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Lot 38: Andy Warhol , Farah Diba Pahlavi (Empress of Iran) acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
Contemporary Evening Sale
October 12, 2007
London, United Kingdom
Description: stamped by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts on the overlap and numbered A012535 on the stretcher acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
Executed in 1977.
PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR
"If many of the celebrity portraits from the 1960s, whether of Jackie or Marilyn, smacked of the New York Post or Screen Romances and almost made us feel that our fingers might be stained with cheap newsprint if we touched them, those of the 1970s belong to the glossy domain of Vogue and Richard Avedon. The Beautiful People have replaced the dreams and nightmares of Middle America; the world of the Concorde, that of the U.S. highway accident" (Robert Rosenblum in Exhibition Catalogue, London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Andy Warhol: Portraits of the Seventies and Eighties, 1993, p. 144). Andy Warhol's stunning portrait of Farah Pahlavi was executed in 1977, just when the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, which she initiated with her cousin Kamran Diba, was opening. A brilliant example of his new iconic brand of portraiture, it also documents the exchange of ideas between two culturally different nations at a volatile time in Iran's recent history, months before the outbreak of the revolution. A pioneer of taste, not just in her homeland but also internationally, Farah Pahlavi was one of the most influential figures responsible for introducing Western art to Iran. Along with her cousin, she built a highly impressive collection of the finest 20th century art at a time when very few other museums in the world were doing so. Despite the huge wealth of Iran at the time as a result of its rich oil resources, they spent a tiny fraction -maybe tens of thousands of dollars- acquiring the very best art of her time, a group of works which are now widely recognised as world class. The enormous collection, built in a relatively short space of time, included works by Bacon, Rothko, de Kooning, Pollock, Jasper Johns, Lichtenstein and, of course, Warhol. The opening event was a great occasion and included guests such as Henry Kissinger and Nelson Rockefeller. Most of the collection, which had been in underground storage for almost thirty years, went on view in "Modern Art Movements" in 2005 at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art and the world was astounded at its quality. Pahlavi would often organize visits with famous artists, including Andy Warhol. Fascinated and enchanted by celebrity and beauty, it is no surprise that Warhol was attracted to the Empress of Iran. The then third wife of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran (he died in 1980), was the only Shahbanu (Empress) of modern Iran. She studied at the French school in Tehran and attended L'Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, where her love affair with the arts initially began. Empress Farah's sincere interest and personal involvement in the arts since have been largely responsible for many of Iran's modern day cultural movements. Among the many major works that she and her cousin acquired for the museum, Warhol's Suicide (Purple Jumping Man) stands as one of the icons. Emanating from one of his greatest series, the Death and Disasters, it must have been an extremely controversial acquisition in its time, but now stands as one of Warhol's greatest masterpieces. The present work is a vibrant yet classic example of Warhol's silkscreened portraiture. Executed in strong and definitive hues of primary colours red and blue, the Empress is presented as a regal and glamorous icon of her age. The pose is what Warhol believed to be the key element to the success of his portraits, and he used as many as ten rolls of film to capture the most perfect image. Farah is captured in a specific moment in time in Warhol's portrait - she is demurely gazing out to the viewer, beneath her long and dark seductive eyelashes, at once sultry yet pensive. Her hair tumbles elegantly, perfectly framing her face, in waves of rich blacks and purples, setting off her dark and flawless facial features. Her mysterious blue lips add an element of intrigue, a contemporary twist on an otherwise classic head-and-shoulders pose. Her silhouette is off set by the astoundingly colourful solid flat backdrop. Overall, the image that is projected is electrifying and intense. Queen Farah has often been referred to as 'Tehran's Jackie O' and compared with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis - she remains a symbol of fashion and glamour, she lost a powerful husband at an early age, and she endured numerous triumphs and tragedies. Like Jackie O, she has been sought after by the media for more than forty years and was a great patron of the arts. Warhol glamorized Farah the same way he did with his Jackie works, capturing a timeless image of a strong and iconic woman.
Provenance: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., New York
Dimensions: measurements 101.6 by 101.6cm. alternate measurements 40 by 40in.