Andy Warhol Quilt from Sotheby’s 1988 Auction The sudden and untimely death of Andy Warhol in 1987 after routine gall bladder surgery was a shock to the modern art world. His personal collections were auctioned at Sotheby’s, New York, during a ten-day event from April 23 to May 3, 1988. Sotheby experts spent several months inventorying and cataloguing the materia.
The more than 10.000 items from the Warhol estate–the personal effects of his Manhattan home–make a statement about the man and the background of his art. The man who elevated American commercialism and pop iconography to an art form was a consummate collector of not only fine art but artifacts that represented American consumerism from the avant-garde to the ordinary.
This 1876 antique centennial quilt was included in the auction as part of the Americana and folk art collection. The quilt was made to commemorate the one hundred-year anniversary of the United States, just more than a decade after the
conclusion of the American Civil War. Thus it represents not only traditional American textile art, but attests to the endurance of a nation after a bloody and divisive civil war. This hand-sewn quilt is made of 42 squares of nine pieces each, with the exception of one square that contains 12 pieces. This seeming aberration of pattern is actually a tradition followed by quilters to make one block slightly different from the others. Some quilters use this convention as a signature, whether the effort is by an individual or a group.
The deceptively simple pattern interplays light and dark, juxtaposing boldly-colored shades of dark brown with lighter tones of taupe, ivory, white and pale blue. The rectangular lines of the pattern are accentuated by the predominance of linear designs in the fabrics, including stripes and checks.
The use of subtly-patterned small prints and polka dots offsets the linearity for a pleasant, balanced effect. The occasional use of light blue in the rectangular cross pieces and the triangular insets enlivens the color palette.The border between the squares features small red and blue stars on a white background. The numbers 1776 and 1876 occur at regular intervals, continuing the red, white and blue color scheme.
Warhol himself experimented with patchwork textile art. In his early years, he made patchwork collages by taking cuttings from clothing by couture designers including Oscar de la Renta, Diane von Furstenberg and Valentino. He then used this exotic fabric to create new garments. This simple exercise exemplifies his genius: highlighting the familiar, bringing it to the attention of the viewer, and transforming the traditional into a contemporary statement.