"Barbara Molasky"

Andy Warhol (1928-1987)


Price on request


1 June 2021


Acrylic, silkscreen ink and pencil on canvas
Signed and dated 1980 on the reverse

101,6x101,6 cm


Modern and Contemporary Art

Additional Information

With authenticity certificate from Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, Inc from April 2010, with identification number A105.103.

Lot Essay by Juan Guardiola, Independent Curator

Andy Warhol is one of the greatest names in Modern Art, but he is also, perhaps, the greatest portrait painter of the 20th century. His career is associated with the American Pop Art movement, whose works are inspired by advertising, the media and mass society. Justas the word "pop" is essential to understanding Warhol's work in the 1960s, the concepts associated with "glamour", "style" and "fashion" are the cornerstone for understanding his work during the 1970s and 1980s. One example is the portrait of Barbara Molasky, a painting in synthetic polymer and silkscreen ink on canvas made in 1980 from a photograph of the philanthropist and president of the Neon Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada (USA). In addition to this individual portrait of Barbara, the artist produced another version in which she appears with her daughter Clary. Unlike the portraits painted at the beginning of the 1970s, characterized by more textured pigments and painted with gestural strokes, the portrait of Barbara Molasky is a good example of his second period, in which the image is presented in high contrast against a flat background, and the most important features are emphasized: the eyes and the mouth. In this portrait, as in those of Carolina Herrera and Liza Minnelli, the artist printed the lips separately with red enamel to achieve a more precise and lively effect.
Andy Warhol's first foray into the portrait genre was his famous paintings of Marilyn Monroe (1962), which became a worldwide icon, a lesson that he was able to take advantage of by conferring an aura of instant "stardom" on his later portraits, and which perhaps explains the success of so many of his commissions. The attraction to individual personalities is evident in all of the artist's work, whether paintings or films, all of which have a recurring theme: the portrait, or rather the representation of the human being. Between 1964 and 1966 Andy Warhol made about five hundred “Screen Tests” or "portrait films". These films were initially not intended to be filmic, but portraits, as they sought the still image in movement. These portraits in motion, whose characters are a reflection of the variety of regulars and visitors to the artist's studio in those years, represent - even beyond their aesthetic value - an extraordinary documentation of an entire generation that included superstars, artists, critics, collectors, gallery owners, poets, writers... An ever-changing group who belonged to both Warhol's professional and personal worlds, and that included both the most famous personalities and the most anonymous individuals.
This is the precursor to his genuine pictorial portraits of the seventies and eighties, a continuation of the “Screen Tests” of the previous decade, but now in direct connection with the “Who's Who?” section of his “Interview”, a documentary testimony to the society and culture of his time. The magazine brought the artist fame beyond the art world, specifically in the fashion and entertainment scenes, with wider audiences; at the same time as it became a means of maintaining his presence in the media. Andy Warhol thus became an arbiter of taste, hence the correlation between the people who appeared on the cover of the magazine and those who commissioned him to paint their portraits. The creator offered his clients, famous and wealthy jet-setters, a flattering and stylish portrait by a celebrity artist. The international clientele included show business stars, fashion designers, art dealers, industrialists, and sportsmen, even a number of politicians and heads of state. In both these films and his portraits of the Beautiful People, Warhol seems to reject the humanist tradition of the genre, based on the psychological identity of the portrayed, and instead offers us only the reflection of an image. This issue has been the subject of controversy among some critics of his work, even reaching somewhat extreme positions. On the one hand, there are those who define him as the new "court painter" and the artist who reinvented the extinct genre
of the stylistic portrait, clearly inspired by humanism; namely, one that manages to capture the physical resemblance together with the psychological identity of the portrayed, thus situating him in the Western pictorial tradition (1). At the other end of the spectrum are those who flatly reject such a connection and claim the opposite: that Warhol empties the subject in question of all traces of individuality (2).
There is no doubt that both positions have strong arguments in their favor; While it is true that the artist challenged and reinvented the genre of the portrait, thus imbuing the rich and famous with an air of modernity, it is also true that he stripped his images of all psychological overtones and turned them into mere modern icons with a recognizable signature. A key example of this double reading can be found in the comment by Holly Solomon (a wealthy woman, gallery owner and key figure in the art scene of the 1970s) on her own portrait: "I always think of the painting as my Warhol rather than my portrait" (3). This ambiguity is present both in his portraits and in the rest of his work, including his films, so it would be more correct to redefine another position, situated in an equidistant point between the two positions already mentioned and which, recently, other critical views have begun to claim. It is a neutral or superficial position, I would say, as Warhol's portraits seek likeness and blur it at the same time, similar to the way the silkscreen technique blurs photographic sharpness, creating tension between the real object and its abstraction. This is a strategy used equally in Warhol's paintings and films, although it is perhaps in the latter that the artist's fascination for the face as a reflective surface that can be projected onto the screen is best appreciated.
1 The most detailed analysis of Andy Warhol's portraits in relation to the academic tradition can be found in Robert Rosenblum “Warhol as Art History”, Kynaston McShine ed. Andy Warhol. A Retrospective (Nueva York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1989), and “Andy Warhol: Court painter of the seventies”, Andy Warhol: Portraits of the 1970s and 1980s (Sidney, London and Bilbao: Museum of Contemporary Art, Anthony d ́Offay and Sala Rekalde, 1984).
2. The strongest refusal to link Andy Warhol to traditional portrait painting
is found in the texts by Benjamin H. D. Buchloh “Andy Warhol ́s One- Dimensional Art 1956-1966”, Kynaston McShine ed. Andy Warhol. A Retrospective, op. cit., y “The Andy Warhol Line”, Gary Garrels ed. The Work of Andy Warhol (Seattle: Dia Art Foundation end Bay Press, 1989).
3. Quoted by Nicholas Baume, About Face. Andy Warhol Portraits (Cambridge: Wadsworth Atheneum Hartford, The Andy Warhol Museum and The MIT Press, 1999) 86.

Closed Auction