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Bullet-Riddled Warhol’s Mao Screenprint Leads Dennis Hopper Collection Auction

by WorthPoint Staff (01/12/11).

“Mao: one plate (F. & S. II. 99) screenprint in colors” (1972) by Andy Warhol, pierced by bullets by Dennis Hopper in a “collaboration with the artist, realized $302,500 at an auction of the actor’s collection hosted by Christie’s on Jan. 12, 2011.

An Andy Warhol portrait of Mao, punctured by two bullets fired by actor Dennis Hopper, was the top lot in a collection of nearly 300 items from the actor’s collection sold at auction at Christie’s on Jan. 12, 2011.

“Mao: one plate (F. & S. II. 99) screenprint in colors” (1972), realized $302,500, garnering a new world auction record for a single print from the iconic Warhol series. In total, the “Property from the Dennis Hopper Collection” realized $14,741,657, including this month’s sales as well as the November 2010 Post-War and Contemporary Evening and Day Sales, in which more than 30 important works from Hopper’s personal collection were auctioned.

The January sale features 241 works of art, including pieces by major artists such as Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Gerhard Richter, Annie Leibovitz, Helmut Newton, Kenny Scharf, and fellow actor Viggo Mortensen, among others. The sale also featured a large group of ephemera, memorabilia, furniture and decorative objects from the late actor’s homes.

“This special selection offerd fascinating insight into Dennis Hopper’s own collecting vision, which was grounded in the Beat Generation of artists whose careers were launching at the same time that Hopper’s own star began to rise in Hollywood,” said Cathy Elkies, director of iconic collections at Christie’s.

Bruce Conner’s “Picnic on the Grass,” fabric, printed paper, plastic, string, acorn, gouache and glass on masonite, sold for $96,100, nearly six and a half times the pre-auction estimate.

“Hopper was that rare combination of artist, celebrity and collector, with a keen eye for selecting works that have withstood the test of time,” Elkies added. “For both new and established collectors, this sale represents an exciting opportunity to acquire works by some of the greatest names in American contemporary art, with the added imprimatur of one of our most beloved celebrity collectors.”

Warhol’s “Mao: one plate,” a full-sheet, framed screenprint of the Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong, is from Warhol’s iconic series of the 1970s. As the story goes, Hopper’s version is uniquely accessorized with two bullet holes—the result of a particularly wild night when Hopper mistook the portrait on his wall for Mao himself and shot at it. Hopper later showed the bullet punctures to his friend Warhol, and the pair agreed to call the work a collaboration, with Warhol drawing circles around the two holes and labeling them “warning shot” and “bullet hole.”

In addition to his long friendship with Warhol and the artist’s extended circle of West Coast artists, collectors and dealers, Hopper was deeply immersed in the arts scene revolving around the Ferus Gallery in L.A., which was founded by the critic Walter Hopps and Hopper’s friend, artist Ed Kienholz. By the mid-1960s, Hopper had amassed a sizable collection of works by those artists he was closest to, including Wallace Berman, Bruce Conner, George Herms, Ed Ruscha and Robert Irwin, as well as the East Coast artists Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, and Roy Lichtenstein, among others.

Wallace Berman’s “Untitled,” verifax collage, brought $42,500 at auction.

Other top-selling items from the auction includes:

• Andy Warhol, “Marilyn”: one plate (F. & S. II.27) screenprint in colors, 1967, $206,500;
• Bruce Conner, “Picnic on the Grass,” fabric, printed paper, plastic, string, acorn, gouache and glass on masonite, $96,100;
• Wallace Berman, “Untitled”, verifax collage, 1963, $42,500;
• Gerhard Richter, “Untitled,” graphite on paper, 1988, $32,500.

For more information about this auction, visit the Christie’s Web site.

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