Photography played an integral role in Andy Warhol’s oeuvre, providing the starting point for nearly every composition ever produced. The advent of the Polaroid Big Shot camera in 1971, with its instant delivery of a finished print, was an ideal tool for the artist, allowing him to see right away the results of his sessions; he could tote the camera to parties, photographing celebrities, socialites and friends alike, and similarly keep several (priced at the reasonable cost of $19.95) at The Factory to use for “formal” portrait sittings. Instantly changing the art historical landscape of portraiture and self-portraiture, the Polaroid camera further mechanized Warhol’s process, appealing to his sense of urgency, ease and speed. Acting as the point of genesis for any new work, the Polaroid camera is to Warhol as preparatory drawings were to Leonardo da Vinci; in both lies the genius of each artist’s groundbreaking output.
Sotheby’s is delighted to offer a selection of Polaroids that spans eight years of the artist’s career and reinforces Warhol’s fascination with seriality and repetition. Exuding casual spontaneity, glamour and the rigidity of formal portraiture, the following lots illustrate exactly how focused Warhol’s eye was to perceiving the reality hidden beneath the surface. While Warhol had mechanized the production of his works by the use of assistants in The Factory, the Polaroids present a uniquely intimate portrayal of Warhol—both behind and in front of the camera.
Warhol’s canon of self-portraiture stands as the most apt eulogy to the influential artist and the striking Self Portraits [Twelve Works] and Self-Portraits in Drag [Six Works] successfully capture on film this most alluring and elusive star. With unrivalled frontality and up-close theatricality of fright wigs, sunglasses, over-painted make-up and feminine wigs, we see both Warhol the man and Warhol the cultural phenomenon. The celebrity snapshots of Liza Minelli, Diana Ross, Jerry Hall and Bianca Jagger are more typical of Warhol’s staged sittings in The Factory, affording the viewer the chance to see how Warhol’s personal touches as director and photographer manifest in a more formal setting. Each Polaroid in this exceptional group explores Warhol’s obsession with artifice and the construction of identity, subjects the artist investigated across all media until his untimely death in 1986.
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