A rare and complete set of Beethoven screenprints by Andy Warhol is to go under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London, on the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth this year.
Estimated at £200,000-300,000, the set of four portraits will be offered in the auction house’s sale of Prints & Multiples in London on 19 March 2020.
Shortly before his death in 1987, Warhol created a set of portraits of the German composer, widely considered one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time and celebrated for his innovative and revolutionary compositions which challenged convention and ushered in a new era in music history. Like Warhol, he explored new frontiers of his medium, transcending time and breaking down barriers.
This set of screenprints encapsulates the hallmarks of an Andy Warhol portrait, from the artist’s trademark colour blocks, in this instance contrasted with the dramatic black background, and bright, vibrant highlights, to the typically Warholian repetition of symbols and imagery, with the subject repeated four times in different colour combinations.
Well adept at turning any sitter into an object of popular culture and fandom, Warhol spared no effort in transforming the idealised and iconic portrait of the composer by Karl Stieler, into the rock star persona portrayed within this set of four screenprints. Gracefully superimposing notes from one of Beethoven’s most famous compositions, Piano Sonata No.14 (better known as the Moonlight Sonata), Warhol commodifies Beethoven’s identity.
Severine Nackers, Head of Sotheby’s Prints Department in London, said: “Complete sets of Warhol’s portraits of Beethoven hardly ever come up for auction and are highly desirable, so we are thrilled to have the opportunity in this anniversary year of Beethoven’s birth to showcase all four works together. Just as Beethoven was a towering figure during his lifetime, immortalised ever since through his music, Warhol’s iconic image-making process bestows the composer with rock star status.”