Six months after a dazzling image of Marilyn Monroe broke records when she sold for $195 milliona bit darker and grittier work by cult pop artist Andy Warhol might also be set to fetch a big buck.
White Disaster (White Car Crash 19 Times) – graphic images repeated in black and white on a huge canvas measuring 12 feet high and 6 feet wide – is expected to sell for at least $80 million in New York next month.
It is part of Warhol’s 1960s Death and Disaster series which reflected the artist’s preoccupation with mortality. The last major Death and Disaster painting sold at auction, Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), fetched $105 million in 2013.
Sotheby’s, which will auction the piece on behalf of a private owner on November 16, called it a “monumental masterpiece”. It has not been made public for over 15 years.
Referring to Warhol’s devout Catholicism, Sotheby’s said: “There can be no doubt that the physical scale of the panel – the greatest of all of Warhol’s single-panel car crash works – has the power to invoke a feeling of admiration and reverence similar to that of a religious altarpiece. In fact, the religious connotations of the work extend beyond its sheer scale.
He quoted art historian John Richardson as saying, “All the repetition of Andy’s imagery stems from the fact that he was Catholic. He went to church, he went to confession, he had to do 10 Hail Marys, 20 Hail Marys, and all of that is reflected in the way his images are repeated over and over and over.
Warhol began screen-printing images of car crashes, plane crashes, and other disasters in the early 1960s, using photographs from newspapers and police archives as his source.
“When you see a horrible picture over and over again, it really has no effect,” he told an interviewer in 1963.
Warhol was raised by his devout Catholic mother, Julia, with whom he prayed daily throughout the two decades they shared a home in New York. He regularly attended church, met the pope and financed his nephew’s studies to become a priest.