Andy Warhol Complete Ads Series Portfolio (F & S II.350-359)Facts | History | Meaning
Catalogue Title Ads Series (F & S II.350-359) Year 1985 Size 38″ x 38″ Each 96,5 x 96,5 cm Medium Portfolio of 10 screenprints on Lenox Museum Board. Edition Signed and numbered in pencil as follows: Rebel Without a Cause (James Dean), Van Heusen (Ronald Reagan), Volkswagen, Apple – lower right; Mobil, Blackglama (Judy Garland), Paramount, Life Savers, Chanel, The New Spirit (Donald Duck) – lower left.
Andy Warhol Ads Series (F & S II.350-359)Meaning & History
"In Warhol’s Pop philosophy, people, products and media all enmesh to forge a wider concept of American culture..."
Warhol’s Ads series is a portfolio of ten screenprints executed in 1985, during the twilight of his career. Drawing upon imagery from popular advertisements of household names such as Volkswagen cars to Chanel perfume, each example in the series is a technicolour tribute to the hypnotic power of advertising.
The colour spectrum seen across Ads is astounding in comparison with Warhol’s other product-inspired imagery such as Soup Cans. Moving away from flat, solid blocks of primary colours as he employed then, the tint of the glass Chanel bottle and its gradient background give the tantalising visual illusion of reflectiveness. Similarly the saturated, acidic coloured sweets of Life Savers align with their slogan ‘Please do not lick this page!’, the advertising embodiment of ‘eye-candy’.
The subjects of Ads are unified in their commodification, however, they range from film producers (Paramount) to advertisements for films (James Dean – Rebel Without a Cause) to the first Apple Macintosh computer. In Warhol’s Pop philosophy, people, products and media all enmesh to forge a wider concept of American culture. There are elements of the child-like and nostalgic: both in their dream-like state, and for The New Spirit (Donald Duck), Warhol plays upon the emotional attachment consumers form at a young age by watching television. Ads is highly contemporary with the exponential rise of advertising in the 80s, which saw the introduction of MTV at the time of its creation. Notably, Warhol himself hosted a show on MTV titled Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes. The influence of television is unequivocally felt in Ads which, through their cinematic colouring, appear far more like television advertisements in print.
The incredible allure of Ads may be due to the fact that by 1985, Warhol had been dealing with subjects of a commercial nature for an entire career, having started out as a commercial illustrator for shoes in magazines in the fifties. Coupled with his insatiable appetite for mass media and celebrity, the artist was an expert in the art of appropriation, refashioning some of the most well-known images of all time. Ads arguably can be seen as the ultimate peak of Pop Art, representing everything it stands for. Warhol said: ‘the Pop artists did images that anybody walking down broadway could recognise in a split second.’ This is certainly the case for the Ads series, and prophetically, the Apple Macinstosh which in Warhol’s time was new and pioneering, is today the world’s largest technology company and perhaps more famous than it was in the artist’s own lifetime. And in 1997, after Warhol’s death and twelve years after Ads was made, Chanel used Warhol’s screenprint for a poster campaign. Ultimately, the series can be seen as the very epitome of modern visual language used in advertising, whereby the lines between art and commerce blur beyond recognition. In the artist’s own words: ‘making money is art, and working is art – and good business is the best art’.
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