Detail of the Last Supper (Christ 112 Times) Yellow, 1986, which reincorporates the grid composition and seriality introduced in his early Pop paintings (pictured here, est. $10/15 million). Cropped from Leonardo da Vinci's grand composition Last Supper (1495-1498), Christ's head is the fetishistic subject of Warhol's aesthetic gaze, emphasizing commoditization through the repetition of a single image to a grand extent. The work is a grandiose scale that also references the mural size of da Vinci's masterpiece. The ubiquitous presence of gilded Byzantine icons and crucifixes which were a part of religious services he attended as a child, compounded with other domestic religious imagery, informed much of Warhol's fascination with the venerated image. In the Detail of the Last Supper (Christ 112 Times) Yellow, seriality is conveyed with a sense of mutability and transience, both central strategies operating in Warhol's enterprise. The figure of Christ as subject is not simply transferred from the realm of high art into popular culture. Rather it is appropriated from a classical popular image and re-contextualized to meet Warhol's technical and aesthetic requirements. The result is the transformation of Christ into a harmony of black and yellow imagery bearing little resemblance to the original painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Nonetheless, the image of Christ retains an overwhelming spirituality in spite of its seemingly detached treatment; a reminder that we should never take Andy Warhol at face value.
Warhol’s vast and mesmerizing depiction of the ultimate artistic shaman of twentieth century Europe, Joseph Beuys, 1980, is from a group of portraits generated after the two met at Beuys’ major retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in November 1979 (pictured on page 6, est. $5.5/6.5 million). The shimmering resplendence of diamond dust demarcates the unmistakable drawn 5
cheeks and ceaselessly quizzical eyes of an artist who had spent over thirty years redefining the very boundaries of art. Indeed, this portrait exactly crystallizes that tireless curiosity that drove Beuys’ groundbreaking achievements. It is difficult to conceive of a more iconic or artistically self-referential painting from the twentieth century, or one that more wholly encompasses the radical advancements in post-war transatlantic art history. Warhol, the progenitor of Pop and subsequent catalyst of a new cultural age, and Beuys, the ideologue radical who didactically transformed the landscape of the performance and the conceptual in art, are sublimely conflated in this monumental eulogy to both their talents.
Following the record-setting price achieved last fall at Sotheby’s for a painting by Takashi Murakami at auction, the May sale will feature the most important work by Murakami ever offered at auction, My Lonesome Cowboy, 1998 (est. $3/4 million). One of the key pieces of sculpture from the past twenty-five years, the work is from an edition of three with two artist’s proofs from the provocative series depicting a manga-inspired Japanese young man with a shock of yellow hair ejaculating in a lasso-like form, symbolizing artistic energy and reminiscent of the waves depicted in the work of famed Japanese print artist, Katsushika