Andy Warhol's Entire 'Athletes' Series To Hit The Auction Block For The First Time
Warhol completed this famous series between 1977 and 1979, at the behest of art collector and sports enthusiast Richard Weisman.
It features ten multi-coloured portraits of some of the sports giants of the 1970s, such as boxer Muhammed Ali, tennis player Chris Evert, golfer Jack Nicklaus and soccer player Pelé.
At the time, Warhol was unfamiliar with the athletes that Weisman selected for the series, with the art collector even saying that "Andy didn't really know the difference between a football and a golf ball."
However, the Pop artist was fascinated by the changing nature of fame as athletes took centre stage in American popular culture of the 1970s, later noting "the sports stars of today are the movie stars of yesterday."
Warhol photographed every subject of the series with a Polaroid Big Shot camera, before translating the photographs to acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas.
These works eventually appeared in magazines and billboards across the US, promoting everything from sportswear, cars, and even breakfast cereals.
Now on sale at Christie's, the paintings of the "Athlete" series are estimated to fetch between $150,000 and $600,000, with the exception of the portrait of Muhammed Ali that is valued between $4 million and $6 million.
"You have a series that comes from the original owner, and there's this amazing commission story, they're completely fresh to the market. They've never been up before," Christie's international director of post-war and contemporary art Sara Friedlander told the Observer.
As pointed out by the British newspaper, Weisman commissioned eight sets of the "Athletes" series, donating two of them to universities while one was stolen from his home in 2009. Christie's recently confirmed to Artnews that this set was recovered by the FBI in 2015.
The "Athlete" series is one of the highlights of the private collection of Weisman, which will be offered through Christie's major sales in New York this fall.
The eclectic selection, which is expected to bring in over $15 million this year alone, also features works by James Rosenquist and Peter Beard, who were close friends of Weisman.
The colourful collector also owned pieces by Norman Rockwell, Tom Wesselmann, Alberto Giacometti, and Roy Lichtenstein.
Additional paintings, drawings, and sculptures from his collection will be auctioned off during other Christie's sales through 2020.