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Sturtevant (1924-2014)
Sturtevant (1924-2014)

Warhol Flowers

Details
Sturtevant (1924-2014)
Warhol Flowers
signed and titled ‘"Warhol Flowers" Sturtevant’ (on the reverse)
silkscreen and acrylic on canvas
11 x 11in. (28 x 28cm.)
Executed in 1964-1968
Provenance
Gift from the artist to the present owner circa 1968.

Lot Essay

‘So when I am asked, well, “What was your relationship with Andy?” I say: “You’re asking me a personal question about Andy”…There was a wonderful statement: The more you know about Andy, the less you have to know, but the more you have to see. And then you saw him all over the place’ (E. Sturtevant, quoted in, P. Eleey, Sturtevant, Double Trouble, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2015, p. 127)

Created at the dawn of Elaine Sturtevant’s practice, Warhol Flowers stems from the series that launched her critically-acclaimed career. It was in 1964, the commencing year of the present work, that the artist created her first appropriation of Andy Warhol’s seminal Flowers. Standing among the most iconic images of twentieth-century art, Warhol’s floral silkscreens were exhibited for the first time that same year by Leo Castelli, the renowned dealer who had just struck a partnership with the artist. Long before Richard Prince’s Cowboys or Cindy Sherman’s Film Stills, Sturtevant’s Warhol Flowers sought to interrogate concepts of authenticity and authorship by faithfully reproducing contemporary artworks. Her approach found much in common with Warhol’s own practice, itself defined by a wry questioning of artistic originality in an age of mass production. Recognising the magnitude of Sturtevant’s aesthetic aims, Warhol immediately obliged her request to borrow one of his flower silkscreens in 1964. Indeed, when Warhol was later asked in an interview to comment on his artistic process, he replied, in his characteristically deadpan manner, ‘I don’t know. Ask Elaine’ (A. Warhol, quoted in U. Kittelmann (ed.), Sturtevant: The Brutal Truth, Switzerland 2004, p. 17). Gifted to the present owner by the artist the late sixties, the work has remained in the same private collection for nearly 50 years. Within the pantheon of artists whose work Sturtevant recreated, Warhol was a figure of special significance. In particular, his Flowers would become a recurring theme throughout her oeuvre: the first 1964 works, many of which were exhibited the following year at the Bianchini Gallery, were revisited on a larger scale in 1990. Further appropriations of his work, including the Warhol Marilyns and the film Warhol Empire were made during the 1970s for her solo exhibition at the Everson Museum of Art. Like Warhol, many of the other artists within Sturtevant’s purview were connected to Leo Castelli, including Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. Sturtevant recognised the groundbreaking artistic potential of these figures and the new forms of reception that their works demanded. As the artist has explained, ‘the emotional and intellectual jolt of encountering a known object that is then denied its content results, if not in immediate rejection, in a shifting and disturbing mode of thought. There is a loss of balance that demands going beyond’ (E. Sturtevant, quoted in Magritte, exh. cat., Musee des Beaux-Arts de Montreal,
Montreal 1997, p. 125). Though much of Sturtevant’s early oeuvre may be seen to prefigure the work of the so-called ‘Pictures Generation’ who came to prominence in the 1970s, Sturtevant vehemently denied any affiliation to their brand of appropriation art, insisting she was ‘not making copies, paying homage [or] saying anyone can do it’ but rather ‘talking about the power and autonomy of originality, and the force and pervasiveness of art’ (E. Sturtevant, quoted in U. Kittelmann (ed.), Sturtevant: The Brutal Truth, Switzerland 2004, p. 20).

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