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Warhol Riot v. Warhol Crash

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Are we running out of Andy Warhols? Two of the artist’s “Death and Disaster” paintings face off in the evening contemporary sales this year, and though the artist’s car wrecks, electric chairs, and riots have in the past been a tougher sell than his celebrities, the shortage of inventory has prices for these works looking surprisingly vigorous. At Christie’s, Warhol’s 1963 Mustard Race Riot is expected to go for $15 million or more—pushing close to the artist’s auction record of $17 million. The painting, a large double panel, sets images of the Birmingham race riots against a plane of unsettling yellow. Sotheby’s has its own 1963 Warhol, 5 Deaths Twice I (Red Car Crash), a double image of an upturned car on a fiery background, priced at $5.5 million to $6.5 million. No matter the subject, people still seem to want a piece of Andy, even as—or because —there’s less of his work to go around. (The recently published catalogue raisonné reveals that there are fewer large-scale Warhol paintings out there than one might think—especially the really good ones.) Perhaps it’s no accident that the big “Disaster”s, tough subjects for a tough age, look as contemporary these days as they ever have.


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