An O.J. Simpson silkscreen portrait by Andy Warhol sold for $482,600 at a New York auction last week.
The portrait was part of Warhol’s famed “Athletes Series” consisting of 200-plus works completed between March and November of 1977, according to the Phillips auction house.
Simpson was 30 years old, the star running back of the Buffalo Bills, and an aspiring actor when he met Warhol in a Buffalo hotel room on Oct. 19, 1977. The artist snapped 46 Polaroids of Simpson wearing a plaid shirt under a blazer, using two of them as source images for 11 portraits, per Phillips.
That same day, the Associated Press reports, Warhol wrote in his diary: “He had a five-day beard and I thought the pictures would be awful.”
Andy Warhol painted this portrait of O.J. Simpson in 1977 as a part of his ‘Athletes Series’
Created nearly 20 years before the murders, Simpson was seemingly on his way to becoming one of the greatest players in history.Advertisement
It’s at auction at Phillips this month with a high est.… pic.twitter.com/sQZWISKWdU
— Will Stern (@WillStern_) May 1, 2023
Of course, the portrait carries alternative significance today. In 1995, Simpson was acquitted of the double murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. He was subsequently found liable for the deaths in civil court and ordered to pay $33.5 million to the victims’ families, the AP article notes.
“Those who view the image of Simpson staring directly down the camera are likely to recall the other notorious picture of the celebrity — his mugshot,” Robert Manley, co-head of 20th century and contemporary art at Phillips, told the AP. “Juxtaposing these two images, created at such different points in Simpson’s life, shows a fascinating trajectory of celebrity and tragedy.”
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