Andy Warhol's Self-Portrait of 1967 was created on the upswing of his fame and captures the artist in the cool, detached manner of his earlier portraits of celebrities. Depicting such public figures as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Jacqueline Kennedy in the dispassionate manner of his images of consumer products, Warhol presented them as constructed, mass-marketed icons, thereby forging a new type portraiture that overtly stated the divide between public and private personae. No longer relying on the tropes of conventional portraiture such as individuality, psychological insight and personality traits, these works consisted of archetypal Pop portraits that fed on the public's appetite for celebrity. Being similarly obsessed, Warhol presented himself in the same manner of these portraits, thereby declaring himself to be a star too. Indeed, his growing recognition following the success of his exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia rendered him a celebrity in his own right.
Warhol created his first series of Self-Portraits in 1964 at the urging of Ivan Karp who told him, "people want to see you. Your looks are responsible for a certain part of your fame - they feed the imagination." (C. Ratcliff, Warhol, New York, 1983, p. 53). Warhol's image, identity and cultural persona were inextricably bound to his art, and his Self-Portraits served as a means of extending both. Based on photo-booth pictures of the artist in disheveled, quirky poses, the 1964 paintings are in sharp contrast to the more subtly complex and enigmatic series from which the present lot derives. As Ratcliff observed, ''the 1964 Self-Portraits are warm-ups for the ones that Warhol made two years later, which now serve as icons of the Pop era - blank, yet intricately articulated, with their rough screen-printing, garish colors, and the peculiar dignity with which Warhol rests his chin in his hand. (Ibid., p. 52).
In Self-Portrait, the modern day flaneur of contemporary culture presents an ironic twist between subject and author, becoming one and the same. The aloof voyeur turns his sardonic eye on himself, but rather than exposing his shyness and vulnerability, cloaks himself in a constructed fiction. Assuming the affected pose of a leading man with his forefingers spread over his lips and partially veiled in the murky studio lights, Warhol ironically mythologizes himself as a mysterious, silver screen hero. With characteristic evasiveness, Warhol avoids an introspective vision of himself, stating, "I'd prefer to remain a mystery; I never like to give my background and, anyway, I make it different all the time I'm asked. (Andy Warhol, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 1967). Indeed, the fingers that cross his lips seem to refuse any betrayal of his inner self.
While Warhol engages with centuries-long tradition of artistic self-portraiture, he subverts this genre by overtly stating the artifice and deception inherent in any form of self-representation. Warhol famously said, "If you want to know about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There's nothing behind it. The screen-printing process was entirely suited to Warhol's mantra of superficiality. Color literally lies on the surface, allowing no visual penetration. The uniform planar red ground is starkly vibrant against the contrasting dark blue screening of Warhol's briefly articulated features and the effect is one of bold, flat, abstract passages of color. Reading doubly as physiognomy and pattern, the modernist articulation of forms reduce the artist's visage to a stylized, immediately apprehensible logo. In Self-Portrait, the ever-watchful commentator of his time conflates consumer culture with his own identity to produce an image that captures the essence of the Pop Art movement.