Andy Warhol once said, “The idea is not to live forever, it is to create something that will,” a notion embodied by his legacy and artfully cultivated celebrity status. Twenty-eight years after his death, Warhol remains one of the most instrumental figures in contemporary art and culture. Furthermore, not only the artist but also his subjects have been immortalized. A portrait produced by pop art’s great one conveys astounding prestige, creating an icon out of an icon.
The Warhol wave of 2015 is hitting Vancouver with an extensive exhibition in Yaletown. “Warhol – A Different Idea of Love” is an exhibition that includes 80 original prints and paintings for sale from the private collection of a Los Angeles businessman and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Presented by Maison Ai and Revolver Gallery, Beverly Hills, in association with the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Christie’s, this constitutes the largest collection of Warhol prints and paintings in Canada.
By value of transactions, Andy Warhol is now the most collected, and coveted, artist in the world. Last year, 1,295 Warhol pieces were sold for $653.2-million (U.S.) at auction alone. Specifically, Triple Elvis, a 1963 silkscreen of Elvis Presley, fetched $81.9-million, while Four Marlons, a 1966 canvas portraying four identical images of a young Marlon Brando, sold for $69.6-million. Both pieces sold in November at Christie’s, New York.
But why are these pieces still relevant today? Why do collectors continue to lust after his work? Warhol’s art mirrors the glamour and superficiality of modern life that still resonates today. From Campbell’s Soup cans then to iPhones now, we live in a consumer-driven, instant gratification society. Being able to recognize that and consume culture makes Warhol’s art arguably even more relevant.
Moreover, the appetite for post-war and contemporary art as a whole is growing. Of all the sale categories Christie’s holds, the largest by far is for post-war and contemporary art—the powerhouse of the auction market. Sales in this sector at Christie’s rose by 33 per cent in 2014 to $2.8-billion, comprising an astonishing 40.5 per cent of public auction sales. Bidding for the most sought-after artists, including Andy Warhol, has been driving much of the surge in auctions. As more wealth is created, more collectors and investors participate in the art market and compete for a finite number of works.
But with such a craving for his art, it is a good thing Warhol was so prolific. We cannot all acquire a Marilyn silkscreen painting, but with edition sizes often in the hundreds, there may be hope for a screenprint. They didn’t call it the Factory for nothing.
Maison Ai is holding the “Warhol – A Different Idea of Love” exhibition in a warehouse located at 1280 Homer Street from March 1 to April 28.