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Andy Warhol (American, 1928–1987)
LOT ID: 81012
Electric Chair, 1971

Screenprint
35.5 х 48 in. (90.17 x 121.92 cm.)
Signed, and dated '71 in ball-point pen and numbered AP XXXVI/L with a rubber stamp on verso
Edition AP 36/50 aside from regular Edition of 250
Foundry/Publisher Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich, Switzerland, pub. Silkprint Kettner, Zurich, Switzerland, prntr.
Lot description
In the early 1960s, Andy Warhol began his death and disaster series, which adapted media print imagery of various disasters ranging from plane and car crashes to the tragic deaths of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy. Drawing upon mass-media’s exploitation of major catastrophes and personal heartbreak, Warhol printed these images repeatedly, continually reproducing the scenes to exhaust them of any meaning.

In the same series, Warhol took a different approach to confront the political controversy that surrounded America’s death penalty policy. In 1963, the last two executions by electric chair were preformed in New York State at Sing Sing Penitentiary. The chair became a loaded symbol for government mandated brutality. Rather than call attention to the glorification of death by the media through color and repetition, Warhol highlighted the ease by which a life is eliminated, presenting a deadpan depiction of a vacant execution room with only an unoccupied electric chair. Straying from his characteristic use of bright color, Warhol printed this series in black, further accentuating the chair’s metaphor for death.

Warhol often revisited this subject throughout the 60s and 70s, making it one of his most recognizable and poignant themes. This print, from Warhol's portfolio of 10 electric chairs, demonstrates the emotional power this imagery continues to possess. More typical of the later reproductions of this image, the execution chamber has been cropped to focus more on the chair. Similar prints of this significant work are represented in numerous museums, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York, NY); The Tate Gallery (London, UK); the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN); The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY); and the Australian National Gallery (Canberra, Australia).

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) is widely credited as one of the most significant artists of the 20th century. After studying design at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Warhol moved to New York in 1949 to pursue a career as a commercial artist. Though successful, Warhol wanted to be an independent painter. In the early 1960s he began to create paintings based on advertising imagery. He established his own studio, The Factory, and developed his signature style, employing commercial silkscreening techniques to create identical, mass-produced images on canvas. With his multiple images of soup cans, soda bottles, dollar bills and celebrities, Warhol revealed the beauty within mass culture and redefined the art world.

Selected Public Collections:
Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY)
Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
Guggenheim Museum (New York, NY)
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY)
Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA)
J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles, CA)
Tate Gallery (London, UK)
National Galleries of Scotland (Edinburgh, UK)
Electric Chair by Andy Warhol
  • Electric Chair by Andy Warhol
  • Electric Chair by Andy Warhol
  • Electric Chair by Andy Warhol
  • Electric Chair by Andy Warhol
  • Electric Chair by Andy Warhol
  • Electric Chair by Andy Warhol
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