Warhol’s Elizabeth Taylor Resurrects Art Market

The year the work was created Warhol stated; “I’m going to stop painting. I want my paintings to sell for $25 000” If only he knew!

A portrait of Hollywood legend Dame Elizabeth Taylor is coming back onto the market after a short rest in a vault. It will be offered by  Auctioneers Phillips de Pury in New York on 12 May, as part of their spring contemporary art sale. The estimate for 1963’s “Liz #5” is a cool £12 -£18 million.

Michael McGinnis, head of contemporary art at Phillips de Pury described the painting as;  “A pristine gem, the portrait embodies the most important themes of Warhol’s oeuvre including celebrity, wealth, scandal, sex, death and Hollywood”. The silkscreen on canvas has a celebrity pedigree to add to its interest. It was purchased by British actor Hugh Grant in 2001. He stated, that he had bought the £2m painting in a drunken flutter at Sotheby’s. It was later offered in 2007, selling for for £13 million. Not a bad return on a five year investment. In fact much better than Grants film career, as of late.

For the last 10 years Warhol’s work has been escalating in price. The trend is likely to continue for some time. His 1962 work “The Men In Her Life,” another Liz Taylor composition, sold a few months ago for £40 million and Car Crash Green another important work realised £39M.Warhol’s focus on tragedy and the ways in which he employed that subject matter in his own images is something the public has always engaged with. Liz, Marilyn and Jackie are all tragic figures, though he depicted them at their most beautiful and there was a heightened poignancy associated with the images due to the pervading sadness that lurked beneath. His portrait of Liz is one of transformation, someone who seemed to have died and returned, almost a mythic archetype crossing many cultures.

Taylor died of a heart related illness on Wednesday aged 79. This must be the first time in history the death of the subject of a work has increased its value threefold.



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