LONDON — A highly important, monumental-scale self-portrait by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) sold Feb. 16 at Christie’s for $17,441,892, doubling its presale estimate of £3 million to £5 million. Recently discovered having been in a private collection since 1974, this previously unpublished work was executed in 1967 and is an addition to an historically important series of 10 self-portraits. It was offered at Christie’s Feb. 16 Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction. Bloomberg News reports it was bought by art dealer Larry Gagosian, owner of the Gagosian Gallery chain of art galleries.
Francis Outred, Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christie’s Europe, stated “It has been an incredibly exciting journey to work with a previously unknown work by Andy Warhol, particularly one with such historic importance. We are thrilled to have been able to publish this work for the first time in our catalogue and to exhibit it to the public for the first time. It drew great admiration both at the exhibition and in the saleroom, where it sold for more than twice the pre-sale estimate.”
“Self-Portrait” is one of an historic series of 11 large-scale self-portraits executed in 1967, five of which are in museums (Tate, London; The Staatsgalerie Moderne Kunst, Munich; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and two at the Detroit Institute for Arts). Such is the importance of the series that eight of the known works were included in the artist’s landmark retrospective at MOMA two years after his death in 1989.
The image of Warhol with his hand to his mouth is one of the most representative and iconic images of the artist. Warhol first used the image for a group of works in 1966 painted in a much smaller, life-size scale. The following year he used the same image in producing 11 monumental works in a large-scale format of six foot square, of which the present example is one. Six works from this series were exhibited in the American Pavilion at the 1967 International and Universal Exposition in Montreal which was visited by tens of millions of people, and which saw the portraits dominate an exhibition including works by Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Barnett Newman and Robert Rauschenberg.
By 1967 Warhol had reached a point in his career when he was internationally recognized as the most important and controversial figure in American Pop Art. The present series of self-portraits represent the high point of his career when he has achieved great wealth and fame, and when as a celebrity he brashly and confidently presented his own image in a truly monumental fashion to a global audience of millions.
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