Andy Warhol Muhammad Ali (F & S II. 179 - 182)Facts | History | Meaning
Catalogue Title Muhammad Ali (F & S II.179 - 182) Year 1978 Size 40″ x 30″ 101,6 x 76,2 cm Medium Portfolio of 4 screenprints on Strathmore Bristol Paper. Edition Edition of 150, 10 AP, 1 PP, signed and numbered in felt pen lower right, except II.179 – lower left. This edition also signed by Muhammad Ali in felt pen.
Andy Warhol Muhammad Ali (F & S II.179 - 182)Meaning & History
"The artist’s meteoric rise to fame, and his enduring Pop Art style means that often the works of art are just as famous as their sitters."
Muhammad Ali is a portfolio of four screenprints published by the artist in 1978 of world boxing heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali. It is a truly significant example of Warhol’s portraiture at this later stage in his career.
When viewed as a whole, each portrait of Muhammad shows what can be seen as a different aspect of his preparation for a fight or participation in one. In 11.179 the boxer looks to his right, appearing deep in concentration, whilst in 11.181 his forearm and fist occupy the whole sheet. Warhol has also only embellished the fist with colour, as if to highlight the power it holds – it almost evokes the stylisation of a comic superhero.
Warhol’s portraits of Muhammad Ali are particularly distinct because it is the first time the artist had ventured into painting athletes: he was known for dealing with celebrities, socialites and glamorous icons. However, athletes such as Muhammad Ali were becoming pop icons and stars themselves, something that Warhol recognised when he was approached by Richard Weisman who commissioned the series. Warhol mused ‘The sports stars of today are the movie stars of yesterday’.
A key feature of Warhol’s portraits is they have two-fold power, in portraying an icon, as well as becoming iconic in their visual language. The artist’s meteoric rise to fame, and his enduring Pop Art style means that often the works of art are just as famous as their sitters.
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