Lot 51
  • 51

James Rosenquist

3,000,000 - 4,000,000 USD
3,301,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • James Rosenquist
  • Be Beautiful
  • signed and titled on the stretcher
  • oil on canvas


Ileana Sonnabend, New York
James Mayor Gallery, London
Dakis Joannou, Athens
Christie's, New York, May 11, 2005, Lot 54
Acquired by the present owner from the above


New York, Bianchini Gallery, The American Supermarket, September - October 1964
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, James Rosenquist, April - September 1972 
Rome, Parcheggio di Villa Borghese, Contemporanae, November 1973 - February 1974, p. 198, illustrated
London, The Mayor Gallery, James Rosenquist: An Exhibition of Paintings 1961-1973, December 1974 - January 1975, cat. no. 6, illustrated in color
Los Angeles, Margo Leavin Gallery, James Rosenquist: Paintings, April - May 1975
London, The Mayor Gallery, James Rosenquist: Paintings from the Sixties, June - July 1982, cat. no. 4, illustrated in color
Denver, Denver Art Museum; Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum; Des Moines, Des Moines Art Center; Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Washington, D.C., National Museum of American Art, James Rosenquist: Paintings 1961-1985, May 1985 - January 1987 (Houston and Des Moines venues only)
Athens, School of Fine Arts, "The Factory"; Copenhagen, Museum of Modern Art, Everything That's Interesting Is New: The Dakis Joannou Collection, January - April 1996, p. 231, illustrated in color


John Rublowsky, Pop Art, New York, 1965, p. 174 (text)
Lawrence Alloway, "Derealized Epic," Artforum 10, no. 10, June 1972, pp. 35-41, illustrated
Lawrence Alloway, American Pop Art, 1974, New York and London, p. 98 (text)
Exh. Cat., Houston, The Menil Collection and The Museum of Fine Arts (and travelling), James Rosenquist: A Retrospective, 2003, pl. 47, p. 118, illustrated in color
Exh. Cat., New York, Acquavella Contemporary Art, Inc., James Rosenquist: The Hole in the Middle of Time and the Hole in the Wallpaper, 2010, p. 11 (text) 
Sarah P. Hanson, "Value Judgments," Art + Auction 35, no. 2, October 2011, p. 105, illustrated in color and (text) 

Catalogue Note

A leading figure of American Pop art in the early 1960s, James Rosenquist developed a distinctive voice within the burgeoning art movement that revolutionized twentieth-century art. Like his colleagues Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and Roy Lichtenstein, Rosenquist culled from sources found in advertising and popular culture and repurposed the contemporary media into a form of high art that took the New York art world by storm. In Be Beautiful from 1964, with its cropped close-up of a Noxzema ad that involved a contest for an Oldsmobile, Rosenquist took the quotidian of the everyday out of context and adopted a style opposed to Warhol’s dead-pan renderings of found imagery. In his text prepared for the 1974 Pop art show at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Lawrence Alloway cited the 1964 paintings Be Beautiful and Untitled (Joan Crawford Says) and acutely observed, “unlike Andy Warhol, Rosenquist’s best paintings consist of a conjunction of dissimilar images between which the artist elicits not quite evident connections. His structure is like cinematic or photographic montage.” (Lawrence Alloway, American Pop Art, New York and London, 1974, p. 98) In Be Beautiful, Rosenquist carefully framed the text of the painting to elide the full content of the message: are we to focus on the considerable sum of “$150,000.00” trumpeted in bright red; the centralized text that Noxzema cold cream promises beauty; or the comfort of an air-conditioned “super” Oldsmobile, highlighted by the fragmentary image of the car roof surrounded by a nimbus of hyped features such as “Heater!” and “Radio!”.  As with all the most illustrious Pop art, Rosenquist presents the viewer with the culture of the American dream, and in his truncated found imagery, the consumerist culture of money, beauty and the open road are all in evidence in Be Beautiful.

Having sold his first painting to Robert Scull, the foremost collector of Pop art at the time, Rosenquist burst upon the scene with his first solo show at the Green Gallery in 1962. In the next two years, collectors such as Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo acquired his work and Rosenquist was included in important exhibitions such as Six Painters and the Object at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1963 and Dorothy Miller’s Americans 1963 at the Museum of Modern Art. His highly evocative style of Pop art was also included in the influential international show, Amerikansk pop-kunst, at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 1964. Painted that year, Be Beautiful also figured in the influential 1964 show The American Supermarket at the Bianchini Gallery in New York which was sympathetic in tone to Claes Oldenburg’s famous Store of 1961. As John Rublowsky wrote in his seminal 1965 text on Pop art, “Conceived and organized by Ben Birillo, an artist who has been close to the pop movement since it began, it represented an exciting new concept in gallery exhibitions. A group of artists combined their efforts in the creation of an integrated environment based on a single theme. In this case, the gallery itself was arranged to resemble a supermarket, with aisles, cases, banked shelves, and even a check-out counter.” (John Rublowsky, Pop Art, New York, 1965, p. 174) Rublowsky proceeds to anecdotally describe the works that would join Be Beautiful in this consumerist and Pop cornucopia - Roy Lichtenstein’s enamel Hot Dog, a stacked pyramid of Campbell’s Tomato Soup Cans signed by Warhol, and most intriguingly, a masterpiece of Pop art in the most commonplace of descriptions: “Jasper Johns’s beer cans, created in 1959 as one of the first expressions of pop art, dominated the beverage department.” (Ibid., p. 174) The fact that one of Johns’s Painted Bronze sculptures of Ballantine Ale cans now resides in the Museum Ludwig, Cologne and Be Beautiful was recently in the revered collection of Dakis Joannou is testament to the title of the exhibition of Mr. Joannou’s collection in 1996 which included the present work: Everything That’s Interesting is New.