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© Andy Warhol / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY.

Andy Warhol: Elvis Presley

Andy Warhol created his first painting of Elvis Presley in 1963, portraying the King of Pop dressed up as a cowboy with a gun in hand, aimed at the viewer. Modeled after a publicity still for the film Flaming Star (1960), the portrait is also the artist’s only portrayal of a full-length figure. For the fame-obsessed Warhol, Elvis was an especially intriguing subject to explore in the early ’60s, as the musical legend’s career declined, already overshadowed by a new generation of performers. Showing how Elvis had turned into a mass-produced commodity, not unlike Campbell’s Soup Cans, Warhol often portrayed repeated images of Elvis on the same canvas. One of these works, Triple Elvis (Ferus Type) (1963), holds the auction record for the series, selling for nearly $82 million at Christie’s in 2014. A similar piece, Double Elvis (1963) now hangs in the Museum of Modern Art, but originally left Warhol’s studio as a gift to Bob Dylan, who could not have anticipated the future market value of this present. “I once traded an Andy Warhol Elvis Presley for a sofa, which was a stupid thing to do,” Dylan later regretted.

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