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$30.1 million for Andy Warhol’s ‘selfie’

Andy Warhol self-portraits during a preview of Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale in New York, May 2, 2014. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

Before there was the “selfie,” there was the self-portrait. And a series of six made by Andy Warhol sold for $30.1 million in New York on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.

According to Sotheby’s, the portraits were first shown in 1986 at Warhol’s only show dedicated to self-portraits. London gallery owner Anthony D’Offay recalls in the series catalog:

 I realised two things: first that Warhol was without question the greatest portrait painter of the 20th century, and secondly that it was many years since he had made an iconic self-portrait. A week later I visited Warhol in New York and suggested to him an exhibition of new self-portraits. A month later he had a series of images to show me in all of which he was wearing the now famous “fright wig.”

The images were made a year before Warhol’s unexpected death in 1987. Sotheby’s describes Warhol’s career and the significance of the portraits:

Throughout his career, self-representation was the lifeblood of Warhol’s work, and of all the Self-Portraits he made throughout his lifetime it was the 1966 and 1986 series which are most revered. …

The 1986 Self-Portraits are universally acknowledged as Warhol’s last great artistic gesture in which he re-attains the artistic high-ground of his seminal works from the 1960s. They are the final, definitive self-image that Warhol left for posterity.

Nick Kirkpatrick is the foreign photo editor at the Washington Post. Follow him on Instagram or Twitter.

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