Another Freak-Show Big-Money Art Auction: Warhol’s “Double Elvis” Brings $37 Million

Another Freak-Show Big-Money Art Auction: Warhol’s “Double Elvis” Brings

An iconic portrait of Elvis Presley by pop artist Andy Warhol went for $37 Million when it hit the auction block tonight at Sotheby’s. The life-size 1963 silkscreen ink and spray paint piece, Double Elvis (Ferus Type), epitomizes Warhol’s obsessions with fame, stardom and the public image, according to Sotheby’s. Previously estimated to sell for $30 million to $50 million, it was included in the auction house’s May 9th sale of post-war and contemporary art. Art auctions have turned into freak-show casinos, spectacles where the uber-rich can act out as much in public as possible, trying to buy immortality, become a part of art history, make headlines and create big profits. They are despicable for what they do to art, for the bad magic of making mysteriously powerful things turn into numbers.

The silver background of Double Elvis (Ferus Type), along with the subtle variations in tone is said to give the serial imagery a sense of rhythmic variation that recalls the artist’s masterpiece, 200 One Dollar Bills, completed the previous year. That work soared to nearly $44 million or four times its estimate in 2009 and achieved the highest price of any work at the fall auctions. But it was a work from Warhol’s Death and Disaster series that set the artist’s record, which still stands. Green Car Crash (Green Car Burning), also from 1963, more than doubled its estimate and sold for $71.7 million in 2007, at the height of the art market boom.

In the Double Elvis work, Presley is dressed as a cowboy, shooting a gun. Sotheby’s describes him in the work as “a Hollywood icon of the sixties rather than the rebellious singer who shook the world of music in the sixties.” The double in the title refers to a shadowy image of Presley in the same pose that appears next to him in the work.

Bob Dylan Holding “Double Elvis” at The Factory, NYC, 1965

On an eagerly-awaited visit to The Factory in 1965 for one of Warhol’s “Screen Test” sessions, Bob Dylan and his crew, along with their host Andy Warhol, were photographed on the set. At the session, Andy gave Dylan a great double image of Elvis. Dylan departed, having tied the Elvis image to the top of his station wagon, like a deer poached out of season. Much later, Dylan said that he’d traded the “Double Elvis” (now worth millions) to his manager for a couch!

Bob Dylan’s Screen Test, The Factory, NYC, 1965

Andy Warhol’s “Double Elvis (Ferus Type)” at May 9th Sotheby’s Auction

Andy Warhol’s Pop Art: A Documentary (2000)

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) was a leading figure in the visual pop art movement. After a successful career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol became a renowned and sometimes controversial artist. His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture and advertisement. He worked in a range of media, including painting, printmaking, sculpture, film and music. He founded Interview Magazine and was the author of numerous books, including The Philosophy of Andy Warhol and Popism: The Warhol Sixties. Andy Warhol is also notable as a gay man who lived openly as such before the gay liberation movement. His studio in New York City, The Factory, was a famous gathering place that brought together distinguished intellectuals, drag queens, playwrights, Bohemian street people, Hollywood celebrities and wealthy patrons.

Andy Warhol’s Pop Art: A Documentary (2000)

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Never Before Seen Photographs of the Young Andy Warhol

Warhol Behind His Marilyn Print

Warhol Editing Film at The Factory in NYC

Warhol Filming at The Factory with His Assistant, Gerard Malanga

Warhol With All-American Faces

Never Before Seen Photographs of the Young Andy Warhol

Before They Were Famous: Behind The Lens of William John Kennedy is an extraordinary collection of images by the photographer William John Kennedy, which is currently on exhibition at the new gallery Site/109 in New York City. The collection presents a number of never-before-seen photographs of Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana, among them Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe and Indiana’s LOVE, taken by Mr. Kennedy in the mid-60’s when they were both just emerging American artists.

The fact that these early images of the two iconic American artists happened isn’t necessarily the exciting part. It’s that the amazingly early, naïve portraits of the artists with their own works were created before they were famous. These early images sat untouched for over 50 years, until Kennedy uncovered them within his archives and decided it was time to finally print this project.

Full Circle: Before They Were Famous

William John Kennedy’s Photographs of Andy Warhol

Photo-Gallery: Before He Was Famous: Andy Warhol

(Please Click Image to View Photo-Gallery)

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