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PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTOR

Andy Warhol
MARILYN (REVERSAL)
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Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Double Dagger
Indicates that the lot is being sold whilst subject to Temporary Importation, and that VAT is due at the reduced rate
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
1,200,0001,800,000
LOT SOLD. 1,390,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
18

PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTOR

Andy Warhol
MARILYN (REVERSAL)
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Double Dagger
Indicates that the lot is being sold whilst subject to Temporary Importation, and that VAT is due at the reduced rate
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
1,200,0001,800,000
LOT SOLD. 1,390,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Andy Warhol
1928 - 1987
MARILYN (REVERSAL)
signed and dated 79/86 on the overlap
acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
46.1 by 35.4 cm. 18 1/8 by 14 in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above in the 1980s)
Simon Dickinson Ltd., London
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012

Catalogue Note

In Marilyn (Reversal Series), the viewer confronts an uncanny, prismatic and postmodern representation of the most iconic image in Andy Warhol’s visual lexicon. Conceived as a re-reading of his best-known Pop paintings at the suggestion of his dealer Bruno Bischofberger, the Reversal series of 1979 to 1986 joins Warhol’s 1980 memoir POPism: The Warhol Sixties and the Andy Warhol’s TV series as part of the artist’s unprecedentedly reflexive and experimental later period. Executed shortly after his Portraits of the ‘70s exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1979, the series is coincident with Warhol’s Retrospective Paintings: stunning postmodern collages of the artist’s most recognised images. With an extra layer of abstraction, Warhol’s works of this period effectively place his previous production and their dominant themes in aesthetic parentheses; their subject-matter became not the ordinary objects of the Warholian gaze, but that very gaze itself. This aesthetic shift towards self-consciousness culminated ultimately in the immensely moving and poignantly timed Self-Portraits and Last Supper paintings of 1986: unforgettable momento mori that oscillate between the stark and the playful. Mirroring its origin, however, Marilyn (Reversal) enacts more than just self-commentary. In the context of an America fueled by the deficit-funded Reagan budget, both the Reversal and the coincident Crosses, Dollar Signs, Guns and Knives series interrogate the role of American mythos at a time in which it was used more than ever to mask rising political instabilities.

The present work is uniquely colourful and captivating. As though caught within an iridescent hall of mirrors, Marilyn’s hair, brows, eyes and lips reflect a dazzling chromatic spectrum ranging from baby blues to fecund greens via a sequence of erotic and arresting reds. As David Bourdon puts it, “[it is] as if the spectator were looking at photographic negatives, highlighted faces have gone dark while former shadows now rush forward in electric hues” (David Bourdon, Warhol, New York 1989, p. 378). The visual and auditory reality of New York’s flourishing disco scene – soundtracked by the sumptuous analogue synthesisers of Italo-disco songs – is evoked in a face that marries the glamorous and the ghostly. Metonymised in the icon’s eyes is the equivalence of substance and surface in 1980s New York, as well as the rarefied artefacts this equivalence leaves behind.

In one crucial respect, Marilyn’s luminous mask resembles the artist’s own evasive public persona: both are disguises that, paradoxically, became instantly recognisable through exchange and serialism. In this sense, Marilyn’s mask resembles the iconic Camouflage pictures of 1986. As one comes to expect from Warhol, the form of Marilyn (Reversal) directly reflects these subtle elisions. With distinctive cool, Warhol uses industrial techniques to transform the already transformed – to appropriate and transmute what has already been appropriated. With its slippages and imperfections, the medium of silkscreen lends itself perfectly to this chasm of layered ironic distance. It was in 1962’s Gold Marilyn Monroe that Warhol first made use of the unmistakable cropped film still from Niagara (1953). In an act of groundbreaking fetishisation, Monroe is placed in Gold Marilyn Monroe at the centre of a flattened golden monoplane. By contrast, the present work enacts a chromatic and methodological inversion of this originary moment. Emerging through the background rather than superimposed on top of it, Marilyn’s face is spectral, ethereal; defined more by its absence than its presence. 

The Reversal series evinces, ultimately, a deep concern with precedent and posterity. The earliest Marilyns of the series feature remarkably painterly grounds reminiscent of the drips and daubs of the Abstract Expressionists. Likewise, much of Warhol’s 1980s work involves transformations of the works of artists ranging from Paulo Uccello and Lucas Cranach, to Edvard Munch and Giorgio de Chirico. In dedicating his final works to self-interrogation, Warhol knowingly joins a prestigious range of contemporary artists who carried out similar projects in the latter stages of their careers. Jasper Johns created fresh motifs from his earlier works – inventing a meta-cartographical language from his very own topologies – and in La Boîte-en-valise Marcel Duchamp made miniature versions of his past efforts. Marilyn (Reversal) is certainly charged with temporal significance: both prophetic and cathartic, it narrates and foretells Warhol’s own destiny. But it is also charged with the emotion of an artist who, in the twilight of his life, sought to cement his position within the art historical canon.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London