative artistic nature to the music world, but also pushed the boundaries of what music could be.

Prince is a vibrant testament to the dynamic intersection of music and visual art, a celebration of two cultural behemoths who have left an indelible mark on their respective industries. Warhol’s unique visual language captures Prince’s larger-than-life personality and reputation, paying tribute to the pop star in the most fitting way. It brings together two artists who’s art defined a generation, cementing both men’s place in cultural history.

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