Christie’s is offering Andy Warhol’s Mercedes-Benz W 196 R Grand Prix Car at its upcoming Post-War and Contemporary Art sale, scheduled for November 12, 2013 in New York City. This work of nearly fourteen feet tall, utilizing synthetic polymer and silkscreen inks on canvas, was produced for the Daimler Art Collection on the occasion of the automobile’s centenary in 1986. It is estimated to sell for $12 to $16 million.
Realized the same year as the celebrated “Fright Wig” Self-Portrait, also painted over the black void of the canvas, this piece ranks among the most striking in Warhol’s late oeuvre. The Cars series was Warhol’s last work before his sudden death in 1987.
The Mercedes-Benz W 196 R raced in the 1954 and 1955 Formula One seasons, winning 9 of 12 races entered in the hands of Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss. A real, non-streamlined 1954 Mercedes-Benz W 196 R sold for $29,650,095 at the 2013 Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed auction. The sales price for the ex-Juan Manuel Fangio Formula 1 racing car set the new world record for an automobile sold at public auction.
Here’s Christie’s description of the Warhol piece:
Pictured by Andy Warhol, it becomes a symbol of post-war prosperity, industrial challenge, and America’s fascination with the packaged image of the sleek. Repeated twelve times, the loaded symbol of the car is at once exacerbated and deflated. Conversely there is a remarkably sensual and seductive quality in the way the cars are presented without shadows, as if they were floating, and in the iridescent colors. This repetition process lies at the heart of many of Warhol’s seminal works, such as the Brillo Boxes, Campbell’s Soup Cans or the Marilyn portraits. Warhol indulges in the American fascination with objects, status, beauty, and fame, reveling in the lack of consciousness precipitated by obsessive material desire.
“It is an honor to be entrusted with the sale of this masterwork for such a reputable institution as The Daimler Art Collection”, declared Eva Schweizer, head of the Christie’s office in Stuttgart. “Mercedes-Benz W 196 R Grand Prix Car (Streamlined version, 1954), executed in 1986, was one of Warhol last work before his sudden death.”
The works in the Daimler series were all based on Daimler photographs. The Daimler Warhols were shown at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City in 1988 and then in 2010 at the Albertina Museum in Vienna in the exhibition “Andy Warhol. Cars”. The commission given to Andy Warhol was a landmark for the Daimler Company’s future cooperation with contemporary artists as well as its collection’s early orientation. Artists Robert Longo, Sylvie Fleury, and Vincent Szarek were commissioned to create further works.
The Daimler Art Collection, established over 30 years ago by Daimler-Benz, comprises almost 2,000 modern and contemporary works by more than 700 international artists, ranging from Andy Warhol to Nam June Paik to Walter de Maria and Mark di Suvero. Proceeds from the sale of Warhol’s Mercedes-Benz W 196 R Grand Prix Car (Streamlined version, 1954), will be used to develop Daimler Art Collection’s commitment to art and securing its’ long term future.