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

Heinz Tomato Ketchup Box

ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
Heinz Tomato Ketchup Box
signed 'Andy Warhol' (on the underside)
silkscreen ink and house paint on plywood
8 1⁄2 x 15 1⁄2 x 10 1⁄2 in. (21.6 x 39.4 x 26.7 cm.)
Executed in 1964.
Jed Johnson, New York
Jay Johnson & Thomas Cashin, New York
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 of Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, vol. 2A, London and New York, 2004, p. 88, no. 765 (illustrated).
Zurich, Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Winter Exhibition, 2012-2013.
Zurich, Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Exhibition R93, June 2018.
Zurich, Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Andy Warhol. Prints, July-December 2018.
Zurich, Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Andy Warhol to Elaine Sturtevant to Spencer Sweeney (& Back Again), March-May 2022 (March only).

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Lot Essay

Andy Warhol’s box sculptures are—in their purest sense—the most Pop of all his works. Taking his inspiration from the burgeoning American consumer culture, Warhol continued his replication of the bold and colorful graphics that he first produced with his Coca-Cola bottles and Campbell’s Soup cans but this time, instead of silkscreening the images onto canvas, he turned them into three-dimensional sculptural objects. Moving his images from the wall to the floor challenged the sanctity of the art gallery, and turned the space into something closer to a supermarket. Selecting brands for the quality of their graphic design as much as their iconic status, Warhol transformed seemingly every day object into classic Warhol works of art.

Warhol’s first Heinz Tomato Ketchup Box was shown at the Boxes exhibition at the Dwan Gallery in Los Angeles in 1964, and was one of the artist’s first sculptures. This now legendary exhibition also included works by Marcel Duchamp, Louise Nevelson, and Robert Rauschenberg, but it was Warhol’s revolutionary silkscreened boxes that caused a sensation. Following their successful debut, the artist made a number of other examples which were exhibited at New York’s Stable Gallery later the same year.

Although forming part of the artist’s wry commentary on the ubiquitousness of 1960s consumer culture, as with much of his art, Warhol’s Boxes have a strong biographical element which runs through the very heart of the work. He grew up in a deprived area of Pittsburgh, raised by immigrant parents who struggled to survive in their newly adopted home country. Warhol was a sickly child and spent many days off school at home with his mother, who doted on him. The breakfast cereal and warm, tasty and nourishing soup, familiar condiments that his mother scraped-by to provide was a daily treat for him in an otherwise bleak childhood. Also, by choosing to reproduce the bulk-sized wholesale boxes, rather than the individual retail boxes that they contained, Warhol could be making an ironic comment on the wealth and prosperity that his family never enjoyed.

Warhol’s boxes are a continuation of one of the key themes in his art—the celebration of the democratic nature of American society. In his work Warhol celebrated ordinary American life and the homogenizing effect of the burgeoning mass consumer culture, “What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same thing as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca Cola, and you can 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 bum on the corner is drinking. All Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, and you know it” (A. Warhol, Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, New York, 1983, p. 458).

Warhol deliberately chose to reproduce boxes of only the most strikingly ordinary and recognizable supermarket products: Brillo Soap pads, Kellogg’s cornflakes, Campbell's tomato juice, and Heinz Tomato ketchup. Developing the Duchampian notion of the ready-made, Warhol's box sculptures were in fact hand-crafted by carpenters who rebuilt in wood exact replicas of the cardboard originals. These were then placed on sheets of brown paper on the floor in Warhol’s studio on 231 East 47th Street in Manhattan. Executed the same time at his iconic Brillio Soap Pads boxes, the catalogue raisonné records that these Heinz boxes where made as Warhol was waiting for the paint on the Brillo boxes to dry. They were painted with a background color and their sides finally silkscreened by Warhol and his assistant Gerard Malanga so that they looked exactly like their grocery store counterparts. Because of the speed in which each box was screened, the screens often became clogged and the boxes were splashed with drips of paint. Warhol regarded these “blemishes” as part of the artistic process and did not remove them, thereby adding a new dimension that was to become an integral feature in much of his later work, “For Warhol these mistakes were part of the process. So he never edited anything out. And these two qualities – unedited but mechanically reproduced – became part of the Warhol aesthetic, whatever the medium he might work in” (A. Danto, Andy Warhol, New Haven, 2009, p.60).

When Warhol exhibited his Heinz boxes at New York’s Stable Gallery for the first time in 1964, he accentuated their utilitarian nature by placing the works on the floor and stacking them up them high. Thus the gallery was transformed into the semblance of a warehouse, filled with crates with people walking around them to look at them from every angle. This installation has been interpreted as an ironic critique by Warhol on the commercial nature of the art world. However, Warhol although was very much a man of his time, he also had an almost prophetic ability to look into the future. With his Boxes he hoped to create art that was open to the public, and rather than lampooning art, his boxes celebrate their commercial nature, trying to create a more democratic form of art that everyone can relate too.

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