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UpCloseEveningSale_Lot 50_Warhol
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
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These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE AMERICAN COLLECTION
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

Coke Bottle

Details
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Coke Bottle
stamped with signature 'Andy Warhol' (on the left edge); signed and inscribed by Frederick Hughes ‘I certify that this is an original painting by andy warhol completed by him in 1962 © Frederick Hughes’ (on the left edge)
silkscreen ink, acrylic and ballpoint pen on linen
11 1/8 x 6in. (28.3 x 15.2cm.)
Executed in 1962
Provenance
Martin and Janet Blinder, Los Angeles.
Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1988.
Literature
Warhol Campbell's Soup Boxes, exh. cat., Los Angeles, Michael Kohn Gallery, 1986 (illustrated, p. 11).
J. Baudrillard, 'De la marchandise absolue', in Artstudio: Spécial Andy Warhol, Autumn 1988 (illustrated in colour, p. 6).
Andy Warhol. Campbell's Soup Boxes, exh. cat., Paris, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, 2000 (illustrated, pp. 5 and 11).
I. Lecomte-Depoorter, Le Pop Art, Paris 2001 (illustrated in colour, p. 52).
G. Frei & N. Printz (eds.), The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné: Paintings and Sculptures 1961-1963, New York 2002, pp.189 and 492, no. 210 (illustrated in colour, p. 187).
Special notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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Alessandro Diotallevi
Alessandro Diotallevi

Lot Essay

‘If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and ?lms and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it’
ANDY WARHOL

‘What’s grand about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same thing as the poorest … 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’
ANDY WARHOL

Question: ‘What does Coca-Cola mean to you?’
Answer: ‘Pop’
ANDY WARHOL, 1962

‘I used to drink Coke all the time. It was so good. It gives you a lot of energy’
ANDY WARHOL

‘… it’s our society, it’s who we are, it’s absolutely beautiful and naked’
EMILE DE ANTONIO

Executed in June-July 1962, Coke Bottle is a stunning encapsulation of Andy Warhol’s breakthrough to silkscreening, and a rare early iteration of one of his most iconic motifs. The related serial works 210 Coca Cola Bottles and Green Coca-Cola Bottles are held in the Daros Collection, Switzerland and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Such is Coke Bottle’s force as an emblem of Warhol’s practice that Jean Baudrillard chose it to illustrate his 1986 essay on art as ‘absolute merchandise’ (J. Baudrillard, ‘De la marchandise absolue,’ Artstudio No. 8, Spécial Andy Warhol, Paris 1986). The unmistakable image of an empty Coke bottle is brought to glinting, graphic life in black silkscreen ink, with hand-painting in pale green and white. Uniquely among the ten works of this series, a blue ballpoint outline visible beneath the paint layer indicates that the green was likely applied without the guidance of a preliminary screen; the white highlights, shining out in bright contrast to the greyer ground, were painted on after the impression of the black line screen was made. These nuanced manual elements provide a pivotal link between the fine draughtsmanship of Warhol’s early work as a commercial illustrator and the fully photomechanical process that would begin with his screenprint Baseball in August 1962. Capturing Warhol’s alchemy of mass culture into fine art in one vital and potent image, this extraordinarily important work represents nothing less than a turning point in twentieth century culture: Warhol had discovered the method that would dominate his oeuvre for the next twenty-five years, and the age of Pop art had arrived.

Commenced shortly after Warhol made his very first silkscreens (the Dollar Bill series of March-April that same year), the Coke Bottle works show the first branded consumer object that he ever depicted in this medium – they predate even his Campbell’s Soup cans, which were all fully hand-painted until 1964. Coke Bottle is also linked to two seminal large-scale Coca Cola bottles, Coca-Cola (2) and (3), both painted early in 1962, which share the present work’s source image of an advertisement in Warhol’s mother’s Pittsburgh Byzantine Catholic World newspaper. There could hardly be a more apt origin for one of the artist’s defining subjects. His lifting of material from the medium of printed advertising represented a dramatic sea change in the way fine art was made, transforming the mass-produced image of a mass-produced object from ubiquitous and unnoticed presence into charged, confrontational symbol. Yet the newspaper’s link with Warhol’s mother’s (and his own) Byzantine Catholicism highlights a further dimension of his treatment of the Coke bottle. Warhol’s Catholic upbringing accorded deep significance to the veneration of images in worship, fostering an awareness that he employed in his own shrewd staging of icons, from the Coke bottles and soup cans to his later pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. In Coke Bottle, his daring small-format presentation of the single, empty bottle makes a bold statement of faith. Indisputably beautiful and alluring, the unfilled container is a perfect register of the quasi-religious promise of the American Dream. Its seductive, instantly recognisable contours offer a reliquary vessel to be filled with all the hopes and aspirations of consumer society, while hinting at the very emptiness of that society itself.

The related large-scale paintings of this image held great importance for Warhol. Recalling the decisive moment when he first recognised his future path as a Pop artist and the birth of his unique aesthetic, Warhol wrote in his memoir how it had begun in early 1962 with an afternoon visit from his friend Emile de Antonio, who came to see Coca-Cola (2) and (3). ‘One of them was a Coke bottle with Abstract Expressionist hash marks halfway up the side,’ Warhol says. ‘The second one was just a stark, outlined Coke bottle in black and white. I didn’t say a thing to De. I didn’t have to – he knew what I wanted to know. “Well, look, Andy,” he said after staring at them for a couple of minutes. “One of these is a piece of shit, simply a little bit of everything. The other is remarkable – it’s our society, it’s who we are, it’s absolutely beautiful and naked, and you ought to destroy the first one and show the other.” That afternoon was an important one for me. I still had the two styles I was working in – the more lyrical painting with gestures and drips and the hard style without the gestures. I liked to show both to people to goad them into commenting on the differences. I still wasn’t sure if you could completely remove all the hand gesture from art and become noncommittal, anonymous. I knew that I definitely wanted to take away the commentary of the gestures. The works I was most satisfied with were the cold, “no comment” paintings’ (A. Warhol, quoted in A. Warhol and P. Hackett, Popism, The Warhol Sixties, Florida, 1980, pp. 6-8). Created shortly after this revelation, Coke Bottle is a watershed in Warhol’s journey. While his drawing and painting are preserved here like fascinating fossil traces, it was the silkscreen, rather than painting, that would prove the ultimate medium for his epoch-making ‘no comment’ approach. This work captures Warhol’s crucial move away from visible gesture towards a new, pure and depersonalised art.

With typical tongue-in-cheek wisdom, Warhol once situated Coke as a utopian distillation of American values, the everyday beverage as magnificent leveller. ‘What’s grand about this country,’ he said, ‘is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same thing as the poorest … 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’ (A. Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, New York 1975, pp. 100-01). Coke Bottle stands before us in the gleaming, vacuous perfection of this vision. Pinpointing the moment that Warhol embarked upon his mastery of the screenprint, it displays the glorious potential of the chill new pictorial unit that would allow him his own mode of endless reproduction, operating in flawless parallel with the world of commerce. Coke Bottle is a polished celebration of the mass-market consumable. Yet it also retains a compelling glimpse of the refined traditional skills – and the vein of idolatrous faith – that ran through all of Warhol’s creation. He famously claimed that ‘If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and ?lms and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it’ (A Warhol, quoted in G. Berg, ‘Andy: My True Story,’ Los Angeles Free Press, 17 March 1967, p. 3). Beneath the glassy-smooth surface of Coke Bottle, however, and behind Warhol’s new era of icons, lies a more complex story: at once detached and deeply personal, this hard-edged, clean-cut and unflinching image carries the intimate, handdrawn echoes of private devotion.

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