Andy Warhol: The Joseph Beuys Portraits

Andy Warhol and Joseph Beuys

The earliest Beuys portraits by Andy Warhol were first exhibited at Galleria Lucio Amelio, Naples in April 1980. Gallerist Lucio Amelio, who worked closely with both artists, helped establish their reputations in Italy and played a key role in bringing their practices into dialogue. He invited Warhol and Beuys to Naples for the exhibition opening, where they participated in a bustling press conference broadcast live on Italian television, demonstrating the international visibility of the artists across Europe in the 1980s. Additional selections of the Beuys portraits were exhibited at Galerie Klüser in Munich (in collaboration with the publisher Jörg Schellmann; 6 May – 9 July 1980) and the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, Geneva (7 – 30 July 1980).

Repeating Beuys’s arresting gaze on different scales and in different formats, Warhol exercised his characteristically experimental approach to materials in the portraits. Amongst the paintings, unique Trial Proofs, line drawings, and unique and editioned works on paper are examples of some of the artist’s earliest uses of diamond dust in portraits. These sit alongside images that have had their tonal values inverted to give the effect of photographic negatives. Belonging to the Reversal Series in which Warhol reproduced key subjects from across his wide-reaching body of work – including his iconic portraits of Marilyn Monroe, the Mona Lisa and Mao – in reverse, these reworkings of Beuys’s portrait demonstrate the particular value that he placed on his depiction of the other artist within his oeuvre.

In his portraits, Warhol transformed his photographic source material through a process of reduction that resulted in emblematic, icon-like representations of his subjects, minimising the visibility of his own hand as he employed screenprinting methods. ‘With silkscreening,’ he explained, ‘you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not the glue. That way, you get the same image, slightly different each time.’ Warhol pursued variation in his approach to colour, composition and materials rather than in the image itself. He articulated Beuys’s head and shoulders against flat, monochromatic grounds as well as gestural sweeps of variegated colour using his silkscreen stencils. These modifications were tested out through Trial Proofs: unique prints created to experiment with different variations of an image. Warhol conceived of these works as a complementary group to his editions and paintings and, as the publisher Jörg Schellmann, who worked closely with Warhol in the 1980s, explains, ‘these Trial Proofs can be seen as essentially the same as Warhol’s originals,’ evidencing the artist’s innovative understanding of the nature of artmaking as he dismantled distinctions between editioned and original work.

Duration 14 December 2023 - 09 February 2024
Times Tuesday—Saturday, 10am—6pm
Cost Free
Venue Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
Address Ely House, 37 Dover Street, London, W1S 4NJ
Contact 4402038138400 / /


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