Christie’s is taking another run at the restrained Warhol market with a series of small late self portraits, the so-called Fright Wigs. The work on offer last appeared on the market in 2014 which was the peak year for Warhol in terms of market volume and average prices. This work comes back with an estimate range that only tops out at the previous sale price. The work also carries a guarantee which means we know it will sell—and provide the rest of the Warhol market with a reference point:
Andy Warhol, Six Self-Portraits (1986), estimate on request
A rare masterpiece completed just months before Andy Warhol’s sudden death in 1987, Six Self-Portraits stands among his last great artistic gestures. Taking on the grand tradition of self-depiction in a manner unprecedented within art history, the artist assembles six distinct variations of his iconic 1986 ‘fright wig’ self-portrait, creating a unique sequence that stands alone within his oeuvre. Few of Warhol’s original silkscreen groupings remain intact, rendering the present work exceptional. His disembodied face emerges from darkness in six intimate 22 x 22-inch canvases, alternately pink, pale blue, lilac, orange, green and cobalt against a void of black. Within a practice punctuated with complex self-portraits, the ‘fright wigs’ are widely considered to represent Warhol’s most deeply personal revelations. They are stark, rarefied exposures of an artist who ultimately became a greater cultural icon than his most famous celebrity muses. Six Self-Portraits was unveiled at Anthony d’Offay’s London gallery between July and August 1986 – the first and only self-portrait exhibition of Warhol’s career. Works from this exhibition now hang in the collections of Tate, London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. The work’s remarkable six-fold format brings the faces into a chorus of technicolour synergy, dominated by no single hue. Placing himself alongside the great masters of the genre – from Dürer and Rembrandt to Picasso and Bacon – Warhol charges his self-image with a poignant sense of his own mortality. Rendered in immaculate high definition, his sculpted, mask-like face resembles a skull, bathed in dramatic chiaroscuro contrast; his body fades into obscurity beyond. ‘I paint pictures of myself to remind myself that I’m still around’, Warhol once claimed (A. Warhol, quoted in V. Bockris, The Life and Death of Andy Warhol, London 1989, p. 480). Nearly thirty years after his death, these images are vivid reminders of the twentieth century’s greatest artistic enigma.