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Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Details
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
signed 'Andy Warhol' (on the overlap) and signed with vintage autograph 'Abdul-Jabbar' (on the overlap)
synthetic polymer and silkscreen ink on canvas
40 x 40 in. (101.6 x 101.6 cm.)
Painted in 1977.
Provenance
Richard L. Weisman, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Lot Essay

When Kareem Abdul-Jabbar left the game of basketball in 1989 at the age of 42, no NBA player had ever scored more points, blocked more shots, won more Most Valuable Player Awards, played in more All-Star games or logged more seasons. His list of personal and team accomplishments are perhaps the most awesome in league history.

No player has ever duplicated his trademark "Sky-hook", a hook shot in which he bent his entire body (rather than just an arm) like a straw in one fluid motion to raise the ball and then release it at the highest point of his arm's arching motion. The shot became one of the most effective weapons in all of sports, few have blocked his legendary skyhook. Kareem was adept at shooting his trademark shot with either hand which made him even more difficult to defend against.

In 1977, Richard Weisman commissioned his friend Andy Warhol to do a series of ten of the World's most famous athletes. The athletes, personally chosen by Weisman, were: Jack Nicklaus, Chris Evert, Tom Seaver, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Pele, O.J. Simpson, Dorothy Hamill, Willie Shoemaker, Muhammed Ali and Rod Gilbert. The commission was inspired by Weisman's belief that the two most popular leisure activities - the arts and sports -should be brought together.

Though Warhol had little knowledge of the difference between a golf ball or basketball he was able to generate a series of portraits that manage to project the intensity and competitive nature of his sitters. His portraits of Kareem and Mohammed Ali are particularly successful in articulating the distinct character of a successful sports figure; they appear defiant with personality that treads beyond the court or the ring. These were not anonymous portraits that were getting a glamorous makeover but celebrities that matched Warhol's fame albeit in a different arena--in this way the artist and his muse were on equal footing. It is often repeated that Warhol's portraits taken together articulate a vision of his own fictitious and self-styled America. A dream world where everyone is fabulous and glamorous and special, a world with no social ladder, everyone gets in--not a bad idea perhaps and though utopian at heart a world like this would erase the very real and awe inspiring accomplishments of Ali, Kareem and even Warhol himself. In reality we want a hierarchy of fame, an elevated group of artists, sport figures and performers that the rest of us can idolize and discuss each with public and private lives that we can judge and parse. We are a voyeuristic society and Warhol delivers the images that help to satiate those needs.

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