"Business is the Best Art"
Andy Warhol's Ads
Only Andy Warhol and his genius could create a cohesive body of work from nine advertisements and logos, both vintage and contemporary to the artist, with vastly different target audiences and consumer markets. Sotheby’s is honored to offer nine of Warhol’s Ads paintings in the lots that follow: Chanel, Apple, Volkswagen, Life Savers, Paramount, Mobil, Blackglama, Rebel Without a Cause and Van Heusen were, and still are, products that are ingrained in Contemporary American culture. The series as a whole epitomizes the way in which Warhol revolutionized the concept of art as an elite language, introducing imagery from the popular vernacular that could be understood by the common man. Each work in the Ads series employs Warhol’s characteristic use of vivid hues and flat planes of color, topped with an overlay of playful, sketchy lines.
The versatility of Warhol’s critical engagement with consumerism is on full display in Warhol’s Ads paintings. The shiny, rainbow-colored Apple logo—the youngest brand in the group—stands in stark contrast to the ubiquitous beloved Mobil and Paramount emblems, both rendered with an immensely nostalgic touch. The vintage Life Savers and Volkswagen ads recall the “Mad Men” era of flashy advertising that revolutionized the industry in the 1950s. The Chanel and Blackglama ads celebrate a life of luxury which Warhol, champion of the mass-produced commodity, has made accessible to all. Warhol’s take on the poster for James Dean’s best known film, Rebel Without a Cause, seeps with celebrity and death, two of the artist’s favorite themes; Dean’s lithe body is screened twice, immortalizing the actor in perfect form before his untimely death in 1955. Lastly, Warhol’s depiction of then-President Reagan as a young actor is not without Warhol’s dark humor and sardonic wit, commenting on the current state of American politics.
Donna De Salvo, Senior Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art said it best when she wrote that Warhol’s Ads exude “slick and perfect surfaces” and “candy-coated renderings” of such iconic American imagery (Freyda Feldman and Jörg Schellmann, Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1987, New York, 2003, p. 31). These works are Warhol’s best in his late period, commemorating the immortality of celebrity, consumerism and the promise of materialistic bliss.
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