Andy Warhol's Self Portrait Sells for Record Auction Price
Andy Warhol has never looked better---to an audience of contemporary art collectors and dealers, that is. Last night, Sotheby's sold an Andy Warhol painting titled Self-Portrait sold to an anonymous phone bidder for $32.6 million (including the buyer's premium), setting a new record for a Warhol self portrait at auction.
At least six bidders competed for Self Portrait, an acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas painting that was painted in 1986. The large iconic and rare painting, which measures 108" by 108", is from Warhol's final series of Self Portraits - widely acknowledged as the most important of his career. The estimate was $10 million to $15 million.
"This Warhol was my favorite work in the sale," says Tobias Meyer, Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art and the evening's auctioneer. "It will be seen as a very smart buy in the future."
Meyer explained that the world art market had not previously considered Warhol's work from the 1980's as such an important part of his career. Not anymore. "However, this is a great, iconic painting by the artist," says Meyer. "It is as important as the early "Car Crash" series from the 1960's. It is like looking at late Monet. Water Lilies is considered a late work, and now it is considered great."
"If you do your homework, there are only six in the world like this one, which is the largest size Warhol ever made of these paintings," Meyer told Luxist. "Three of the others are in museums and can never been sold. At the end of the day, there are only three in private hands, including this one, so it is very limited."
The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (Texas) owns the green version of Self-Portrait, while there are two owned by the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pa.--one in blue and the other in yellow, according to the The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The version that sold last night, in purple, was previously owned by designer Tom Ford while there are red and coral versions also in private hands.
Other works by Warhol achieved strong prices at the Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Auction, including Four Flowers which sold for $7.6 million, above the high estimate ($5 million to $7 million) and Statue of Liberty, which sold for $4.3 million (est. $ 2.5 million to $3.5 million).
"Last night was a global community hungry to buy icons of contemporary art," says Meyer. "That is why we saw bidding from every corner of the world. These were informed, smart and savvy buyers who understand that great contemporary art is quite rare and that they must compete for it."
Fifty lots (out of a total of 53) sold in the Sotheby's contemporary art sale last night for a total of $190 million, which exceeded the high estimate. This reflects a renewed confidence in the contemporary art market.
The series of Self-Portrait paintings were both donated and sold by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in the 1990's. Two were given to the The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, while the other four were sold--three to galleries and one to the the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. The proceeds were invested in The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, as specified by his will. The foundation distributes cash grants to art organizations around the country. This year, it will distribute $13 million in cash grants to small and large institutions. Since the foundation was started, it has distributed, in terms of art and cash, more than $200 million, to institutions in all 50 states.
"Warhol is the most significant artist of the second half of the 20th century," says Joel Wachs, president of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. "No artist has come close to him in terms of his influence on our culture and on all of the artists who came after him. His remarkable legacy becomes clearer and clearer as time goes by."