1152

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

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Hong Kong

Andy Warhol
1928 - 1987
FLOWERS (THREE WORKS)
i. signed and dated 64 on the overlap
ii. signed and dated 64 on the overlap
iii. signed, dated 64 and stamped by The Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board and numbered A101.999 on the overlap
acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen
each: 20.6 by 20.6 cm.   8 by 8 in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

i.
Ileana Sonnabend, Paris
Lawrence Alloway, New York
Christie's, New York, 5 October 1990, Lot 38
Mayor Gallery, London
Private Collection, Europe
Sotheby's, New York, 15 November 2007, Lot 191 
Acquired from the above sale by Marc Jacobs

ii.
Ileana Sonnabend, Paris
Galleria San Michele, Brescia 
Richard Grey Gallery, Chicago
Private Collection, Europe
Sotheby's, New York, 16 May 2007, Lot 220
Acquired from the above sale by Marc Jacobs

iii. 
Estate of Jon Nicholas Streep
Christie's, New York, 11 May 1983, Lot 106
Private Collection, United States
Christie's, New York, 4 May 1994, Lot 175
Jason McCoy, Inc., New York
Private Collection, United States
Private Collection, New York
Christie's, New York, 17 May 2007, Lot 108
Acquired from the above sale by Marc Jacobs

Exhibited

iii. Jacksonville, Jacksonville Art Museum, Art in Bloom: The Flower as Subject, February - March 1989, illustrated in colour
Jacksonville, Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, The M. Anwar Kamal Collection of Art, Twentieth Century Paintings, November - December 1989

Literature

i. George Frei and Neil Printz, Ed., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 2B: Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, New York 2004, p. 86 and p. 118, cat. no. 1600, illustrated in colour

iii. George Frei and Neil Printz, Ed., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 2B: Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, New York 2004, p. 111 and p. 124, cat. no. 1700, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

But now it’s going to be flowers – they’re the fashion this year… They’re terrific!

Andy Warhol


An everlasting image of twentieth-century art, Flowers from 1964 embodies one of Andy Warhol’s most iconic bodies of work. In the half century since its creation, Warhol’s Flowers have infiltrated popular culture as a touchstone of classic American Pop. The eight-inch Flowers are Warhol’s most extensive series, and installation views from the 1964 Paris exhibition at Sonnabend Gallery show a monumental wall of ninety-nine eight-inch Flower canvases, all on white backgrounds as in the present works. Comprising three eight-inch paintings, the present lot embodies the highly serialised and repetitive nature of the Flower series, manifesting as a condensed echo of the initial environment in which the series was first unveiled to the world.

In keeping with Pop Art’s appropriation of popular, easily accessible, and everyday imagery, Flowers’ source material is a photograph of hibiscus blossoms from the June 1964 issue of Modern Photography magazine. Warhol took artistic liberty with this photograph, isolating just four of the original seven flowers in a tighter composition, which he then transferred onto acetate and polarized the tonal range in order to increase sharpness and clarity. The present work’s bright subject matter was a soothing relief from the unrelentingly morbid 1962-63 Death and Disaster series. As Otto Hahn remarked in the exhibition catalogue to Warhol’s Sonnabend exhibition: “He started looking for an image that could stand for the very symbol of joy and happiness” (Otto Hahn, Andy Warhol, Exh. Cat., Galerie Ileana Sonnabend, Paris, 1965, n.p.). It was Henry Geldzahler, then assistant curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who suggested to Warhol that he devote an entire series solely to flowers as a way for the artist to engage directly in the art historical tradition of still-life painting. 

Warhol, however, stamped his own brand on this centuries-old tradition. Rather than employ shading and depth, Warhol flattens the image in unmodulated swaths of rouge pink and white. Four fresh hibiscus flowers bloom against the white backdrop, their lush petals pushing against the constraints of the strict square composition. Separated from stem and ground, the flowers almost appear as disembodied from their background, leading David Bourdon to compare them to “cut-out gouaches by Matisse set adrift on Monet’s lily pond” (David Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1989, p. 191). Executed in 1964, when Warhol had been catapulted to the highest ranks of the global contemporary art scene, the Flowers further mark a pivotal point in Warhol’s career – one in which his choice of subject matter shifted from the famed and gloried to the mundane. Michael Lobel observes: “His newfound renown prompted something of a reversal in his approach: now, he was far more likely to train his gaze on people and things that were not already known, drawing attention to them and making them objects of fascination in the process” (Michael Lobel, Andy Warhol Flowers, Exh. Cat., Eykyn Maclean, New York, 2012, n.p.).

Despite the apparent decorative and cheerful quality of Flowers, the motif is fraught with a mortality that permeates the artist’s entire corpus. Heiner Bastian writes: “[Warhol’s Flowers create] a virtual, painful stillness. Since they seemingly only live on the surface, in the stasis of their coloration, they also initiate only the one metamorphosis which is a fundamental tenet of Warhol’s work: moments in a notion of transience [...] the flowers… were also to be read as metaphors for the flowers of death. Warhol’s flowers resist every philosophical transfiguration as effectively as the pictures of disasters and catastrophes, which they now seem ever closer to” (Exh. Cat., Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie (and travelling), Andy Warhol: Retrospective, 2002, p. 33). Bright and dazzling, Andy Warhol’s Flowers endures as a vibrant moniker for the artist, one that epitomises the fragility of life and beauty and intangible transience of fame.

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

|
Hong Kong