Lot 141
  • 141

ANDY WARHOL | Portrait of John McEnroe and Tatum O'Neal

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Andy Warhol
  • Portrait of John McEnroe and Tatum O'Neal
  • signed and dated 1986 on the overlap
  • acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
  • 101.6 by 101.6 cm. 40 by 40 in.


Private Collection, New York (acquired directly from the artist in 1986)
Sotheby's, London, 1 July 2008, Lot 27
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Catalogue Note

For Andy Warhol, immortalisation was not bound by biology; with the snap of a polaroid and a silkscreen print, a celebrity could live forever. His iconic portraits are a defining thread in his expansive body of work. Capturing stars in their golden hour, Warhol transformed fame into relics of the modern era. Portrait of John McEnroe and Tatum O’Neal is one of his final celebrity portraits, completed just a year before the artist’s death. Warhol’s incarnation of the couple at the height of their popularity is evidence of his deep understanding of celebrity and the symbolic power that comes with it. Infatuated with fame, fashion and Hollywood from an early age, Warhol sought out celebrity culture as a means of escaping his working-class childhood in Pittsburgh. Fresh out of the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1949, he immediately moved to New York in search of the thriving art scene and the glamour of the nightlife. Warhol gravitated to portraiture as a means of manifesting stardom. Following on from his iconic portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, his fascination with the visage of fame comes full circle at the end of his career; Warhol himself is now fully integrated into the gilded world of stars, supplying him with an unlimited list of subjects for his celebrity portraits. As with the present work, Warhol transitioned from appropriating press images to using his own polaroids – his portraits becoming distinctly personal to his vision.

Executed the same year as the couple’s marriage, Portrait of John McEnroe and Tatum O’Neal captures the innocence and naïveté of the newlyweds through pastel pinks and radiant yellows. O’Neal, the youngest winner of an Academy Award, and McEnroe, with seven Grand Slam wins to his name, are themselves depicted as a trophy on canvas. Henry Geldzahler reinforces this quality as “a sort of lusty yet ethereal limbo where everyone was a star, not only for fifteen minutes, but, in this incarnation caught permanently on canvas, ‘forever’, as in ‘Diamonds are forever’” (Henry Geldzahler, 'Andy Warhol: Virginal Voyeur', in: Exh Cat., Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art, Andy Warhol: Portraits, 1993, p. 26).