Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine


The Iconic Liz

A Warhol portrait of muse Liz Taylor is expected to sell for an eye-popping $25 million

ecent volatility in the sub-prime mortgage market has art world insiders, collectors and potential consignors wondering whether the fall art auctions will continue to achieve record prices or suffer a downturn as in the 1990s. Some members of the fine arts community are warily predicting scenarios that could cause a short term flooding of the market that will ultimately depress values. The auction houses remain bullish and their optimistic position, which can be backed up with historical information to indicate that the cyclical nature of the art market does not necessarily reflect the current state of the real estate or financial markets.

The November 2007 Contemporary art sales will be an important factor in gauging the strength of the market in the year ahead. One particularly exceptional consignment, Liz (Colored Liz), executed by Andy Warhol in the 1960s, will be offered in Christie's November 13th Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sale and is expected to realize in excess of $25 million.

Warhol's most famous portraits were of the three women he considered to be his muses: Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy and Liz Taylor. These three demi-goddesses, who Warhol obsessively painted over and over again, represented a level of stardom that the artist deeply coveted himself. Warhol acknowledged that his obsession with fame and the three iconic muses were also linked to his fascination with death. In fact, each woman was portrayed during a time of either death, distress or illness. Monroe's portrait was executed shortly after her suicide, the Kennedy paintings were executed after the assassination of the president, and he immortalized Taylor during a period when she was severely ill and many thought she would not survive. However, the Liz portraits, twelve in the series, came to represent her recovery and triumph over her illness. Taylor is depicted against a vibrant turquoise background and her trademark violet eyes, sensuous blood-red lips and dark hair captivate the viewer just as the actress did when she first came to the silver screen in National Velvet. Christie's currently holds the record price for a Warhol with its sale of Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I) that was hammered down for $71.7 million last May.

Sotheby'sĀ evening Contemporary art sale the following night on November 14 will feature an important work by Jean Michel Basquiat. His large-scale canvas, Untitled (Electric Chair), executed 1981-82, is estimated to fetch between $8 and $10 million. Coming fresh to the market from an undisclosed foundation, the painting was originally purchased before its completion by the Annina Nosei Gallery, Basquiat's first dealer in New York. The work employs the use of his classic symbols: graffiti, crowns and skeletal figures that he rendered in crayon, oilstick, oil paint and metallic paints. The early 1980s were watershed years for Basquiat, making this work, with its excellent provenance, highly coveted by collectors. Both auction houses have stated that consignment levels for the fall sales are already ahead of last year, even with consignments still being negotiated. There is no crystal ball to predict what fortunes will be made or lost in the art market this fall. One thing is certain. Collectors and consignors alike will be on the edge of their seats November 13th and 14th when the final contemporary art sales of 2007 unfold.

portraits were of the three women he considered to be his muses:
Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy and Liz Taylor.

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