Lot 34
  • 34

Andy Warhol

7,000,000 - 9,000,000 USD
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  • Andy Warhol
  • Self-Portrait (Camouflage)
  • acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
  • 80 x 80 in. 203.2 x 203.2 cm.
  • Executed in 1986, this work is stamped twice by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and The Estate of Andy Warhol and numbered P040.066 on the overlap.


Estate of the Artist
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York
Gagosian Gallery, New York
Van de Weghe Fine Art, New York (acquired from the above)
Acquired by the present owner from the above in June 2005


Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Andy Warhol and His World, April - July 2000, cat. no. 52, p. 40, illustrated in color
St. Gallen, Kunstverein St. Gallen Kunstmuseum; Hannover, Sprengel Museum; Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Andy Warhol: Self -Portraits, June 2004 - May 2005, cat. no. 34, pl. 34, p. 136, illustrated in color (not included in Edinburgh)
New York, Van de Weghe Fine Art, Andy Warhol Self Portraits 1963 - 1986, April - May 2005, pl. 40, p. 86, illustrated in color and frontispiece, illustrated in color (in installation)
Beacon, Dia: Beacon, Dia's Andy: Through the Lens of Patronage, December 2005 - May 2006


Thomas Kellein, ed., Andy Warhol: Abstracts, Munich and New York, 1993, frontispiece, illustrated


This painting is in excellent condition. Please contact the Contemporary Art department at 212-606-7254 for the condition report prepared by Terrence Mahon. The canvas is framed in a wood strip frame with silver gilt facing and a small float.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Andy Warhol’s canon of self-portraiture stands as the most apt eulogy to this most important artist of the second half of the last century. This art-world revolutionary did more than any other to produce a visual lexicon capable of investigating the dichotomy between public persona and private identity, and in turn anticipated the celebrity and brand-obsessed society we live in today. The progenitor of Pop Art, the arbiter of Consumerism, it was ultimately Warhol who became more famous than many of the celebrities he selected and it is therefore the self-portraits which chart the rise of a brand in its own right. They were the lifeblood of his work, and stand out as one of the richest explorations of this traditional genre in the annals of art history. In Self-Portrait (Camouflage)the dichotomy of inner self and public self is graphically evident, as Warhol’s visage is presented to the viewer half revealed in stark black and half-hidden by the camouflage. This portrait of duality – the knowable and unknowable – is quintessential Warhol.

Warhol made the first self-portrait of his mature career in 1963, in which his appearance is masked by dark glasses and the graininess of the then new screen-printing process, followed by a subsequent small series in 1964, similarly based on a photo-booth source photograph. The emergence of the self-portraits charted a turning point for Warhol: now, among the images of the rich and famous, he became an icon in his own visual repertoire. By 1966, the year of his third great series of self-images, he was a star in his own right; an artist, musician and increasingly acclaimed film maker whose constructed public persona was almost as famous as his artistic production. Propelled into the public limelight, the world now bestowed on him the same degree of celebrity status that he found so intriguing and captivating in those that he chose to depict. In his archetypal 1966 portraits, at once iconic and iconoclastic, Warhol succeeds in capturing on canvas the most alluring and elusive star in his firmament of celebrity: himself. It was not until twenty years later, in the series to which the present work belongs, that Warhol would find an equivalently powerful self-image.

Over time, the early photo-booth images of a young man in t-shirt swiftly progressed to a young man in shirt-and-tie hiding his visage behind sunglasses, to the profile movie-star pose of the late 1960s self-portraits with chin in hand and eventually to the isolated head, adorned with his extravagant and well known ‘fright wig’ and staring intently out toward the viewer of his 1986 Self-Portraits. In the late 1960s, a shadow significantly crossed the artist's face, acknowledging the ironic nature of promotional and posed portraits: we want to believe that we know famous personalities better the more we see their images, yet we are witnessing a construct and a mediated image controlled to reveal or hide according to the sitter's wishes. No one relied more on this control – or delighted more in its duality - than Warhol. The present painting’s divided self-portrait is an even more literal rendition of this duality. In Self-Portrait (Camouflage), Warhol is wearing glasses, ironically adding a device that can both disguise and accentuate. Yet he is also the ultimate observer of others, adopting a voyeuristic personality, while turning his observations upon himself with as much acuity. By screen-printing only one half of his face and infusing it with the camouflage surface, Warhol poetically returns to the elusive self-image at the beginning of his career – as a figment, a constructed fiction, a series of personas as affected and contrived as his own public image; it also recalls his diptych silkscreen paintings of Liz and Elvis as early as 1963, in which one silvered canvas of the diptych was left blank. The blank silver canvas and the camouflage not only sustain a visual and philosophical suspension from the dramatic and often tragic portraits, but also create a field where a ghost, a proxy of the original image, or simply an image in the viewer’s mind could appear to complete this Warholian duality.

The 1986 portrait is a powerful, punchy image that pulsates through its haunting frontality. It is simultaneously flamboyant, eerie, shocking and wondrous to behold. A sophisticated meditation of the 1986 Self-Portraits, the present work belongs to the final, definitive self-image that Warhol left for posterity. Executed only months before his unexpected death on 22 February 1987 while recovering from gall bladder surgery, the 1986 Self-Portraits are universally acknowledged as Warhol's last great artistic gesture in which he re-attains the artistic high-ground of his seminal works from the 1960s. Warhol had an obsessive preoccupation with sudden death, even before Valerie Solanas entered the Factory and shot him, nearly killing him, in June 1968. This morbid fascination is openly reflected in his work, especially in the morbid fascinations of the Death and Disaster and Electric Chair series. Here, the mysterious image of the artist's gaunt features reflects this lifelong fascination with the transience of life, and seems to convey an awareness of his own impending death. His cheeks appear relatively sunken and the wig further alienates his face, almost abstracting any sense of ‘self.’ As John Caldwell noted, “The new painting, coming as it does twenty years after the last great self-portraits in the sixties, has by contrast with them a strange sense of absoluteness. Perhaps this comes in part from the fact that the artist's neck is invisible, or it may derive from the oddly lit nimbus of hair that seems posed forever over his head. Certainly, the portrait derives part of its power from the sense that we are being given a rare chance to witness the aging of an icon.” (“A New Andy Warhol at the Carnegie”, Carnegie Magazine, Pittsburgh, January - February 1987, p. 9) With the addition of the patterned camouflage design, Self-Portrait (Camouflage) is transformed into an even more powerfully elegiac painting. Eerily prophetic of the artist's death it may be the final conundrum in what was a gloriously elusive life and body of work. The visually dynamic portrait head is veiled in a pattern defined by its ability to conceal: Warhol's genius for irony is nowhere more dramatic than in the employment of disguise in the act of revelation. Linked conceptually with the Shadow and Rorschach paintings as abstractions, Warhol created canvases that were all camouflage as well as using the device to mask portraits and other Warholian subjects such as the Last Supper paintings. In Self-Portrait (Camouflage), the ability of the camouflage pattern to deconstruct the underlying object is at its most powerful and poignant.

At once obscured by camouflage and accentuated by screen-print,  the portrait immortalizes the mysterious and enigmatic artistic persona that Warhol had meticulously cultivated throughout his career; the present work is his swan song before the curtain came down on one of the most prodigious careers in the History of Art. As Robert Rosenblum says, “Always theatrical, [Warhol] now donned his fright wig for a series of self-portraits that... we are tempted to experience as a last will and testament.” (Robert Rosenblum, “Andy Warhol's Disguises” in Exh. Cat., St. Gallen, Kunstverein St. Gallen Kunstmuseum (and travelling), Andy Warhol: Self-Portraits, 2004, p. 26)