ARTS & CULTURE
04/25/2014 08:47 am ET Updated Apr 25, 2014

Andy Warhol's Iconic 'Race Riot' Painting Could Fetch Millions At Auction

Most people are familiar with Andy Warhol's pop portraiture, depicting essential elements of popular culture from Marilyn Monroe to Campbell Soup. But just as the eccentric artist was quick to render America's favorite celebrity faces and consumerist icons, he was eager to capture the darker side of the country's cultural landscape. Take, for example, his 1964 piece "Race Riot."

The acrylic and silkscreen painting reproduced a 1963 photograph of police dogs attacking civil rights protesters in Birmingham, Alabama. And it's become the centerpiece of Christie's upcoming postwar and contemporary art sale, poised to fetch an estimated $50 million, auction house representatives told The Huffington Post.

riot
Andy Warhol (1928-1987), "Race Riot," signed and dated 'Andy Warhol 64' (on the overlap of the upper left panel), acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen, in four parts, overall: 60 x 66 in. (152.4 x 167.6 cm.) Painted in 1964.

Dripping in red, white and blue hues, the image is part of Warhol's "Death and Disaster" series, an exploration of the power of journalistic imagery taken out of context and abruptly placed in the realm of contemporary art. The series' more than 70 paintings and prints covered instances of car crashes, suicides, executions and explosions, stripped straight from the pages of newspapers and police archives and transformed into lurid, repetitive photographic artworks.

Warhol explained the origins of the series in an interview with Art News:

"I guess it was the big plane crash picture, the front page of the newspaper: 129 Die. I was also painting the Marilyns. I realized that everything I was doing must have been Death. It was Christmas or Labor Day -- a holiday -- and every time you turned on the radio they said something like “four million are going to die.” That started it. But when you see a gruesome picture over and over again, it really doesn’t have any effect."

Warhol's "Race Riot" image is one in an impressive roster of postwar and contemporary works hitting the auction block next month. A never-before-seen Basquiat painting, an untitled Mark Rothko and yet another Francis Bacon triptych will also see their moments before the Christie's gavel come May 13. Check out a preview of the auction below and let us know your thoughts on the collection of heavyweight masterpieces in the comments.

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), Untitled, acrylic, oilstick and metallic spray enamel on canvas, 68 x 103 in. (172.7 x 261.6 cm.), Painted in 1981, Estimate $20,000,000-$30,000,000
  • Mark Rothko (1903-1970), Untitled, signed and dated 'MARK ROTHKO 1952' (on the reverse), oil on canvas, 103 x 62½ in. (261.6 x 158.7 cm.), Painted in 1952
  • Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards signed, titled, inscribed and dated '3 Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards Francis Bacon 1984, oil on canvas, in three parts each: 78 1/8 x 58¼ in. (198.3 x 148 cm.), Painted in 1984
  • The Bergman Collection, Alexander Calder (1898-1976), Poisson volant (Flying Fish), signed with initials and dated 'CA 57' (on the largest element), hanging mobile--painted sheet metal, rod and wire 24 x 89 x 40 in. (60.9 x 226.0 x 101.6 cm.) Executed in 1957, Estimate $9,000,000-$12,000,000
  • The Bergman Collection, Joseph Cornell (1903-1972), Untitled (Penny Arcade Portrait of Lauren Bacall) with Penny Arcade Portrait of Lauren Bacall: Working Model Based Upon "To Have and Have Not," wood box construction--wood, glass, paint, tinted glass, mirror, foil paper, string, thread and printed paper collage working model-paperboard folder with photographs, photomechanical reproductions, magazine excerpts, pamphlet and notes, 20½ x 17 x 3½ in. (52 x 17.7 x 8.8 cm.), Executed circa 1945-1946. Working model executed 1945-1970, Estimate $4,000,000-$6,000,000
  • Andy Warhol (1928-1987), White Marilyn, signed, dated and inscribed 'To Eleanor Ward Andy Warhol/62' (on the reverse), acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen, 20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm.), Painted in 1962, Estimate $12,000,000-$18,000,000
  • Clyfford Still (1904-1980), PH-1033, signed and dated 'Clyfford 11-29-76' (lower right); signed again and titled 'Clyfford PH-1033' (on the reverse), oil on canvas, 93½ x 83 in. (237.4 x 210.8 cm.), Painted in 1976, Estimate $15,000,000-$20,000,000

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