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Monday, August 6, 2012

The Hockey Art of Andy Warhol

Born on this date in 1928, Andy Warhol is not the first name that comes to mind when thinking of sports related art, as he is best known for his portraits, such as those of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy and Liz Taylor, and political icons, such as Mao Tse-Tung, Vladimir Lenin and Che Guevara.

He also gained fame for his pop art works of a Campbell's Soup can, Mickey Mouse and Elvis Presley.

In addition to his paintings, Warhol was a filmmaker and also created works in many other media. He also introduced the phrase "15 minutes of fame" to the English lexicon.

From a monetary standpoint, Warhol ranks among a very elite group of artists, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Gustav Klimt, Vincent van Gogh, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pablo Picasso and Warhol, who have had an individual piece sell for $100 million.

Warhol did create a number of sports related pieces throughout his career though, almost exclusivley on a commission basis. His first photo-silkscreened painting was a baseball scene, done in back in 1962. It was the first and last time he chose sports as a subject on his own.

Warhol's first real entry into the world of sports related art, and his first hockey piece, was when he was commissioned fifteen years later to create a series of works for businessman Richard Weisman in 1977, known as the "Athlete Series", which featured Jack Nicklaus, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Willie Shoemaker, Dorothy Hamill, Chris Evert, Pele, Tom Seaver, O. J. Simpson, Muhammad Ali and hockey player Rod Gilbert.

Rod Gilbert by Andy Warhol

On September 2, 2009 the ten 40" square canvases were stolen from the Los Angeles home of Weisman, along with a portrait of Weisman done by Warhol. Anyone with information about the theft can call the Los Angeles Police Department at 231-485-2524.

The polaroid photos Warhol took for the Athlete Series have been displayed on their own, and include additional portraits of hockey players Ron Dugay and Wayne Gretzky taken at a later time than those used to produce the Athlete Series.

Warhol hockey polaroids
Polaroid photos taken by Warhol as the basis for future paintings

In 1978, Warhol revisited one of the subjects of the Athlete Series, Muhammad Ali. Four separate pieces were created at that time.

One of Warhol's better known works related to the world of sports was the occasion when he was commissioned by BMW to paint one of their M1 race cars as the fourth in a series of BMW Art Cars, which would later compete at the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans.


"I tried to portray speed pictorially. If a car is moving really quickly, all the lines and colors are blurred.", Warhol explained. Of note, the car finished second in it's class and sixth overall out of 55 starters in 1979, the only time it ever raced.

His next sports themed work was that of a speedskater, which was his contribution to "The Official Art Portfolio of the XIV Olympic Winter Games" in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia in 1983. He was one of 17 artists to contribute to the project.

In 1984, Warhol produced two separate pieces commissioned by long-time Canadian art gallery owner Frans Wynans featuring Gretzky. One was entitled "Wayne Gretzky 99" and produced in a limited edition of 300.


As was often the case with Warhol's silkscreened prints, a variety of color versions can be found of this work. The silkscreen prints were originally sold for $1,500 and now require between $15,000-$20,000 to obtain.

Andy_Warhol_Wayne_Gretzky_99_4 variations

The other piece was a series of six portraits of Gretzky holding a hockey stick. The portraits originally sold for $35,000 and now sell for more than ten times that much at $390,000.


Again, there were various versions of "Wayne Gretzky" produced despite the much more limited numbers produced.

Andy_Warhol_Wayne_Gretzky_4 variations

As a fundraiser for the Cincinnati Art Museum, Warhol created a poster featuring Cincinnati baseball icon Pete Rose, done in the style of a baseball card in 1985. Also that same year, he created a polo player for the cover of the 10th anniversary of Polo magazine.

One final hockey themed work of Warhol's was "Frölunda Hockey Player" in which he depicts a skater from the Swedish club Frölunda HC, Christer Kellgren, which was created in 1986. The piece was a commissioned project by the Art Now Gallery in Göteborg, Sweden, which is home to the Frölunda Indians.

Warhol Frolunda Hockey Player

Typical of the works of Warhol, several distinct variations of this piece were made in widely differing colors.

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There was also another group of the Frolunda Hockey Player made which featured two images of the player done in several variations.


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Warhol died the following year at the age of 58 from a sudden cardiac arrhythmia following a routine surgery.

Andy Warhol Signature

Today's video section will be unlike any other we've ever had, and it begins with Andy Warhol Eats a Hamburger.

Next, Andy appears in a commercial for Braniff Airlines with heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston. There's no way that's Andy's voice either.

Finally, "Andy Warhol" by David Bowie.

For more on Warhol, here is a link to the PBS American Masters series on Andy Warhol in 12 parts, which runs roughly two hours and contains absolutely no hockey whatsoever.


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