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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 July, 2004, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
Pop Art takes Christie's by storm
By Laura Smith-Spark
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Warhol's Cow and Bond cinema posters at Christie's
Warhol's colourful Cow prints bear down on the Christie's crowd
A quartet of startlingly-coloured cows stare benevolently above the bidders as Christie's first ever Pop Art auction gets under way in London.

Iconic images of the 1960s and 1970s line the walls, with bizarrely-shaped furniture peeping from the wings.

Among the works for sale are prints by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, textiles, sculpture and photography.

The auction - a sign of Pop Art's current popularity in the art world - attracts an eclectic band of bidders.

Andy Warhol - Fishes, 1983: 21,510
Claes Oldenburg - Giant balloon in shape of screw, 1973: 19,120
Thunderball - four US cinema door poster panels, 1965: 18,522
David Hockney - Ossie Clark, Powis Terrace, London, 1968: 14,340
Guy de Rougemont - Cloud table, 1969: 14,340
Roy Lichtenstein - Whaam! poster, 1967: 13,145

Warhol's series of Cow prints dominate the scene, bringing an unusually lurid drama to the South Kensington branch of Christie's.

A set of James Bond posters hanging next to them - mounted cinema door panels from 1965 - go for over 18,500 after a brisk battle on the floor.

Their new owner, a grey-haired woman wearing pearls, may not match the typical image of the 1960s, but highlights how Pop Art cuts across traditional boundaries.

Among the busy crowd of bidders are middle-aged men in suits, funkily-dressed young blokes and the odd smock-top wearer who may have appreciated the Sixties' revolution first time round.

Paper dress printed with Warhol Campbell's Soup design
The Warhol-print paper dress is designed to be cut to fit the wearer

Tempting them to the auction house are works which span a range of different mediums not normally found on sale in the same room.

Simon Andrews, head of modern design for Christies, says the decision to hold the first Pop Art auction was an easy one.

"I think the Sixities is a period that evokes tremendous popularity in terms of collector interest - there's a lot of scope in it yet," he says.

"Add to that, that we are not alone in doing our bit to promote the Sixties - the Tate's Pop Art exhibition opened on 30 June.

"It's a period when we see a real juxtaposition between fine art and Pop Art, bringing in graphics, photography, furniture and clothing.

It's something that embraces all the needs of Pop - mass production, disposability, advertising, a practical function
Simon Andrews, Christie's
"All are interconnected in a way here that I think is not the case in previous decades."

For Mr Andrews, who spent six months putting together the sale, the lot which sums it up is the Souper dress - a paper garment printed with an Andy Warhol Campbell's Soup design.

He says: "It's something that embraces all the needs of Pop - mass production, disposability, advertising, a practical function.

Flat-pack, self-assembly dining furniture by Max Clendinning
Flat-pack dining furniture by Max Clendinning: a forerunner to Ikea?

"Also with the dress you can cut it to fit, so it's a kind of do-it-yourself thing as well."

People have been "very enthusiastic" about the sale, he says, and the buzzing crowd of customers certainly seem keen to buy.

Although 58 of the 168 lots fail to make their reserve, bidding on other items exceeds estimates by a long way.

A lithograph by Lichtenstein entitled Whaam! fetches more than treble its estimate, going for over 13,000 to a private phone bidder.

All of us as individuals have been shaped by the philosophies that evolved in the 1960s
Simon Andrews, Christie's

A dealer buys Guy de Rougement's Cloud table for 14,340, well above an estimate of 6-9,000, while Warhol's Fishes, paint and silkscreen inks on two canvasses, raises 21,510.

The auction prompted considerable interest from overseas, perhaps because Pop Art itself was a global phenomenon.

"It's something that really is active throughout most of the world from the mid-1960s to the early 70s," Mr Andrews says.

"If you think of your art movements, they are often much more specific to certain countries - Impressionism is French, Symbolism is German and Austrian.

Sleeping Environment, by Ian Ballantine 1968
Sleeping Environment looks like the 60s' child's dream Wendy house

"But Pop really does go across all international boundaries and all the boundaries of medium."

But can the appeal of Pop Art last beyond the short-term, disposable thrill?

Mr Andrews is confident it will, for the next couple of generations at least.

"It's stuff that we can relate to," he says. "We are talking about objects that do have a relevance, an importance and a recognition to our lives.

"It's not as distant as, say, the Art Deco and Arts and Crafts movement which are beyond our living memory.

"All of us as individuals have been shaped by the philosophies that evolved in the 1960s."

Hockney takes art back to basics
03 Jun 04 |  Entertainment
In Pictures: Andy Warhol exhibits
19 May 04 |  In Pictures
Unseen Warhol work in London show
18 May 04 |  Entertainment
In pictures: Lichtenstein at the Hayward
26 Feb 04 |  Photo Gallery
Modern art under the hammer
08 Jan 03 |  Entertainment


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