Andy Warhol, the enigmatic figure behind some of the most iconic artworks of the 20th century, transcended mere artistic innovation to become a cultural icon. His impact on art and society is immeasurable, shaping the way we perceive celebrity culture, consumerism, and the very nature of artistic expression. Born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Warhol’s journey from a shy, sickly child to a flamboyant and influential artist is a testament to his unyielding creativity and vision.

It was during his time at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) that he developed his distinctive style, characterised by bold lines, vibrant colours, and a keen eye for commercial imagery. Influenced by the burgeoning consumer culture of the post-war era, Warhol began to explore the intersection of art and commerce, laying the groundwork for his future artistic endeavours.

In the early 1960s, Warhol burst onto the art scene with his groundbreaking series of Campbell’s Soup Cans, a collection of paintings that would come to epitomise the Pop Art ethos. Inspired by the omnipresence of mass-produced consumer goods, Warhol sought to elevate the mundane to the realm of high art. Through his meticulous repetition and serialisation of everyday objects, Warhol challenged notions of artistic originality and authenticity, blurring the lines between mass-produced consumer goods and artistic expression – paving the way for a new era of artistic experimentation.

Central to Warhol’s artistic philosophy was the concept of repetition and mass production. By creating multiple iterations of the same image, Warhol sought to underscore the omnipresence of consumer culture and the commodification of art. His use of silk-screen printing techniques further distort the line between art and commercial reproduction, democratising the artistic process and making it accessible to a wider audience.

Warhol’s fascination with celebrities and fame would become another hallmark of his artistic output. Through his iconic portraits of cultural icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor, Warhol sought to explore the cultish nature of celebrities and their impact on contemporary society. These portraits, often produced using silk-screen printing techniques, transformed the faces of celebrities into ubiquitous symbols of contemporary society, reflecting the commodification of fame and the power of media imagery. Warhol’s repetition of celebrity images can also be interpreted as a critique of consumer culture and society’s obsession with fame and materialism. By presenting these images in a repetitive and mass-produced manner, he emphasised the superficiality and shallowness of celebrity worship.

Left: Andy Warhol (American 1928 – 1987) Mick Jagger (F. & S. II.144) signed and numbered 111/250 in pencil in the margin, and signed by Mick Jagger, screenprint on Arches paper, sheet size: 111 by 74cm, Sold Privately

By comparison, the Ladies and Gentlemen series is one of the very few where Warhol portrays non-famous people. Ladies and Gentlemen F&S.II.132 depicts an anonymous model who gazes outward at the viewer with her hand placed brushing through her hair. Fields of colour run across the model’s face, completing the portrait. Warhol transposes blocks of green, blue, brown, purple, and pink against the model, accentuating her facial features. The models featured in the series remained anonymous for decades until the Andy Warhol Foundation was able to successfully identify 13 of the 14 models in 2014. It remains surprising that the series neither references nor names the models, although some of the original Polaroids include the names/surnames of the models on the back.

Italian art dealer Luciano Anselmino commissioned the portfolio, suggesting that Warhol create a series of “impersonal, anonymous” portraits of drag queens and trans-women. Many of the models were scouted from The Gilded Grape, a popular establishment with local Black and Latinx trans-women and drag queens.

This series is one of the earliest instances in which Warhol developed his own source images. Rather than using what he referred to as “ready-mades,” Warhol took over 500 Polaroids of the fourteen drag queens and trans-women that were recruited. This process and his famed Polaroid camera later became integral to his artistic practice. Of the Polaroids taken, Warhol and the sitter carefully selected which ones he would use for the ten prints that make up the complete Ladies and Gentlemen portfolio.

While Ladies and Gentlemen features unknown models, Warhol still portrays them in the same light as his portraits of Ingrid Bergman, Mick Jagger, Grace Kelly, and even the Queens. The series is sometimes compared to Warhol’s 1985 Reigning Queens series, a portfolio of images of each of the four female monarchs who were ruling in the world at the time of the portfolio’s publication.

Although the sitters of Ladies and Gentlemen are not royalty — in many cases, in fact, they lived in relative poverty — they are portrayed in the same style as the monarchs of the later series with the same grace and elegance. The hardships that these drag queens and trans-women faced in reality were rendered invisible by the glamour Warhol’s vision granted all his subjects. Through Warhol’s lens the drag queens were as beautiful and poised as the real queens.

Opposite page : Andy Warhol (American 1928 – 1987) Ladies And Gentlemen, F&S.II.132 signed and numbered 29/125 in pencil on the reverse, screenprint on Arches paper, sheet size: Estimate: R150 000 – R180 000

Among his extensive body of work, 2 Dollars (Thomas Jefferson) stands out as a striking commentary on the relationship between money and art. Interestingly, $2 banknotes are the rarest and most sought after. They represent only 1% of the bank notes issued by the American Federal Bank and are considered “lucky charms” in the United States. Warhol was deeply interested in the concept of value and the ways in which society assigns worth to objects. By signing banknotes, he challenged the notion of inherent value in both money and art.

Signing banknotes can be seen as a playful and subversive gesture, challenging traditional ideas about the sanctity of art and the authority of the artist’s signature. By elevating the banknote to the status of an artwork through his signature, he forced viewers to confront their preconceived notions about what constitutes art and what doesn’t. He questioned why society might value a piece of paper with his signature on it differently from a banknote without his signature, or indeed any other object. He challenged the notion that art should be purely about aesthetics or monetary value, instead suggesting that art can be found in the most unexpected places, even on something as mundane as currency.

Andy Warhol (American 1928 – 1987) 2 Dollars (THOMAS JEFFERSON)
signed; stamped by the studio on the reverse, single banknote, 6,5 by 15,5cm
Estimate: R12 000 – R16 000

Andy Warhol’s legacy is as multifaceted as the man himself. His contributions to the art world are unparalleled and his influence on contemporary art is undeniable, permeating virtually every aspect of artistic practice. Moreover, Warhol’s legacy extends beyond the realm of fine art, shaping popular culture in profound ways. His embrace of consumerism, celebrity, and media saturation anticipated the rise of celebrity culture and the digital age, foreshadowing the era of Instagram influencers and viral content. As we continue to grapple with the complexities of consumerism and commodification, Warhol’s artwork serves as a timely reminder of the enduring power of art to provoke, inspire, and challenge our perceptions of the world.

Stephan Welz & Co. is looking forward to offering Ladies and Gentlemen F&S.II.132 and 2 Dollars (Thomas Jefferson), along with other notable pieces, on our upcoming Premium auction in March. If you are interested in viewing the lots going under the hammer please visit For any enquiries or condition reports please email or contact us on  011 880 3125.

Andy Warhol (American 1928 – 1987) Vesuvius, signed and numbered 126/250 in pencil; embossed with the Rupert Jansen Smith, New York chopmark; published by Fondazione Amelio, Naples with the copyright ink stamp on the reverse, screenprint on Arches paper, sheet size: 79,5 by 99,5cm, Hammer: R650 000

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