ARTIST ROOMS

Andy Warhol Statue of Liberty 1986

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Artwork details

Artist
Andy Warhol 1928–1987
Title
Statue of Liberty
Date 1986
Medium 6 photographs, gelatine silver print on paper and thread
Dimensions Object: 695 x 805 mm
Collection
Acquisition ARTIST ROOMS
Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
Reference
AR00287
Not on display

Summary

This work consists of six silver gelatin black and white photographic prints of the same image that are stitched together with thread into a grid of two rows of three. Trails of thread are left hanging at the ends of the joins of the images. The photograph depicts a rectangular banner celebrating the centenary of the erection of the Statue of Liberty in New York. The banner occupies almost all of the portrait-orientated photograph, although it is shot at a slight angle, so the right edge is slightly further away from the camera than the left. The banner features a schematic image of the head and crown of the Statue of Liberty as though seen from below. Around the head and between the pointed shards of the crown are pentagram stars of various sizes accompanied by the words ‘Liberty Enlightening the World’ (which is the actual name of the statue) and the dates of the centenary (1886 and 1986). Below the head at the bottom of the banner are three horizontal wavy lines, possibly a reference to the statue’s location in the New York harbour.

Between 1982 and 1987 Andy Warhol produced over five hundred unique stitched photograph works each comprising several prints of the same photograph stitched together with thread. The subject matter of the photographs used for the stitched works varies considerably, from portraits to still lifes. The images used as the basis for the stitched photographs were all taken by Warhol, who took photographs almost every day from 1976 onwards using several 35 mm cameras. When he began making the stitched photograph works Warhol selected images from among the thousands he had amassed.

The six photographic prints that make up this work have been developed to different extents: from the top left-hand corner to the bottom right-hand corner the images move from a bleached whiteness in which the content of the bottom half of the photograph is difficult to discern, to a darker image in which some details fade to black. In many of the stitched photograph works the multiple images that make up the piece are developed in the same way, and are thus identical. However, some of them, including this work, are constituted from variously shaded versions of the same photograph. According to art historian William Ganis, this distinction may be due to the different techniques Warhol’s assistants employed to make particular stitched photograph works. Ganis writes, ‘The prints made by [Christopher] Makos often have more variation across the images; those printed by Terry Murillo are more homogeneous’ (Ganis 2004, p.30). What is notable about Statue of Liberty is that the move from light to dark across the images relates to the subject of the work, even if the appearance of the word ‘enlightening’ on the banner seems to be counteracted by the increasing darkness of the photographs if viewed from left to right.

The Statue of Liberty is featured in a number of works by Warhol, including another stitched photograph work made not from an image of a celebratory banner but from four identical photographs of the statue itself. In 1962 he made two optical paintings featuring the iconic monument, in which an appropriated postcard image was repeated multiple times across the canvas. Washes of red and green paint variously revealed or obscured the statue in a manner similar to the way in which the alternative versions of the image in this work are more or less legible. In 1986, the same year he made this stitched photograph, Warhol produced a number of six-by-six-foot paintings of the statue. Each was centred on a close-up of the figure’s head overlaid with boldly coloured camouflage patterns. An exhibition of these works called Ten Statues of Liberty took place in Paris at Galerie Lavignes-Bastille in April and May 1986. Although the photograph used as the basis for this work refers to the Statue of Liberty, it is actually an image of a sign. A number of other stitched photograph works also depict signs, including Cough 1986 (Tate AR00292).

Warhol regularly made work in various media featuring images of architecture and monuments. While travelling around the world in 1956 he made sketchbook drawings of buildings in Cambodia and Japan. He also created screenprints of iconic edifices such as the Washington Monument, and was commissioned to produce paintings of buildings such as Trump Tower on Madison Avenue in New York. Other stitched photograph works also include images of buildings and monuments, including the World Trade Centre. One of Warhol’s most famous works is an eight hour film of the Empire State Building made in 1964 and called Empire, in which the building’s monumental status is recorded in a film of monumental length.

Further reading
William V. Ganis, Andy Warhol’s Serial Photography, Cambridge 2004.
Christopher Makos, Warhol / Makos in Context, New York 2007.

Glyn Davis
University of Edinburgh
December 2013

The University of Edinburgh is a research partner of ARTIST ROOMS.

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