Andy Warhol’s painting of a colossal car crash could sell for more than $80 million

Written by the author Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

He may be best known for his pop art iconography of Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, Chairman Mao and Campbell’s soup cans, but next month, a “breakable” screen print of a wrecked car will be up for sale at Sotheby’s in New York. Going under the hammer on Nov. 16, the auction house’s marquee week, it’s expected to sell for more than $80 million, according to a press release.

“White Disaster (White Car Crash 19 Times)” is a colossal painting by Warhol in 1963 as part of the “Death and Disaster” series. At the time, Warhol was obsessed with gruesome and morbid images—clouds of atomic bombs, electric chairs—and how print publications reproduced them, believing that readers had become immune to their influence. Of all his works, the series dealt explicitly with his fixation on human mortality.

A rare large-scale Andy Warhol screen print is coming up for auction in November. Credit: Brownie Harris/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

In “White Disaster,” Warhol duplicated a single black-and-white image of a car accident 19 times. At 12 meters high and 6 meters wide, it is his largest car accident work.

“What renews (the painting) is not only its enormous scale, which amazes anyone who stands in front of it … but also its palette,” explained David Galperin, head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s New York, adding that Warhol echoed it. his image in the series in different shades, including lavender and orange. “It really shines, the way the silky black screen registers against the stark white background.”

"Within this image lies the power to feel dwarf," said David Galperin, curator of contemporary art at Sotheby's New York.

“There is a power to feel diminished within this image,” said David Galperin, head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s New York. Credit: Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Galperin compared the scale and form of the piece to religious altarpieces, referring to Warhol’s Catholic upbringing and religious undercurrents in his work, particularly how his paintings of religious icons informed his celebrity portraits. Warhol worked on the “Death and Disaster” series after her death in 1962 at the same time that he screen-printed the famous images of Monroe.

“Celebrity, tragedy, fame, these ideas of death are the themes that occupied Warhol and I think that the series he was working on at the same time, the paintings of Marilyn and the paintings of ‘Death and Disaster’ are closely related,” said Galperin.

"Silver Car Crash" it set a record in 2013 when it hit $100 million.

“Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)” set the record in 2013 when it hit $100 million. Credit: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

In 2013, a smaller work in the series, “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster),” sold at Sotheby’s for a record $105.4 million. It was Warhol’s most expensive work of art until last year, when a 40-inch screen print of Monroe broke the record for any American artist at $195 million.

Prior to the sale, “White Disaster” will be on display at Sotheby’s New York from November 4-16. It has been in a private collection for 25 years and previously belonged to Heiner Friedrich Dia Art Foundation founder and art dealer Thomas Ammann, according to Sotheby’s. He has appeared in major exhibitions on Warhol and pop art at the Tate Museum in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Center Pompidou in Paris and, finally, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.