ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987) Puma Invader (Positive), 1985-86
Lot 9W ○
Puma Invader (Positive), 1985-86
Sold for US$ 1,452,500 inc. premium

Post-War & Contemporary Art

15 Nov 2017, 17:00 EST

New York

Lot Details
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
Puma Invader (Positive), 1985-86

with The Estate of Andy Warhol stamp twice, with the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. stamp twice, initialled and numbered twice 'VF PA 10.596' (on the overlap)
synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas

72 x 80 in.
182.9 x 203.2 cm


  • Provenance
    The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., New York.
    Private Collection.

    Monaco, Grimaldi Forum Monaco, SuperWarhol, 16 July-31 August 2003, no. 252 (illustrated in color, p. 489).

    Andy Warhol B&W Paintings: Ads and Illustrations, exh. cat., New York and London, Gagosian Gallery, February-March 2002 (illustrated in color, pp. 46-47, not exhibited).

    Provocatively bold and precise, Puma Invader (Positive), 1985-86, presents a grandiose, almost fetishized look at the subject that made Andy Warhol a household name. In his appropriation of ads and illustrations parsed directly from mass-produced newspapers and the iconography of company logos, Warhol employs a calculatedly restrictive palette, thereby challenging preconceived means of artistic expression to illuminate the inherent artificial deception present in repetitive exposure of photographic imagery. Incontestably, it was through the Advertisement series that Warhol's commentary on consumerism and popular culture shaped and defined postmodern taste, rendering both artwork and artist antitheses to ephemera.

    The coalescence of art and advertising, two powerhouse media, was never more exquisitely engineered than at the hands of Warhol. Arriving in New York in 1949, Warhol was immediately struck by the complex fusion of decadence and grit that characterized the city, particularly in lower Manhattan. His early career as a commercial illustrator brought him widespread notoriety, but it was not until his first Shoes series that Warhol achieved both critical and financial success. From 1955 to 1957, Warhol worked as an illustrator for the shoe designer I. Miller and would create a new advertisement each week for the brand's endorsements in The New York Times, eventually producing over 300 illustrations. He began with simple watercolor and ink renditions of the shoe, replicating the image in numerous styles and colors until the design became synonymous with the artist himself. He then traced images of popular ads appearing in newspapers and of branded symbols, with shoe diagrams appearing in the artist's oeuvre as early as 1962. Projecting the stylized 'ready-made' image onto his larger-than-life canvas, Warhol then transferred the brand's sneaker onto his preferred surface, his silkscreen technique manifesting in a complete inversion of pictorial practices. Conceived in Warhol's most prolific means of expression, his "trademark 'plagiarist' fashion; that is, based directly on newspaper advertisements, street leaflets, and ordinary book illustrations,"1 Puma Invader (Positive) is impossibly sleek, its lines simultaneously both lush and finite in a sophisticated and intricate juxtaposition of freehanded brushwork and mechanically superimposed imagery.

    Painted squarely in the middle of a decade which swiftly ushered in contemporary conveniences, Puma Invader (Positive) is reminiscent of its vernacular origins yet unabashedly progressive. Though depicted in his classical sketchbook figuration, the present work elucidates the artist's prevailing desire to remain in the spotlight, amongst the most cutting-edge artists of the time. Warhol's earliest drawings were, extraordinarily, always on the cusp of the newest trends, and according to legendary dealer Tony Shafrazi, "soon after arriving in New York in the early 1950s, he set out to invent a unique illustration style, developing a meticulous technique of inking his drawings that mimicked and assimilated a mechanical process to achieve beautifully articulated and precise illustrations. These drawings, which aspired to the "Super Real," centered on the most desirable examples of mass-produced consumer culture – objects that were new and the "latest in design.""2 Rather than constructing a revisionist presentation of past themes, Warhol's later black-and-white variations communicate a new direction entirely, and, as art historian Charles Stuckey suggests, "Warhol's 'rearview mirror' perspective during the 1980s was a pervasive if complicated matter... he extended the concept of drawings and paintings based directly on images taken from New York daily newspapers that he had developed briefly in the early 1960s. Images of footwear (sneakers and hiking boots), as well as of newspaper mastheads and headlines, are important motifs in Warhol's late black-and-white series – a body of work particularly informed by street culture and commercial art."3 The creative and personal relationships Warhol formed at this point in his career were paramount, particularly with artists such as Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Robert Indiana, whose work was largely informed by signs and symbols of contemporary culture, albeit infused with subliminal underpinnings. While a distinct ethos of commodity was pervasively echoing throughout modern American society, these artists sought to magnify, debase and recontextualize the very images that were seducing and informing the American public.

    Completed just one year before his untimely death in February 1987, Warhol's Puma Invader (Positive) speaks to many of the artist's deeply and incontrovertibly personal fixations, from an abiding obsession with the latest fads to the revolutionary subculture of New York. The splashy descriptor "BOYS" subtly hints at Warhol's rumored unease with overt displays of sexuality and presentation of self, carefully weaving vestiges of authenticity into the artist's deft critique of the iconography of celebrity, style, and processes of mass communication. Grounded in Warhol's persistent social awareness, the present work is a larger-than-life projection of his most acutely rendered neuroses. Infamous for his past depictions of female shoes, which were comparatively tame and subdued, Warhol presents an imposing and dominant structure with Puma Invader (Positive), the chosen subject and title itself allusive of an overpowering, all-consuming force.

    Intrinsic to Warhol's aesthetic brilliance is the concurrent synthesis of commodification and heroification of his selections, from brand-name apparel to radiant portraits of political figures and cultural darlings. More so than any other artist before him, Warhol was deeply attune to objects that connected people to aesthetic representations, to the media, and to one another. In Puma Invader (Positive), Warhol returns to the subject matter that garnered him international renown with renewed vigor: the sneaker, once a utilitarian means of pedestrian transportation, is elevated, repurposed as an icon all its own. Standing six feet tall, the present work is a monumental testament to subverting the idea of the shoe as an afterthought, thereby obliterating previous perceptions. As contemporary culture fixated increasingly on individual style and superficial appearance, the sneaker became not only a means of personal expression, but also a status symbol in and of itself, with Puma Invader (Positive) at the very forefront of this ideology. "Despite the serious tone, these late works remain true to Andy's life philosophy, especially his conviction that one should always wear the "right" shoes, whether for labor, sports, war, or fame."4

    At its very essence, the present work is an exceptional example of Warhol's signature affinity for the avant-garde: brazenly simple in ideation yet undeniably elegant in painterly production. Starkly administered on a hyper-inflated scale with striking exactitude and infused with Warhol's impeccably cool touch, Puma Invader (Positive) is an outstanding achievement, illustrative of the artist's enduring fascination with fame and outward appearances. Unlike other iterations of the same content, Puma Invader (Positive) is tightly cropped and then blown out, the expansion of the sneaker beyond the traditional confines of the conceivable picture plane exemplifying Warhol's innate ability to capture perspective and transpose it onto a gargantuan scale. The shoe itself possesses an unabated energy, as if being propelled off the canvas. The onset of the 1980s saw the resurgence of streetwear, kicking to the curb formal dresswear of the past in favor of a more casual, defiant visage. Warhol once coyly remarked, "I'm so tired of elegant people, I just wanted to be with some kids."5

    Amidst a rising technological boom, Puma Invader (Positive), retains a handmade quality, implying the artist's commitment to drawn illustration at a time when ads were moving towards photography-based production. Reinforced by the stunning clarity with which it is executed, the present work is stylistically evocative of Warhol's early commercial success yet mature in its construction. Thick, vibrantly delineated borders flank the outer edges of the canvas, the lower portion lightly sketched as if done fervently with a crayon or colored pencil, further suggestive of the artist's unmistakable hand. In the lower right corner, the price of the shoes – 24.99 a pair – is sharply advertised, playfully deflating the glamorized subject and bringing the viewer back to a concrete reality. The sneaker itself is oriented with only the toe maintaining contact to the baseline, indicative of a figure already in motion. As such, Puma Invader (Positive) articulates a feeling that demands to be experienced rather than merely viewed from afar. Perhaps Warhol best summated this effect, stating, "the process of doing work in commercial art was machine-like, but the attitude had feeling to it."6

    As is archetypal of Warhol's most successful and iconic pieces, Puma Invader (Positive) is deliberately ambiguous, hovering delicately between subjectivity and objectivity. The rarity of scale and screening in the present work posits Puma Invader (Positive) at the very apex of one of the most sought-after series by the artist, an anthology rendered even more compelling by its ingratiation into and prominence within themes of contemporary culture, consumption and identity.

    1. C. Stuckey, "Heaven and Hell Are Just One Breath Away!", in Heaven and Hell Are Just One Breath Away! Late Paintings and Related Works, 1984-1986, New York, Gagosian Gallery, 1992, p. 10.
    2. T. Shafrazi, "Andy Warhol: Portraits", in Andy Warhol: Portraits, London and New York, 2009, p. 12.
    3. C. Stuckey, p. 13.
    4. C. Taft, "Andy Warhol", in Artforum, September-October 2006.
    5. A. Warhol, quoted in C. Stuckey, p. 14.
    6. Ibid, p. 12.
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