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Just In: Warhol’s Endangered Species Series

December 10, 2018

Known for its provocative and socially conscious collaborations, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts partnered with Andy Warhol in 1983 for the creation of the Endangered Species series, a collection of ten 38” x 38” screenprints featuring animals that were at risk of extinction due to human activity around the globe. The idea originated from a conversation with Feldman and his wife Frayda, in which Warhol expressed his growing distress over ecological deterioration, in particular beach erosion. The Feldmans proposed the project and Warhol enthusiastically undertook its production.


Andy Warhol, Siberian Tiger
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

The overwhelming popularity of Warhol’s works infamously generated an aura of celebrity that often eclipsed their irony. Instead of redirecting this momentum, Warhol embraced it. In the case of the Endangered Species project, he specifically used this culture of spectacle as an avenue for activism. Prints from the series were originally sold at fundraising events and shown at various museums across the country. The advertisements for such exhibitions featured Warhol’s name in bold red text and a self-portrait that “gives the impression that his head has been carved from a lump of marble.” Only in the subtext do the posters describe the details of the actual exhibit. The Warhol brand was seemingly enough to stoke public interest.


Andy Warhol, Bald Eagle
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

A key feature of the Endangered Species series is Warhol’s calculated mobilization of his tradition of celebrity portraits. Earlier prints such as Liz (1964) and Mao (1972) are laced with anxiety as the artist hyperbolizes mass media’s tendency to reduce people to products. Warhol exposes the seams of celebrity performance and iconography by appropriating the tools of his career in commercial illustration. Punchy complementary colors and low-definition compositions cast his subjects as marketable objects, both aesthetically and physically.  Within the Endangered Species series Warhol fabricates the stardom formula that he so routinely examined. Warhol ventures to sex-up the creatures à la Marilyn, delivering what he called “animals in makeup.”  On the surface, he seems to sell environmental protectionism by commodifying its face.


Andy Warhol, African Elephant
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

The magnitude of any icon lies in its legibility. The effectiveness of each of Warhol’s celebrity portraits depends on its relevance to the individual viewer and on their personal connection to its subject. His pieces are so successful because the viewer is validated by their own participation in the dialogue that the works propose. By the early 1980s when the Endangered Species series was commissioned, the vocabulary of Warhol’s icons and their subsequent mass appeal were well established. By visually equating the American Bald Eagle or the Bighorn Ram to movie stars and political leaders, these prints imply that these animals already occupy a central position in popular culture. As this was certainly not the case, Warhol’s framing subtly shames the viewer for not recognizing the species’ plight as readily as they might Marilyn Monroe’s tragic demise. The series thus calls on its audience to educate themselves and to recognize environmental degradation as a pivotal concern in the contemporary social discourse.


Andy Warhol, Bighorn Ram
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

 


“’Endangered Species Series’, Andy Warhol, 1978.” Tate, 2018, www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/warhol-endangered-species-series-ar00427.

“Andy Warhol.” Ronald Feldman Gallery, 2018, feldmangallery.com/index.php/artist-home/andy-warhol.


LOT INFORMATION:

Andy Warhol
Siberian Tiger (from Endangered Species Portfolio)
1983
Published by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., New York; printed by Rupert Jasen Smith, New York
Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board
38” x 38”
Literature: Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné. 4th ed. F. Feldman and J. Schellmann. 2003. #II.302.

Estimate: $40,000 – 60,000
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

 

Andy Warhol
Bald Eagle (from Endangered Species Portfolio)
1983
Published by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., New York; printed by Rupert Jasen Smith, New York
Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board
38” x 38”
Literature: Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné. 4th ed. F. Feldman and J. Schellmann. 2003. #II.302.

Estimate: $50,000 – 70,000
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

 

Andy Warhol
African Elephant (from Endangered Species Portfolio)
1983
Published by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., New York; printed by Rupert Jasen Smith, New York
Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board
38” x 38”
Literature: Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné. 4th ed. F. Feldman and J. Schellmann. 2003. #II.302.

Estimate: $40,000 – 60,000
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction


Andy Warhol
Bighorn Ram (from Endangered Species Portfolio)
1983
Published by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., New York; printed by Rupert Jasen Smith, New York
Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board
38” x 38”
Literature: Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné. 4th ed. F. Feldman and J. Schellmann. 2003. #II.302.

Estimate: $30,000 – 50,000
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

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