Warhol’s Mastermind Tactics in Mass Production: Endangered Species Portfolio

Andy Warhol has been credited as one of the most valued artists in history, changing the vibes of artwork to focus on what we now call pop-art. A group of related works that Warhol incorporated into this pop-art era are his Endangered Species pieces. Within Andy Warhol’s paintings of the portfolio, Endangered Species, there are many underlying meanings and a concrete process of creation. Ten colored silkscreen prints were made by Warhol in dedication to of a select group of endangered species at the time. These included the bald eagle, black rhino, African elephant, bighorn ram, giant panda, Grevy’s zebra, orangutan, Pine Barrens tree frog, Siberian tiger, and San Francisco silverspot. They were composed on Lenox Museum Board, and are 38 x 38 inches. In the lower center of each painting, they are signed and numbered by Andy Warhol. These paintings are looked as as an entire portfolio and individually in comparison to Warhol’s creations of the Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor, and Muhammad Ali prints (the other screen prints he created that were instantly famous). I find the readings have thoroughly depicted the exploration of character and his creation of material reality, as well as supreme advertising and mass production something prevalent throughout this portfolio’s making.

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The entire portfolio was created in 1983, which was later in the artist’s career after he mastered the idea of capitalism and production. The works have been re-located several times to picture galleries around the world (Carnegie Melon in Pittsburgh, PA, Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, etc.). “1983 April The American Museum of Natural History in new York exhibits Warhol’s editioned print portfolio Endangered Species. Warhol gifts many of the prints to charities concerned with the preservation of the natural environment” (Lowery). Since the paintings were reproduced, there is a large argument of what is considered an “authentic” Andy Warhol painting (especially since these works were done in the 1980’s). Warhol is known for working advertising and art on a large scale, learning that if his works were reproduced (even if not solely created by him) they would still be sold. The Georgetown Frame Shoppe is selling one print of each animal that is thought to be authentic. The only one that has been purchased thus far is the zebra. All others are still available, if interested. However, there is a large debate all over the world to which paintings were manufactured by workers (and potentially only signed by Warhol), or whether he actually did the work himself.

(See Georgetown Frame Shoppe Website here: Georgetown Frame Shoppe: Endangered Species)

The interpretive contexts are complex but make sense due to the time period. The paintings were made because art dealers Ronald and Frayda Feldman commissioned the portfolio after talking to Warhol about the present environmental and ecological issues in the world. Beach erosion was the main topic of conversation. Warhol was known to have a natural curiosity with animals, so he was delighted to take on the project suggested by the Feldman’s. The resulting screenprints were lively interpretations of each of the ten endangered animals. They are extremely colorful and don’t look as though they were painted, but almost printed, forming a material reality. Warhol described as “animals in make up.” Many describe his focus on each animal on its own, “puts them on a level of superstardom along with the infamous screen prints of his past” (ANDY WARHOL, Christie’s). Many remix principles are used within this portfolio because of the way the prints are made, as well as the way they look. Warhol was also using remix in terms of repetition and appropriation when mass producing them. He uses the appropriation (just like in Monroe, Taylor, and Ali’s photos) to re-create an object that is of popular culture or that has an appeal within individuals at that time (i.e. many people care about endangered species throughout the world). He knows that these items are of a completely different genre, with their grainy, slightly “out-of-register” images. Warhol himself said he wanted something that gave more of an assembly line effect. “They looked like mechanically reproduced photos in cheap tabloid newspapers” (Dorment); a combination of real people and animals with a fake, colorful vibe (or as previously mentioned, looking like they are hidden behind “make-up”). Of the ten animals in Warhol’s work, eight remain on the endangered species list. The bald eagle was taken off the endangered species list in 2007 because of a recovery within the species, and the Pine Barrens tree frog was removed in 1983 shortly after Warhol’s creation due to erroneous data on the animal. The reception of the works was generally well-received, especially since the style was similar to previous works. Furthermore, the causation and inspiration of his works were appreciated by all who wish to preserve animals throughout the planet with dwindling populations. It also created an heir of interconnectedness, since the ten species he chose were from many areas across the globe. The exploration of character, Warhol’s creation of material reality, as well as his supreme advertising and mass production are three ideas that make his work unique, and prove that Warhol was a mastermind for capitalist endeavors in for art the marketplace.

Real Footage of the Portfolio (including opinion of artwork and connection to previous works): http://youtu.be/l5pCVqR4iic

Works Cited

“ANDY WARHOL | Endangered Species (F. & S. II.293-302) | Prints Auction | 1980s, Prints & Multiples | Christie’s.” Christie’s, 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2014. <http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/prints-multiples/andy-warhol-endangered-species-5364097-details.aspx>.

“Andy Warhol’s Endangered Species Three Decades on – Image 1 – New Scientist.”Gallery – Andy Warhol’s Endangered Species Three Decades on – Image 1 – New Scientist. New Scientist, June 2012. Web. 03 Mar. 2014. <http://www.newscientist.com/gallery/warhol-endangered-species>.

“Andy Warhol Grevy’s Zebra.” Joseph K. Levene Fine Art Ltd. N.p., 2003. Web. 03 Mar. 2014. <http://www.josephklevenefineartltd.com/NewSite/AndyWarholZebra.htm#.UxUQ3kKwKVs>.

Dorment, Richard. “What Is an Andy Warhol?” The New York Review of Books. N.p., 23 Sept. 2009. Web. 02 Mar. 2014. <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2009/oct/22/what-is-an-andy-warhol/?page=2>.




Jones, Jonathan. “Spilling the Soup on Andy Warhol’s Legacy.” Theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 24 July 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2014 <http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2013/jul/24/andy-warhol-legacy-foundation- lawsuits>.

Kish, Leigh. “Warhol’s Endangered Species Series: Collection of Andy Warhol Prints on View at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.” Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Carnegie Museum of Natural History, 21 Nov. 2011. Web. 03 Mar. 2014. <http://www.carnegiemnh.org/press/pressrelease.aspx?id=17866>.