What To Collect Now - Prints & Editions Report


Andy Warhol’s Ads (1985) print portfolio, produced just 2 years before he died, comprises ten faux advertisements for giants of American consumerism. Implicitly, the portfolio offers a personal retrospective: acknowledging his early career as a commercial illustrator in the Pop-art style that made him international fame.

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Meaning & Analysis

Produced 2 years before his death in 1985, Warhol’s Ads series epitomise Pop Art: depicting the key emblems of American consumer culture. Commissioned by Feldman Fine Arts, the suite is comprised of 10 limited edition screen prints on Lennox Museum Board. It includes works titled AppleBlackglama (Judy Garland)ChanelLife SaversMobilgasParamountRebel Without a Cause (James Dean)The New Spirit (Donald Duck)Van Heusen (Ronald Reagan) and Volkswagen. In many ways this highly collectible series epitomises Warhol. A series of images depicting the icons of American consumer culture, celebrated in vivid technicolour, this is pure Pop Art.

The Ads portfolio is an acclaimed series and a catalogue of Warhol's interests across his career. Its subjects cover film, celebrity, glamour, fashion, television and advertising. By turning mass media imagery into art, Warhol elevated the everyday, celebrating the democratisation of popular consumer culture. As the artist himself once said, “what's great about this country is America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too.”

The Ads portfolio represents the artist's early career inspirations as well as the stylistic motifs that characterised his late period works. Warhol moved from Pittsburgh to New York in 1949 and became a successful commercial illustrator working for the likes of Tiffany, Vogue and Colombia Records. These early illustrations demonstrate the Warhol’s skill as a draughtsman and his formative printmaking process. The artist achieved the signature blotted line that appeared in these delicate drawings by transferring an ink illustration onto a separate piece of paper. This monoprint technique was an early exploration into the process of image reproduction that came to characterise Warhol's practice.

10 Facts About Andy Warhol's Ads

Blackglama (Judy Garland) (F. & S. II.351) by Andy Warhol

Blackglama (Judy Garland) (F. & S. II.351) © Andy Warhol 1985

1. The Ads series derives from Warhol’s interest in the fashion world and fascination with New York’s glamorous celebrities.

The Ad series appropriates the visual language of marketing to reimagine the icons and artefacts of New York’s fashion world. Warhol’s prints incorporate advertising slogans, logos of some of the most prominent fashion brands as well as overt references to beauty products that pervaded the consumer culture at the time. Notably, Judy Garland features in the portfolio next to a popular tagline: “What becomes a legend most?”. Warhol’s way of invoking Blackglama Fur’s advertising campaign reminds us of his background in commercial illustration.

Chanel (F. & S. II.354) by Andy Warhol

Chanel (F. & S. II.354) © Andy Warhol 1985

2. Advertising and consumerism are the central themes of Warhol’s oeuvre.

In his final thematic portfolio, Warhol explores the issues of commodification and wealth. The series recreates popular products that range from Volkswagen cars to Chanel No. 5 perfume bottles, as well as appropriating the likeness of public figures like James Dean and Ronald Reagan. In choosing these people and objects as his subject matter, the Ads series plays with the notions of ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, problematising the world of commodity culture.

Life Savers (F. & S. II.353) by Andy Warhol

Life Savers (F. & S. II.353) © Andy Warhol 1985

3. Each image in the series appropriates a corporate logo or product.

Ranging from Lifesavers to Chanel to Apple Macintosh, each product featured in the series appears next to a brand logo, which represents Warhol’s way of referencing the corporate powerhouses of his time. Based on popular advertising campaigns, the series reflects the commercial landscape of contemporary American culture.

Apple (F. & S. II.359) by Andy Warhol

Apple (F. & S. II.359) © 1985