Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol
Flowers, 1965
Self-Portrait, 1967
Joseph Beuys, 1980
Flowers, 1965
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Currently not on show

Andy Warhol
Flowers, 1965

Silkscreen ink and acrylic on canvas, 213.4 x 369.3 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

The essential motif of Warhol’s Flowers series derives from a photograph the artist came across in a magazine. He modified the image in terms of the arrangement and number of blooms, creating numerous variations in the series of silkscreen prints which differ in colour and format. In this particular version, however, the petals and the green background were painted by hand. More than almost any of his other motifs, the flower image demonstrates Warhol’s core principle of seriality in a particularly striking and poetic manner. The flower represents an amalgamation both of the plant’s natural potential for proliferation and its technical reproducibility as a mass-produced figure of decoration. Although Warhol transposes the flower’s fragility and ephemerality into a monumental dimension, his Flowers also radiate an aura of vulnerability and nostalgia. Indeed, the first Flower prints were produced directly after his Disaster series, which focused on media images of death. In this light, Warhol’s Flowers can also be seen to echo the flower’s mythical relation to mortality that Ovid describes in Metamorphoses.

Self-Portrait, 1967
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Currently on show at the Fondation Beyeler

Andy Warhol
Self-Portrait, 1967

Silkscreen ink and acrylic on canvas, 200 x 177 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

As a genre, self-portraiture is constant theme underlying Warhol’s entire work. From 1963 onwards, he produced silkscreen self-portraits based on ‘anonymous’ photographs, some of which were taken in photo booths or with a self-timer. The self-portrait in the Fondation’s collection belongs to a series from 1967, but it is the only print in this format. Warhol has assumed a pensive pose, holding his hand before his mouth, while dramatic lighting casts one half of his face in shadow. Indeed, the entire figure consists of zones of shadow, with the illuminated sections of the face coalescing with the blue of the background. This self-projection thus categorically challenges the clichéd notion of the superficial artist, proposing in its place the image of the intense yet torn melancholic.

Joseph Beuys, 1980
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Currently not on show

Andy Warhol
Joseph Beuys, 1980

Silkscreen ink and diamond dust on acrylic on canvas, 101.5 x 101.5 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

The portrait of Beuys shows the German artist as a photographic negative, and hence belongs to Warhol’s Reversals series. In these works, Warhol allies the technical principles of screen printing with the creative possibilities of photography, which he then transfers into the traditional medium of painting. Through his treatment of the surface, which in certain areas is coated with diamond dust, Warhol gives the image an unusual haptic quality, while at the same accentuating the purely material aspect of the work of art as an object of unadulterated luxury. What distinguishes this preciously glittering dust, on the other hand, is precisely its incorporeal and fugitive presence; thus, as a materialized vanitas motif it betokens not least also the impermanence of possessions and life. The ambivalence of the sparkling surface texture is matched by the optical negative of the celebrity portrait – as an allusion to the impenetrable dark side of the star cult surrounding celebrity glamour.

Andy Warhol

1928, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – 1987, New York

The American painter, printmaker, sculptor and filmmaker studied art in New York. Warhol is regarded as a pioneer of American Pop Art, both in his choice of subject matter and the new artistic techniques he employed. In 1960 he began making paintings based on images from comic strips, and from 1961 he produced his first serial images using a silkscreen printing technique. In this way Warhol legitimized screenprinting as an artistic medium and was the first artist to challenge the concepts of originality and the unique work of art. He also employed this technique in the 1970s to create his legendary portraits of celebrities. In 1964 Warhol founded The Factory, a film, photography and music studio where he lived and worked alongside numerous assistants. His prodigious talent was expressed in multimedia events such as nightclub shows involving performances by the rock band The Velvet Underground and the foundation of the magazine Interview in 1969. From 1978 until his death in 1987, in addition to his figurative photographic works he also produced completely abstract paintings in his Oxidation and Shadows series.

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