ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED EUROPEAN COLLECTOR
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)

Knives

Details
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
Knives
signed, stamped twice with the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, Inc. stamp, numbered and dated ‘Andy Warhol 82 A114.995’ (on the overlap)
acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
70 1/8 x 52 1/8in. (178 x 132.4cm.)
Executed in 1982
Provenance
Galerie Beaubourg, Paris.
Galería Fernando Vijande, Madrid.
Private Collection.
Anon. sale, Sotheby’s London, 27 June 1996, lot 239.
Galerie Lucien Durand Le Gaillard, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1999.
Exhibited
Madrid, Galería Fernando Vijande, Andy Warhol, Guns, Knives, Crosses, 1982-1983 (studio view illustrated with the incorrect orientation, unpaged; illustrated in colour, unpaged and on the back cover).
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Held in the same private collection for almost twenty-five years, Knives (1982) is a monumental work from one of Andy Warhol’s most important late series. Over a backdrop of brightly-painted blocks of colour, an image of three knives is silkscreened twice in stark black ink. Their silhouettes are dynamically arranged. One doubled knife aligns with the chromatic grid, handle and blade split between quadrants of green and orange. Another overlaps diagonally, slicing across the picture at forty-five degrees. The work might almost be mistaken for a bold abstract composition. It takes on a sharp edge of menace, however, as the knives’ forms become clear. Photographed by Warhol, they are both charged symbols and real objects: the screenprint captures the woodgrain of their handles, fingerprints on their blades, and the manufacturer’s ‘high carbon no stain’ assurance stamped into the metal. Created towards the end of Warhol’s life, the knife pictures were made alongside his iconic Gun and Cross works, and witness his complex engagement with mortality. The present work debuted in Andy Warhol: Guns, Knives, Crosses, Warhol’s first solo show in post-Franco Spain, at Madrid’s Galería Fernando Vijande in 1982.

With the Knives, as with the Skull and Hammer and Sickle series of the 1970s, Warhol used his own Polaroid photographs as the basis for his silkscreens. This process allowed him to stage the objects in careful still-life displays in his studio, fine-tuning their formal and emblematic impact. Initially he had wanted to photograph unusual, handmade or exotic daggers. His friend Chris Stein—the guitarist of the band Blondie—lent some samples from his collection. Unsatisfied with the resulting pictures, Warhol sent his assistant to a Bowery restaurant supply store to instead buy some ordinary eight-inch kitchen knives. The choice of these more mundane utensils heightens the Pop jolt of the final work. Far from exotic, they are as everyday and universal as Warhol’s Coca-Cola bottles or Campbell’s Soup cans. Their implied violence is domestic. At the same time, Warhol makes them grand and imposing, even—in an echo that would have been heightened by the Cross works in the 1982 exhibition—evoking objects of worship.

In 1968, Warhol had survived an assassination attempt by the writer Valerie Solanas. His injuries were life-changing, and the last two decades of his work increasingly shadowed by death. His Skulls of 1976 reimagined the vanitas still-life on a vast scale; he furthered the memento mori theme with his Self-Portrait with Skull two years later. The Guns and Knives were completed in the reflective years of the early 1980s, at the same time as Warhol was looking back on his career in his Reversal and Retrospective series. For an artist who had endured real bodily violence, there was perhaps a catharsis in confronting these weapons of violence, printing and reprinting them as impersonal patterns of colour and form. They push to the limit Warhol’s deadpan claim that ‘The more you look at the same exact thing, the more the meaning goes away and the better and emptier you feel’ (A. Warhol, in P. Hackett (ed.), POPism: The Warhol Sixties, Orlando 1980, p. 50).

The Technicolor beauty of Warhol’s work, however, had been laced with the macabre long before his own brush with mortality. He made his 1962 portraits of Marilyn Monroe in the weeks immediately following her death, and silkscreened Jackie Kennedy’s image after her husband was assassinated one year later. He paid keen attention to the ghoulish obsessions of the print media, where starlets and plane accidents alike made front-page news. His 1960s Death and Disaster series, which depicted electric chairs and fatal car crashes, were unflinchingly morbid. For Warhol, the danger and glamour of the American dream always went hand in hand. The present work captures this duality, its vivid rainbow hues cut through with a razor-sharp thrill of darkness.

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