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Portrait of Blondie Bombshell Debbie Harry to Star in Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Auction
Debbie Harry by Andy Warhol (1928-1987), 1980, acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas, 106.7 by 106.7cm. Estimate: £3.5-5.5 million / $ 5,790,000–9,100,000.
LONDON.- Blondie’s Lead Singer Debbie Harry by Andy Warhol to spearhead Sotheby’s forthcoming Contemporary Art Auction this June. The artist’s 1980 acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas of Debbie Harry, the renowned lead singer of the new wave and punk rock band Blondie, is estimated at £3.5-5.5 million and will be offered for sale on Wednesday, June 29, 2011, coinciding with the release of Blondie’s new album Panic of Girls. This iconic work comes from a private European collection.

Commenting on this work, Cheyenne Westphal, Sotheby’s Chairman of Contemporary Art Europe, said: “Debbie Harry is the ultimate culmination of Warhol’s exploration of our public fascination with female cultural icons. The lasting visual power of the optically playful pink in the present work lies in the enigmatic identity of its subject, the bold directness of its surface allure, and its role as a mirror of its time. Debbie Harry truly achieved the iconic symbolic status of popular culture and the present portrait reaffirms both her place and Warhol’s place at the apex of celebrity for eternity.”

In a telephone interview with Cheyenne Westphal, Debbie Harry described how she met Andy Warhol: “We crossed paths. New York had an active street life - it was a small community back then. You often ran into people. You knew them already or got introduced. I bumped into Andy on Broadway and 13th street and said hello and we chatted about everything. I suppose this is how we met and our friendship grew from there. I got invited to the factory and knew others that worked for Andy. I knew Brigid Polk and Andy Coltrain.”

Harry continued to discuss what it was like to sit for Warhol: “He was the master of understatement. He'd say 'Try looking over here'. He was very softly spoken and used a funny Polaroid portrait camera. It was an easy environment and not really a pressured situation. He made it very easy. Andy was part of our legacy and our future.”

Selected as the cover image for the major survey of Warhol’s portraiture published by Phaidon in 2005, Debbie Harry, from 1980, is one of Warhol’s most accomplished portraits of celebrity. One of only four such portraits of the Blondie star in this rare 42 inches format, two of which are in the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, this pink version has become one of the best recognised images in Warhol’s oeuvre and the definitive portrait of the 1980s style icon. Built up of no fewer than five silkscreened layers of ink over the coloured acrylic ground, Debbie Harry sits squarely in the lineage of great portraiture that links the artist’s images of the stellar trinity of Liz Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy in the 1960s with his final fright-wig self portraits in the 1980s.

Warhol continued to be inspired and fascinated by beautiful female celebrities throughout his career. Harry, a striking bottleblonde haired New Jersey native with an equally effervescent personality, had moved to New York City to launch her music career. She was a waitress at Max’s Kansas City, a meeting place for artists and musicians and a favourite hangout for Warhol and his entourage. Blondie, a punk band named for the diva lead singer’s nickname, was an immediate huge success. The group launched their debut album in 1976, had their first European tour in 1977 and by 1978 Harry and the band were global superstars. She epitomised the rocket launch rise to fame that infatuated Warhol and in 1979 she graced the cover of his celebrity centred magazine Interview. Her fame, her beauty, and their friendship, made her an instant muse for the artist. Debbie Harry made frequent appearances on Andy Warhol’s TV show, once appearing in a day-glo camouflage head to toe outfit inspired by Warhol’s camouflage paintings which she insisted he sign while on her body.

By 1980 Warhol’s silkscreen technique had been absolutely perfected in the present work there is a wonderful balance between the crisp record of the overall form, together with softer, more subtle areas of screen that shape the shadows around her eyes, cheek and neck. Warhol’s mastery of the technique allows him to explore the various nuances available to him within the silkscreen medium in this particular work.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium.





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