Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1963-64Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvasEstimate: £5–7 million Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1963-64
Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
Estimate: £5–7 million

In the early 1960s the legendary Pop art pioneer had achieved recognition for his candid portrayals of luminaries including Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor. Self-Portrait, 1963-64, captures the very first time that Warhol became his won subject, his first selfie, to use 2013's word of the year.

This was a turning point that reverberated throughout his oeuvre, as Warhol joined the ranks of Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Picasso to take his place among the most important and influential self-portraitists in the history of art. Created when Warhol was 35 years old, Self-Portrait will be offered at auction for the first time, 30 years after the artist's death in 1987.

''In the age of Instagram, Warhol's fabled prediction that ‘in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes’ has never felt more prophetic, and the artist’s first self-portraits - created using a strip of photographs taken in a New York dime store photo-booth - have never felt more relevant to contemporary culture. This is a work of immense art historical importance that marks the watershed moment when Warhol joined the canon of the greatest self-portraitists,'' commented James Sevier, Senior Specialist, Contemporary Art.

At the time that Self Portrait was conceived,Warhol's fame in the art world was blossoming. In 1963, famed collector Florence Barron wanted her own portrait done in his already iconic style. However, Ivan Karp, dealer at New York’s legendary Leo Castelli Gallery, managed to persuade both artist and patron that a self-portrait would be even more appropriate. The dealer, convinced that a self-portraiture series would propel Warhol to new heights, had been trying to persuade the artist for some time: ''You know, people want to see you. Your looks are responsible for a certain part of your fame – they feed the imagination.''

Self-Portrait was created using images taken in a New York photo-booth. The use of such unconventional source material was, at this time, fiercely innovative, and added to the aura of technical invention that already surrounded this artist, who had pioneered the use of silkscreen printing in art only a couple of years previously. Warhol had previously used the same photo-booth medium to create an extraordinary portrait of the famous New York collector Ethel Scull.

These miniature portraits from dime store photo-booths perfectly suited Warhol's vision for a new type of art to suit the Pop era: they were mechanical, democratic, and quintessentially all-American. In an age before photography was ubiquitous, these photo-booths subjected the everyman to the same paparazzi flash bulbs as the most glamorous celebrity.

In 1968 the artist was critically wounded by a gunshot and, although he survived, themes related to the fragility of human life became ever more prominent from this point on. In the 1978 work Self-Portrait with Skull, and the famous Fright Wig series of 1986, Warhol showed himself confronting the reality time with a Rembrandt-esque sense of poignancy.

More than any artist before him, Warhol’s image, identity, and constructed public persona, were inextricably bound to his art. The self-portraits thus became the richest and most fertile sites for his invention. Starting with this first self portrait, Warhol commodified himself into an icon, becoming as recognisable as identifiable as Elvis, Marilyn Monroe or Elizabth Taylor.

In Self-Portrait, as much as in any of the self-portraits that followed, Warhol presents himself as a constructed fiction. We are reminded of the artist’s 1967 statement: ''If you want to know about Andy Warhol, then just look at the surface of my pictures, my movies and me and there I am: there’s nothing in between.''

The work will hit the auction block on June 28, 2017 at Sotheby's.

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