Warhol's concerns run counter to the required optimism. He had started in the previous year his Death and Disaster series showing off the bad side of America. He cannot install his electric chairs or car crashes on this wall that will be seen by the public. He does not choose the empty chair but the portrait of the people who could go up on it.
A friend gave him a printed police booklet with pictures of the thirteen most wanted bandits and a short categorization of their crime. Most of the criminals have their two police photos, face and profile, with the Ben-day dots. Andy makes giant silkscreens 125 x 97 cm from these small images.
He assembles his mural in five rows of five columns that form a disturbing set with a total of 22 actual images. The viewer can play to find which figures are shown only once. Any couple of photos is either joined or scattered. The three positions at the bottom right are empty according to the style that he had previously applied in the Car Crashes.
After discussion with the organizers, Andy covers all of that with an opaque layer of silver paint. The wall picture so disappears just before the opening of the Fair. Several hypotheses have been proposed. I would say that the FBI could not let an artist do the police work.
A little later in the same year, Warhol prepares from his preserved silkscreens the portraits of the bandits both as a single image and as a diptych, using the same numbering as the police notebook. On May 17 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 15 B a diptych of the Most Wanted Men No. 11, John Joseph H., Jr.
In this sinister face book, the robber John Joseph is one of the most disturbing because he appears as an ordinary man, young and handsome. The author of a gang attack with armed hands in a liquor store, he offended the police by escaping before his trial. A gangster remains a man : if he is caught, should he be executed?
Please watch the video shared by Christie's.
SOLD for $ 28.4M including premium