“The Greatest” – Andy Warhol’s painting of Muhammad will be offered during Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction this upcoming February 20.
The multi-coloured portrait of famous boxer belongs to a set of ten silkscreen portraits of sports giants of the 1970s, including tennis player Chris Evert, golfer Jack Nicklaus and soccer player Pelé. It is expected to sell for an estimated price between US$3.9 million and US$6.5 million.
This series, completed by Warhol between 1977 and 1979, came to life at the bequest of art collector and sports enthusiast Richard Weisman. At the time, the Pop artist was unfamiliar with the athletes that Weisman selected for the series, with the art collector even saying that “Andy didn’t really know the difference between a football and a golf ball.”
Warhol photographed every subject of the series with a Polaroid Big Shot camera, before translating the photographs to acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas. The Pop artist met the legendary boxer, who had then defended his title an extraordinary nine times, at his training camp in Pennsylvania in August 1977.
As Christie’s pointed out, the encounter between the two men was quite eventful, with Ali asking Warhol, “white people gonna pay $25,000 for my picture?!”