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Politics of Pop: Andy Warhol's 'Lenin' leads Bonhams Prints sale on November 19 in London
Andy Warhol, Pele (Feldman & Schellmann IIIC.8). Unique screenprint in black, c.1977, on Curtis Rag paper, one of a small number of impressions, with the 'The Estate of Andy Warhol' and 'Authorized by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts' inkstamps on the reverse, inscribed A140.052 verso, printed by Rupert Jansen Smith, New York, with margins, 1045 x 780mm (41 1/7 x 30 3/4in) (I). Estimate: £30,000-50,000. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.

LONDON.- A portrait of former Soviet Union leader and father of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, Vladimir Lenin, by American pop artist Andy Warhol, will be a highlight at Bonhams Prints sale on November 19 in London’s New Bond Street.

‘Lenin’ (1987), a screen print in colours on Arches 88, signed and inscribed 'PP 1/6' in pencil, is estimated at a value of £50,000-70,000. This printer's proof, aside from the edition of 120, was printed by Rupert Jasen Smith, New York, with his blindstamp, and published by Galerie Bernd Klüser, Munich. The full sheet measures 1000 x 749mm (39 3/8 x 29 1/2in).

In a Prints sale that provides a narrative of the Rise of Pop, Warhol’s ‘Lenin’ takes the leading role—he’s the protagonist of our Pop-based show. ‘Lenin’ is simple, verging on minimalistic. Warhol presents his sitter as an artificial construct staring bleakly out of a black void. Here he is, the former leader of the Soviet Union, naked and exposed.

It’s an eerie portrait, and its haunting aura is what makes it so poignant. Flashes of vivid colour—a reddy skin tone for face and hand, a stark white shirt collar and cuff, occasional outlines in bright blue, and a couple of licks of canary yellow—are emblazoned over a black background. Lenin’s isolated face, vivid yet ghost-like, stares wild-eyed directly at the viewer—imposing and inescapable, just try to avoid catching his gaze.

‘Lenin’, both a portrait and an icon, is one of the great Pop images of the 20th Century.

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