Phillips X presents Roy Lichtenstein: Diana & Ajax
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Phillips X presents Roy Lichtenstein: Diana & Ajax
Roy Lichtenstein, Interior with Ajax, 1997. Image courtesy of Phillips.

SOUTHAMPTON, NY.- Phillips X will present, Roy Lichtenstein: Diana and Ajax, an intimate view of two Greco-Roman inspired works commissioned by Gianni Versace from the artists’ Interiors series. The pair was intended to hang in the studio of Versace’s Milan home. However, the finished paintings, Interior with Diana and Interior with Ajax, remained in Lichtenstein’s studio at the time of the fashion designer’s death in July of 1997. It was not until that December, when Donatella Versace was contacted by the artist’s studio and made aware of the paintings’ existence. She then had them displayed in the Versace New York townhouse. Alongside these two masterworks, will be a selection of other important works by the artist including Girl in Mirror, 1964 and Shipyard Girl, 1965, on view at Phillips Southampton, 1 Hampton Road, 12 August - 6 September 2022.

Displaying the works in Southampton is especially fitting as Lichtenstein had a home and studio there, where he continued to experiment with different styles and mediums from 1970 until his death in 1997. The artist not only lived and worked in Southampton, but was continuously inspired by the local community throughout his career.

Both Interior with Diana and Interior with Ajax, featuring Lichtenstein’s iconic Benday dots, take significant influence from Greco-Roman iconography which coincidently often appeared in both Lichtenstein’s and Versace’s creative visions. Though there is no specific known source for either Ajax or Diana used by the artist, the subjects are instantly recognizable. Lichtenstein has captured their essence, and thus the viewer feels they automatically know the imagery in these works. The repetitive use of the blue Benday dots, a key characteristic of the artists oeuvre, draws together the detailed elements of these striking interior scenes into a harmonious vignette. This combination of new and old elements presents the canvases as incredible, unified works by one of America’s leading modern masters for his friend, Gianni Versace.

Diana, the virginal Roman goddess of the moon and hunt, was a subject Lichtenstein depicted on several occasions in his later years. Often pulling imagery from his own archive of works, Lichtenstein incorporated his early studies of Diana’s profile into this interior, as if he had been waiting for this moment to showcase her on a finished canvas. In the front frame of Interior with Diana, this key Greek pattern is reminiscent of the Versace logo: Medusa encircled by a ring of the same Greek design – a play on the iconography of ancient Greece and Gianni Versace himself.

Ajax, Greek hero from the Trojan War, stands in the very forefront of his canvas. He is instantly recognized from his classicized profile, bare chest, and Greek war helmet. A master of mixing the high and the low arts, Lichtenstein juxtaposes simple modern furnishings in the same picture plain as Ajax. Furthermore, above Ajax’s head, he has included a small still-life within a still-life. The framed painting of fruit recalls the highly graphic and iconic print ads that Lichtenstein was so know for in his early career.

Phillips X is a dynamic selling exhibition platform operated by the Private Sales team at Phillips. Presenting highly curated selling exhibitions on a global scale, Phillips X highlights notable artists and creators of the 20th and 21st centuries, creating new and important dialogues around established and emerging movements, genres, mediums and channels.

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