Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announced Friday (Dec. 20) a series of new acquisitions of works by artist Andy Warhol that includes two gifts and a recent purchase. Warhol’s Coca Cola, which has resided in a private collections and an untitled work from Warhol’s early career, is part of the new art for the museum.
The works will be exhibited, together with works already in the Crystal Bridges collection, in the museum’s Twentieth-Century Art Gallery, in time for holiday viewing beginning Dec. 26.
Warhol’s Coca-Cola, was painted in 1962 and is one of four Coca-Cola works produced by Warhol during this critical period in his development, in the early days of Pop Art.
“This is one of the great icons of early Pop,” said Crystal Bridges President Don Bacigalupi. “In it, Warhol celebrates Coca-Cola as an ‘equalizer’ – it’s the same product for anyone who drinks it, anywhere in the world, rich or poor. The work presents a bold image at large scale, signaling Warhol’s transition from a commercial illustrator to Pop artist.”
As a counterpoint to this iconic signature image, the second of the recent Warhol acquisitions presents Warhol at an earlier stage. The untitled work, depicting a sleeping woman and man, was created by Warhol as a student at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), and has been in a single private collection.
A classmate of Warhol’s, Martha Sutherland, purchased the painting directly from the artist in 1949, when he still went by the name Andrew Warhola — the work is signed on the reverse with “WARHOLA” in pencil.
“This painting exemplifies the young artist’s capability as a draftsman even before moving into his early career as an illustrator,” explained Bacigalupi. “His consummate skill can be seen in the beautifully drawn hands in the work.”
This painting has never been viewed publicly. Sutherland and Warhol were classmates when she admired his work and bought the completed painting directly from the artist.
“She maintained and cared for the painting for 64 years, and it occupied a place of pride in her home,” adds Bacigalupi. “She did speak with the author of Warhol’s catalog raisonné, but the painting was excluded when the author died before gathering complete information on this work. Now, we have the rare opportunity to share this significant discovery — an extremely early painting by Andy Warhol — with our Crystal Bridges audience.”
Since 1958, Sutherland has kept the painting in the Arkansas home she shared with her late husband Cyrus, professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture and leader in the movement to preserve Arkansas’ historic buildings. She and her family made the decision to donate the work to Crystal Bridges because they felt strongly that the painting should be publicly seen and appreciated.
“As classmates, I had the personal connection with Warhol, and if we were to pass this painting on to family members, it loses some of that personal meaning,” said Sutherland. “My daughter and I were at Crystal Bridges for the museum’s opening and have since visited many times; we concluded that the best place for the artwork is in a museum, and that a museum in our region seemed like a natural fit.”
The two new additions join the Warhol works already exhibited at Crystal Bridges: Hammer and Sickle (1977), and Dolly Parton (1985).
A third acquisition of Warhol works will not be immediately exhibited, but is another important new addition to the Crystal Bridges collection. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts has donated to the museum a book of 21 dye diffusion transfer prints (Polaroid Polacolor Type 108) from 1971.
“These unique works document both the social circle that the artist cultivated, and the individuals who sat for his painted portraits,” says Bacigalupi. “We look forward to sharing this gift with Crystal Bridges’ guests in the near future.”