Sturtevant (1924-2014) Study for Warhol's Marilyn 1965

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Lot 11*
Study for Warhol's Marilyn

Sold for £ 206,500 (US$ 251,822) inc. premium
Sturtevant (1924-2014)
Study for Warhol's Marilyn

signed, titled, and dated 1965
acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas

50.8 by 40.6 cm.
20 by 16 in.


  • This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné being compiled by the Sturtevant Estate, Paris.

    Private Collection, Houston
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner circa 1977

    Each artistic generation is defined by its novel visionaries and 'enfants terribles'; Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg, Maurizio Cattelan, Richard Prince – these are artists whose work shatters the cultural zeitgeist and reshapes the landscape of contemporary art practice in its time. American artist Sturtevant was one of the most prominent and highly regarded conceptual pioneers of the latter half of the Twentieth Century, caricaturing and challenging the entrenched ideas of what constituted the art image and object, inspiring artists, philosophers, and critical theorists for generations.

    In the painting presented here for sale, there is no finer representation of Sturtevant's lifelong artistic project than this: one of the earliest Study for Warhol's Marilyn works, from 1965, the first year of her 'repetitions,' as she termed them. Executed with all the panache of a consummate master, the underpainting, silkscreen quality, and electrifying colour palette are superbly definitive of the Pop Art canon that she sought to rattle. Her ideas were revolutionary and her artworks supremely astute, engaging in the broader discourse around media and cultural theory that had gained immense traction with artists, writers, and critics in the early 1960s. Her practice went head-to-head with the artist-titans of her time, repeating the paintings of Frank Stella, Jasper Johns, and Anselm Kiefer. Sturtevant's Warhol Marilyn series, however, stands as the most iconic of her career.

    Superimposing images and techniques, upending the symbolic order of source material and artistic license – using not only the visage of the most recognisable leading lady of the last 70 years, but also the most illustrious portrait of the same era – Sturtevant forced the audience to consider the work of art holistically. Her ideology represented the apex point of Warhol's own practice that conflated ubiquity and fame. Her artworks suspended meaning, and instead engaged the spectator in a hierarchy of images and information, undermining the authorial roots and aura of the work of art.

    Unlike many whose appropriation has inspired backlash, such as Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, and Sherrie Levine, Sturtevant's Marilyns were painted not only with Warhol's blessing, but with the technicians and materials made available to her at the Factory; the canvases, paints, and screens identical to those that Warhol began producing after the actress's untimely death in 1962. Sturtevant claimed that later, when asked how he made his silkscreened works, Warhol told people to 'ask Elaine [Sturtevant].' Her paintings cannot simply be termed 'copies,' therefore, but are instead something much more complex and subversive, entering the philosophical realm of simulacra – a term the artist consistently nodded to as her holy grail and creative driving force.

    In an age interwoven with digital and virtual machinations that replicate, reshape, and have largely replaced our engagement with 'the real,' Sturtevant's work has become still more relevant and arresting. Shifting to video and digital art in the latter decades of her practice after moving to Paris in 1990, her earliest paintings retain a mysticism that is reserved for those works of art that are true originals – not simply in appearance, but in substance. In the present work, this sense of presence and significance is palpable and undeniable. As academic Patricia Lee wrote, Sturtevant's 'Warhol Marilyn provocatively embodies a decisive moment in the history of the object in art [...] It is in Sturtevant's work that the issue of the copy and its ramifications in Pop, Minimalism and Conceptual art crystallises' (Patricia Lee, Warhol Marilyn: Sturtevant, London, 2016, p. 17).

    Not only has Sturtevant's work grown to stand apart from those artists she emulated, but the historical and artistic importance of her practice is assured, with works in global museum collections that include the Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Museu das Artes de Sintra, Portugal, in addition to her major career retrospective, Double Trouble, that took place at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2014. A painting by an artist who emerged to compete at the height of the Pop Art and Minimalist movements, Sturtevant's contribution to and importance as one of the definitive Postmodernists of the Twentieth Century can be held in no doubt, and Study for Warhol's Marilyn from 1965 stands as one of the earliest and most collectible works from her career to come to market.
Sturtevant (1924-2014) Study for Warhol's Marilyn 1965
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