Christie’s is hoping for a knockout at its November sales of post-war and contemporary art, where it will offer Andy Warhol’s famed “Athletes” series (1977–79), featuring sports giants like Muhammad Ali, Dorothy Hamill, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The works come from the collection of the late Richard L. Weisman. Additional paintings, drawings, and sculptures from his collection will be sold in other Christie’s sales through 2020; the auction house expects sales of Weisman works to bring in over $15 million this year alone.
Warhol created the series of athlete portraits at the behest of Weisman himself, using a Polaroid Big Shot Camera and translating the photographs to acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas. The images reflected the commercialization of sports, and went on to appear in advertisements for sportswear, cars, and even breakfast cereals. Most of the “Athletes”paintings are estimated to sell in the $150,000 to $600,000 range, though the portrait Muhammad Ali is expected to fetch between $4 million and $6 million.
“The sports stars of today are the movie stars of yesterday,” Warhol once said.
Weisman, the son of notable art collectors Frederick and Marcia Weisman, was a member of Warhol’s inner circle and commissioned eight sets of the series. Weisman selected the athletes himself, saying, “Andy didn’t really know the difference between a football and a golf ball.” One series set was stolen from Weisman’s home in 2009, but eventually recovered by the FBI, according to the Observer.
In addition to Warhol’s “Athletes”series, Weisman collected works by his friends James Rosenquist and Peter Beard. He also owned works by Norman Rockwell, Tom Wesselmann, Alberto Giacometti, and Roy Lichtenstein.