Andy Warhol’s Double Elvis [Ferus Type] and Most Wanted Men, No. 11, John Joseph H., Jr., 1964 To Highlight Chistie’s Evening Sale Of Post-War And Contemporary Art


On May 17, Christie’s will offer Andy Warhol’s Double Elvis [Ferus Type], 1963 as a central highlight of its Evening Sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art (estimate in the region of $30 million*). The silver Elvis paintings that Warhol made in the summer of 1963 are among the defining icons of his oeuvre. Representing the culmination of several series of celebrity portraits that Warhol made in the early 1960s, these definitive ‘icons of an icon’ rank amongst the most resonant and enduring pictorial statements of his art. Double Elvis pays tribute to a larger-than-life superstar whose international fame brought him the level of celebrity Warhol himself so coveted and admired. Double Elvis unites two of the most venerated men of modern times—the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and the Prince of Pop.christies_logo_black-hr_mdtv71b

Double Elvis [Ferus Type] will be offered alongside Warhol’s controversial Most Wanted Men, No. 11, John Joseph H., Jr., 1964, uniting two exceptional canvases that share in the artist’s obsession with American icons of all kinds.

Alex Rotter, Co-Chairman, Post-War and Contemporary Art, remarked: “The King of Rock’n’Roll and the career criminal – icons of icons. These two paintings are very memorable and early examples of Warhol’s profound understanding of fame. Both works, pure black silkscreen on silver and white backgrounds, are the best of Andy Warhol in one auction. We are thrilled to present them together in Christie’s New York sale of Post-War and Contemporary art.

Loic Gouzer, Co-Chairman, Post-War and Contemporary Art, remarked: “For Warhol, an artist who was obsessed with popular culture and fame, Elvis was a perfect subject. With its monumental size and its shimmering silver surface, this painting encapsulates the glamour and power of Rock and Roll as Warhol saw it. Coming from one of the most ground-breaking exhibitions ever staged for Warhol, this painting holds a paramount place within the pantheon of his celebrity portraits.

Andy Warhold_s Double Elvis [Ferus Type]

Andy Warhol’s Double Elvis [Ferus Type], 1963

Warhol’s Double Elvis does not portray Elvis the hip-shaking musician but rather Elvis the actor playing a role in the 1960 movie Flaming Star, a liberal-themed Western in which Presley plays Pacer Burton, a half-Kiowa youth torn between two cultures. The painting is a unique variation from a group of portraits of single and multiplied Elvises created especially for Warhol’s second solo exhibition at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles—the center of America’s entertainment industry. Of the twenty-two extant ‘Ferus Type’ Elvis works, eleven are in museum collections, including the canvas Bob Dylan insisted on taking in exchange for his presence in a Warhol film, now housed at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Double Elvis features two black screenprinted images of the King on a silver painted ground. A bold, high-contrast figure is accompanied by its ghostly duplicate, collapsing Warhol’s strategy of serialization into a single frame, while also providing an eerie reminder that Presley was a twin, his brother being lost at birth. When the crowd of cloned Elvises was shown at the Ferus Gallery, the paintings were both confrontational and an almost anonymous backdrop.

The Ferus Gallery’s director, Irving Blum, had tried to press on Warhol the idea of a mini-retrospective, writing, “your exhibition should be the most intense and far-reaching composite of past work, and the Elvis paintings should be shown in the rear of my gallery area.” Warhol, however, insisted on focusing on his new work and planned to utilize the gallery’s physical space as part of a highly conceptual installation. Before his arrival, Warhol instructed Blum to line the front room with his series of Elvis paintings and the back room with portraits of Elizabeth Taylor.

The repetition of the image created an impression of mass production that had rarely been seen before in an artistic context. The effect was of great interest to artists like Larry Bell, who wrote in response to the exhibition: “It is my opinion that Andy Warhol is an incredibly important artist; he has been able to take painting as we know it, and completely change the frame of reference of painting as we know it, and do it successfully in his own terms. These terms are also terms that we may not understand … In any event, nothing can take away from it the important changes that the work itself has made in the considerations of other artists.

Andy Warhol_s Most Wanted Men, No. 11, John Joseph H., Jr.

Andy Warhol’s Most Wanted Men, No. 11, John Joseph H., Jr.

Christie’s will also offer Andy Warhol’s Most Wanted Men, No. 11, John Joseph H., Jr., 1964 (estimate in the range of $30 million*) as a highlight of its May 17th Evening Sale. This diptych belongs to one of the artist’s controversial Most Wanted Men series, which was originally conceived as a monumental mural to celebrate the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and famously destroyed just a few days before the fair’s official opening. Later that year, Warhol made a series of nearly two dozen larger than life-size canvases featuring thirteen of these “most wanted” men, among them was the present work.

About Most Wanted, Gouzer remarked: “From the spotlight of Hollywood to the crackling flash light of a prison mug shot, these two works exemplify Warhol’s fascination with exploring life’s dichotomy. Throughout his career, Warhol exposed the tenuousness existing between fame and shame and between life and death one silkscreen at a time. It is a real privilege to be able to stage this Warholian collision between the light and glory of Double Elvis and the darkness and underground grit of the Most Wanted Men.

Rotter continued: “Despite its dark subject matter, Most Wanted Men No. 11, John Joseph H., Jr. fits perfectly within Andy Warhol’s Pop vernacular. Just as he did with his paintings of Elvis, Liz Taylor, Campbell’s Soup cans, and Coca-Cola bottles, Warhol set out to embrace the entire range of Americana. Thirty years later, the popularity of Television hits as America’s Most Wanted and the current trend for social media hashtags such ‘#hotfelon’ personified by Jeremy Meeks, this work demonstrates that the phenomenon which Warhol had identified is still alive and well. It is exceptionally rare that examples from this notorious series come to auction, and we expect that it will be met with enthusiasm across the collecting community. Continue reading

Kazimir Malevich’s Revolutionary Suprematist Composition, 1916 to Lead Christie’s Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art

This May, Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist Composition, 1916, will lead Christie’s Spring 2018 Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art (estimate upon request). Suprematist Composition is among the groundbreaking abstract paintings executed by Malevich that would forever change the course of art history. The present canvas was last sold at auction in November 2008, when it established the world auction record for the artist, which it continues to hold today.* One decade later, Suprematist Composition is expected to set a new benchmark for the artist when it is offered at Christie’s New York on May 15. (The record-setting price was achieved by Suprematist Composition, 1916, on November 3, 2008, at Sotheby’s New York, when it sold for $60,002,500.)christies_logo_black-hr_mdtv71b

Loic Gouzer, Co-Chairman, Post-War and Contemporary Art, remarked: “Malevich’s work provided a gateway for the evolution of Modernism. Malevich pushed the boundaries of painting to a point far beyond recognition, forever changing the advancement of art. Without the Suprematist Composition paintings, the art being made today would not exist as we now know it.

Max Carter, Head of Department, Impressionist and Modern Art, New York, continued: “Malevich’s Suprematist abstractions didn’t break with the past so much as articulate the future. What an honor to offer Suprematist Composition, 1916 which has lost nothing of its revolutionary power in the century since it was painted, this spring.”

Kazimir Malevich, Suprematist Composition, 1916, oil on canvas

Property from an Important Collection: Kazimir Malevich, Suprematist Composition, 1916, oil on canvas

On 17th December 1915, the Russo-Polish artist Kazimir Malevich opened an exhibition of his new ‘Suprematist’ paintings in the Dobychina Art Bureau in the recently renamed city of Petrograd. These startling, purely geometric and completely abstract paintings were unlike anything Malevich, or any other modern painter had ever done before. They were both a shock and a revelation to everyone who saw them. Malevich’s Suprematist pictures were the very first purely geometric abstract paintings in the history of modern art. They comprised solely of simple, colored forms that appeared to float and hover over plain white backgrounds. Nothing but clearly-organized, self-asserting painted surfaces of non-objective/non- representational form and color, these pictures were so radically new that they seemed to announce the end of painting and, even perhaps, of art itself.

Suprematist Composition is one of the finest and most complex of these first, truly revolutionary abstract paintings. Comprised of numerous colored, geometric elements seeming to be dynamically caught in motion, it epitomizes what Malevich defined as his ‘supreme’ or ‘Suprematist’ vision of the world. The painting is not known to have been a part of the exhibition in the Dobychina Art Bureau but is believed to date from this same period of creative breakthrough and, if not included, was, presumably painted very soon after the show closed in January 1916. Continue reading

Francis Bacon’s Study for Portrait Will Be A Leading Highlight Of Christie’s Spring 2018 Post-War And Contemporary Art Evening Auction

Exhibited In London for The First Time Since 1977

Francis Bacon’s Study for Portrait (1977, estimate on request) will star in Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction, which will take place on May 17, 2018. The powerful large-scale eulogy to his great muse and lover George Dyer was painted in Paris in 1977 and was last exhibited in London the same year at the Royal Academy of Arts in a group exhibition titled ‘British Painting: 1952-77’. A poignant celebration of his most important subject, Study for Portrait will be on view in London until April 15, the first time it has been seen there since the show at the Royal Academy over 40 years ago.christies_logo_black-hr_mdtv71b

The work comes from the distinguished collection of Magnus Konow, who acquired it from Bacon through Marlborough Gallery shortly after its creation in 1977. This, therefore, represents the first time the work will be offered at auction. As a young man, based in Monaco, Konow built an impressive collection of works by School of London painters and particularly admired Bacon, with whom he became friends during the 1970s. In 1983, Konow gifted a triptych of George Dyer, Three Studies for a Portrait (1973), to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, where it remains in the permanent collection. At the time that Bacon and Konow developed their friendship, Bacon was a regular visitor to Monaco from Paris, sometimes with Lucian Freud, staying with Konow for bouts of gambling in Monte Carlo.

Magnus Konow commented: “Bacon would always talk about Dyer. I think that he was the only man he really loved in his life. I find this work is so powerful – for me, it is probably one of the best paintings of their mystical love affair, and that’s what drew me to it.”

With its majestic, near-sculptural figure seated against a screen of deep velvet black, in Study for Portrait, Bacon further developed elements from his 1968 masterpiece Two Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer (Sara Hildén Art Museum, Finland), as well as his landmark Triptych of 1976. The present work also extends the language of the dark, cinematic ‘black triptychs’ made in the aftermath of Dyer’s death in 1971. This tragic event, which took place less than thirty-six hours before the opening of Bacon’s career-defining retrospective at the Grand Palais, had a devastating impact upon the artist, prompting him to take a studio in Paris. By 1977, buoyed by the success of his major exhibition at Galerie Claude Bernard that year, his grief had given way to a period of newfound contentment, reflection, and innovation. Backlit by streaks of red and green, and bracketed with raw linen, the central panel appears to hover before the viewer in three dimensions. Dry transfer lettering, inspired by Picasso’s Cubist collages, evokes the literary rubble of the artist’s studio floor, where John Deakin photographed Dyer seated in his underwear. If the black triptychs had replayed the harrowing details of his death, here Bacon weaves a fantasy of reincarnation. As bright red blood stains his shadow – evocative of the artist’s own silhouette – Dyer is momentarily restored to the flesh.

Francis Outred, Chairman & Head of Post-War & Contemporary Art EMERI, Christie’s: “Whilst Bacon would never fully come to terms with the death of his beloved George Dyer, the works produced in the wake of this tragedy remain some of the twentieth century’s most vivid interrogations of the human condition. Held in the same private collection since the year of its creation, Study for Portrait, 1977, extends the language of the landmark black triptychs into a glowing, visceral celebration of his most iconic muse. With its virtuosic play of texture, raw canvas, and piercing color, it demonstrates the innovative new directions that Bacon’s practice would take as he built a new life for himself in Paris. It is a privilege to be exhibiting this work once again in London for the first time in over forty years, close to its original unveiling at the Royal Academy in 1977.

Widely exhibited internationally, the work represents the culmination of Bacon’s painterly language during one of the most significant periods of his practice. The work’s saturated color fields and stark geometries border on abstraction. Bacon plays with different textures of black, offsetting the matte backdrop with the lustrous central panel. The pale lilac ground, rendered in thin pigmented layers, is juxtaposed with bright accents of blue, canary yellow and red. The billowing shadow, formally at odds with the figure, spreads across the surface like tar. Circular lenses, derived from a book on radiography, punctuate the figure as if attempting to bring his form more clearly into focus. The flesh itself is an ode to carnal pleasure, wrought with fluid, tactile brushstrokes, spectral veils of white and scumbled strains of color around the eyes and mouth. It is Dyer in his prime, flickering like a projection or an x-ray, presiding over the composition with the tortured grandeur of Bacon’s former Popes. Raised upon a dais against a blank, clinical abyss, his quivering form speaks to the transient nature of the human condition.

Konow’s family roots are in Norway: his father was a celebrated Norwegian Olympic sailor, who competed in multiple Olympics between 1908 and 1948, winning two gold medals and one silver. His paternal grandmother, Dagny Konow, sat for Edvard Munch during the late 1880s.