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Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Pop Art Translations of Mickey Mouse

February 11, 2019

Pop Art Translations of Mickey Mouse

Walt Disney was an undisputed pioneer in cross-marketing. Mickey Mouse in particular appeared across all mass media platforms, eventually proving himself to be the ideal host for Disney’s  “total merchandising” ambitions. In response to the wide affinity for Disney narratives, the company began to offer products that posed as material substitutions for on-screen ‘happily ever afters.’ Because of Disney’s shrewd promotion in the years following WWII, Mickey Mouse not only became an international symbol of the Disney brand but a universal logo for America’s vast entertainment empire as well.

Andy Warhol, Mickey Mouse
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

As the brainchild of “the merchandising king of America,” Mickey Mouse provided rich fodder for the Pop artists of the mid to late twentieth century. Andy Warhol was enamored with Mickey’s status as a icon which represented the perfect marriage of celebrity and consumer culture. His inclusion of the  character in the 1981 series Myths, highlights the particular circumstances of Mickey’s stardom. As with each of the figures framed in the series, the famous mouse’s grand mythology is distilled down to a commodity. Some critics have assessed that the world of Disney has provided a system in which commercial products easily replace life experiences. Giving the comparison of Port Orleans at Walt Disney World to the actual city of New Orleans, they argue that the synthetic substitute often becomes more preferable than the real thing because of its purchasable ease of access and its simplification of circumstance. Similar to this academic framing, Mickey Mouse (1981) calls into question the socially corrosive effects of this model. While this offers a critical perspective on Disney’s legacy, Warhol nevertheless admired the titan who built one of the most successful commercial art practices of all time. Much like Warhol, Disney effectively branded himself. Some have also made note that, The Factory bore many similarities to an animation studio, with its many attendants churning out copy after copy of the same work.

Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

Known for his simplified figures and bold use of primary colors, Keith Haring visually proposes an easy-to-read graphic language in his work. The subject of iconography is therefore inseparable from his practice. Reflecting on the history of American pop culture, Haring produced his series of Andy Mouse images that compound the visual codes of both his “heros” Disney and Warhol. Expressing his sincere admiration for Warhol, who he credits with making his own art “possible,” Haring appropriates Disney’s resonant character to immortalize the artist as an American icon. Through Haring’s framing, Warhol becomes “a ubiquitous piece of culture as commonplace and recognizable as [Mickey Mouse] and the dollar bill.” As Haring’s use of the form proves, Mickey Mouse continues to perform as an indelible emblem of the dynamic and fluid exchange of high art and pop culture that remains so central to the American artistic lexicon.


LOT INFORMATION

Lot 24
Andy Warhol
Mickey Mouse (from Myths)

1981
Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board
#146 of 200
Published by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., New York; printed by Rupert Jasen Smith, New York
Signed with edition in graphite lower left edge of sheet; retains printer’s blind stamp lower right
Image/sheet: 38″ x 38″; Frame: 51″ x 51″; (Image/sheet: 97 x 97 cm)
F/S #II.265
Literature: Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné. 4th ed. F. Feldman and J. Schellmann. 2003. #II.265.

Estimate
: $100,000 – $150,000
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 23
Walt Disney

Mickey Mouse
c. 1939
Ink and watercolor on paper
Inscribed “Birthday Greetings/To Ginger Rogers/Walt Disney” lower center edge of sheet; inscribed given to/Ginger Rogers/by Walt Disney/1939″ in black felt-tip marker backing board verso
Sheet (vis.): 11.625″ x 8.625″; Frame: 17.75″ x 23.75″; (Sheet: 30 x 22 cm)
Framed together with picture of Walt Disney and silver information plaque
Provenance: The Estate of Gerard L. Cafesjian (acquired through Rago Auctions, Lambertville, New Jersey, December 8, 2012, lot 955)

Estimate:
 $1,500 – $2,000
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

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