Paradoxically the most shocking image does not display death but only its instrument. In 1964 Warhol prepares a screen from a photo of the Sing Sing electric chair, in the middle of its big empty room, without any human presence. He makes 32 monochrome paintings 56 x 71 cm, each one in another color, conceived to be exhibited together. The chilling blue version was sold for $ 11.6M including premium by Christie's on November 10, 2015.
In 1967 Warhol prepares for the next year a new exhibition that will focus on the two extreme themes, life and death, symbolized by the flowers and by the electric chair. He executes in 1967 and 1968 14 large paintings 137 x 188 cm of the electric chair based on an enlargement of the central part of the original image.
Most of these paintings are monochrome. One of them is an exception. The background consists of three oblique stripes that symbolize life : blue of the sky, green of the grass, pink of the flesh. The chair is printed twice, in army green and dark purple, more threatening by their very low contrast with the background.
This Big Electric Chair was sold for $ 20.4M including premium by Sotheby's on May 14, 2014. It is estimated $ 18M for sale by Christie's in New York on November 13, lot 20 B.
All the Warhol chairs were painted after the decommissioning of the Sing Sing instrument, decided in 1963. Indeed other similar chairs continued to function in the world, but it will never be clear whether Warhol had an activivist intent behind this morbid theme. In June 1968 the assassination attempt on Warhol by Valerie Solanas is a real encounter between the artist and death.
SOLD for $ 19M including premium