Masters on the Market: Andy Warhol
The Celebrated Works That Defined an American Pop Art Icon
American artist, social butterfly, and filmmaker Andy Warhol was the face of the 1960s Pop Art movement. Born Andrew Warhola Jr., Warhol played a fundamental role in making art accessible and recognizable to the masses. Warhol’s photographic silkscreen prints remain iconic pieces of commercial art.
Warhol’s unemotional relationship with art helped etch his name on the list of the most celebrated artists of all time. His prints purposely featured banal images of everyday goods like Coca-Cola bottles and Campbell’s soup cans, as well as garishly stylized portraits of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. By using serial imagery of mundane subjects, Warhol explored the mass production and consumerism that defined the American lifestyle at the time.
Warhol described himself as a “deeply superficial person.” While he recognized the shallow nature of fame and celebrity, he made the most of it. He altered his art and life to fit the Andy Warhol brand image that he had conceived.
After attending the Carnegie Institute of Technology and majoring in pictorial design, Andy Warhol moved to New York in 1949. During his initial years in the city and before conceiving his iconic Campbell’s soup prints, Warhol worked as a book illustrator and a commercial artist for fashion magazines such as Glamour, Vogue, and Seventeen. A 2015 private exhibition in Milan, Italy showcased the works Warhol made as a fashion illustrator and editorial collaborator.
Andy Warhol’s distinct aesthetics draw significant attention in the auction industry. Turquoise Marilyn, one of five Marilyn Monroe paintings created after the actor’s death, fetched USD 80 million in a private sale. This 1964 painting is among the top five most expensive works by Warhol. A historic album cover designed by Warhol in 1967 for The Velvet Underground’s debut record featured nothing more than a single yellow banana. A 2021 Christie’s sale of five Andy Warhol NFTs recovered from his personal computer, including the now-iconic image of one banana, garnered $3.38 million.
In 1963, Warhol created a silkscreen painting titled Eight Elvises that featured eight identical, overlapping images of Elvis Presley. In 2008, a private buyer purchased Eight Elvises for a whopping $100 million, making it the most valuable work by Andy Warhol and one of the most expensive paintings ever sold up to that point. Warhol also created 22 Double Elvis prints that feature two identical images of the American singer.
Sotheby’s sold one of Andy Warhol’s works for a record $105.4 million in 2013. The large print, titled Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), captured the aftermath of a car accident. Composed in 1963, the serigraph surpassed its presale estimate of $60 million to $80 million.
As his career advanced, Warhol’s interests gravitated toward filmmaking. In the late 1960s, he went on to create underground films such as The Chelsea, My Hustler, and Blue Movie. His cinematic works, like his paintings, disrupted the formats and expectations of traditional filmmaking.
Andy Warhol died in 1987 at the age of 58 from complications following a routine gallbladder surgery. The value of Warhol’s works started gaining momentum in the art world within nine years of the artist’s death. Most of his iconic silkscreen prints are now housed in cultural institutions worldwide and in the Andy Warhol Museum of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Original Warhol prints come to auction infrequently. When they do, collectors get the rare chance to own a piece made by the Pop Art master himself.
Interested in learning more about leading artists and their auction histories? Check out Auction Daily’s profile of street artist Banksy.