Modern Art Specialist Picks: Contemporary Prints & Multiples

Many artists have used the printing press to experiment with various forms and create works at a faster rate. From Miró to Warhol, artists have made prints so that their works could be accessible to a more diverse audience. Collecting prints is a strategic way to acquire works by blue chip artists at lower costs and a great opportunity to own an edition of a masterpiece. In short, there’s a lower financial risk and a greater reward.

Our October Prints & Multiples Sale offers a diverse group of Modern and Contemporary Art editions. Here are our favorites.

Holly Sherratt
Director, Modern & Contemporary Art, San Francisco

Thiebaud is best known for his images of cakes, pies, and pasteries. In this sweet work, the scrumptious chocolate cake is beautifully printed with layers upon layers of color on a Japanese paper made from kozo (mulberry bush).  The simple image is rendered in a complex palette: blues, reds, and oranges swirl together revealing abstract patterns and shapes.

Wayne Thiebaud Dark Cake, 1983
Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)
Dark Cake, 1983
Woodcut in colors on Tosa Koso, with full margins


Warhol started his career as a commercial illustrator and shoes became a favorite motif to represent fashion, money, and glamour.  In 1980 Warhol returned to shoes in a series of screenprints showing various styles of stilettos against stark black backgrounds. This print was made as a deluxe edition of only 10 prints.  he large print is stunning in person with glitzy diamond dust that sparkles in the light.

Andy Warhol (1928-1987). Shoes (Deluxe Edition), 1980Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Shoes (Deluxe Edition), 1980
Screenprint with diamond dust on Arches Aquarelle paper



Frank Hettig
Consignment Director, Modern & Contemporary Art

Gregory Crewdson describes himself as an “American realist landscape photographer”, but his photographs have strong references to TV programs such as The Twilight Zone or films as Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This eerie and evocative photograph reminds us of film stills: in the idyllic village something happened: but you don’t know if the man in the car is an offender or a victim: nothing looks like it is.

Gregory Crewdson (b. 1962). Untitled (Car & Spooky Garage), 2001Gregory Crewdson (b. 1962)
Untitled (Car & Spooky Garage), 2001
Dye coupler print


In this auction we are offering various sublime prints by Robert Motherwell. Influenced by the automatism prescribed by Surrealist poets and writers, he is perhaps best known for this iconic “Elegy to the Spanish Republic”. Also in this work “Burning Elegy”, it shows his frequently featured bold black shapes against fields of color.

Robert Motherwell (1915-1991). Burning Elegy, 1991Robert Motherwell (1915-1991)
Burning Elegy, 1991
Lithograph and handcoloring in colors on wove paper, with full margins



Taylor Curry
Consignment Director, Modern & Contemporary Art

The quintessential California artist, Ed Ruscha has become one of today’s most celebrated artists and although he came up in the Pop movement, he has played an essential role in the development of Conceptual Art and the practice of printmaking.  In his Country Cityscape portfolio, Ruscha is trying to invoke the rural with these pastoral scenes, but he is highlighting the way in which nature is as much subject to the cultural forces as is the city. The shape of each white rectangle roughly corresponds to the length of each word as if they have been covered up or cut out. In one sense, the absent text evacuates the image of the violent threat, suggesting that the blanks be read as bandages for the treacherous landscape of the American West. However, in relation to Ruscha’s larger body of work – which includes many text-based prints and paintings – the redaction also suggest gagging or censorship. The last time the Country Cityscapes portfolio has come up at public auction was in 2011, it is exciting to be able to offer this full portfolio from a small edition size at auction this year at Heritage. Ruscha’s market has taken off in 2017; with shows across with US, this series is sure to attract the attention of Ruscha fans from everywhere.

Ed Ruscha (b. 1937). Country Cityscapes, portfolio of six works, 2001Ed Ruscha (b. 1937)
Country Cityscapes, portfolio of six works, 2001
Photogravures with screenprint in colors on wove paper


Shepard Fairey, contemporary artist, graphic designer and illustrator and activist emerged from the skateboarding culture in Southern California. Known for his recognizable graphic style and often-provocative political messages Fairey has captured the attention of many people. He became widely known for his iconic HOPE print from 2008 (also in this sale), produced in support of Barack Obama. But he recently released a series entitled We The People, part of a nonpartisan campaign dedicated to igniting a national dialogue about American identity and values through public art and story sharing. These prints were published on the eve of the Presidential Inauguration by The Amplifier Foundation and limited to an edition of 450. The prints sold out within hours of release and it is rare to find a set with matching edition numbers with such a reasonable estimate. These are iconic images capture the zeitgeist of one of the most hotly contested Presidential elections in recent memory.

Shepard Fairey (b. 1970). We the People (3 works), 2017.Shepard Fairey (b. 1970)
We the People (3 works), 2017
Screenprints in colors on wove paper



Naomi Thune
Consignment Director, Prints & Multiples

The 11 Pop Artists portfolios, were published in three volumes by tobacco giant Philip Morris in 1965. This endeavor promoted the Pop Art movement which brought a new renaissance in printmaking and made fine art available to the American public in ways that had not been achieved before. This volume includes prints by the biggest celebrities of Pop Art, in the images you will find the collusion of popular culture, consumerism and advertising that helped define an era.

11 Pop Artists, Volume II, 1965
The complete portfolio comprising eleven prints in various media
24 x 29-7/8 inches (61.0 x 75.9 cm) (sheet)
Edition XXXIX/L (aside from the edition of 200)
The print by Warhol stamp-signed (as issued), the print by Allan D’Arcangelo unsigned (as issued), the others signed by the artist
Published by Original Editions Project and coordinated by Rosa Esman

Portfolio includes Jim Dine, Throat (M. 36); Peter Phillips, Custom Print II; James Rosenquist, Whipped Butter for Eugen Ruchin (G. 11); Roy Lichtenstein, Reverie (C. 38); Andy Warhol, Jacqueline Kennedy II (F. & S. II.14); Allen Jones, Pour les Lèvres; Allan D’Arcangelo, Landscape II; Gerald Laing, Slide; John Wesley, Bird Lady; Tom Wesselmann, Nude and Mel Ramos, Tobacco Rose.


Leo Castelli’s 90th Birthday was published as a tribute to the iconic New York art dealer Leo Castelli (1907–1999), who played a pivotal role in promoting American art in the post-war era. This portfolio was issued in an edition of ninety, one for each year of Castelli’s life and contributions were made by artists he represented at various times throughout their careers.

Leo Castelli’s 90th Birthday, 1997
The complete portfolio comprising nine prints in various media
37 x 27 inches (94.0 x 68.6 cm) (sheet, each)
Edition LXI/XC (aside from the edition of 90 in Arabic numbers)
Each signed by the artist
Published by Noblet Serigraphie, Inc., New York and coordinated by Jean-Yves Noblet

Portfolio includes Jasper Johns, Leo; Ellsworth Kelly, Blue (for Leo) (A. 276); Joseph Kosuth, Titled Quotation (for L.C.); Roy Lichtenstein, Interior with chair (C. 309); Bruce Nauman, Life fly Lifes Flies; Robert Rauschenberg, Caucus; James Rosenquist, The Flame Sill Dances on Leo’s Book (not in Glenn), Edward Ruscha, L.C. (E. 260) and Richard Serra, Leo.


Leon Benrimon
Director, Modern & Contemporary Art, New York

The print is in the iconic style of Lichtenstein with punchy primary colors, ben-day dots, and heavy black outlines. Lichtenstein used a cliché image of a 1960s female beauty that he found in a comic book titled “Falling in Love.” Rather than copying the image outright, Lichtenstein made the woman even more “stereotypical” by changing her hair color to blonde and adding his own thought-bubble text. He partially obscured the female and text with metalized PVC collage, making her an abstract image of reflections. By removing the original context and hiding his subject behind glass, Lichtenstein leaves his heroine confined and conflicted. The viewer must guess at the events in the narrative and can’t fully grasp what is taking place. This creates an intentional emotional distance between the viewer and the melodrama of the scene. The artist draws attention to the image as a flat and somewhat meaningless construction. By cleverly reworking the original comic illustration, Lichtenstein symbolically underscores the manner in which all stereotypes are constructed.

Roy Lichtenstein Reflections on Girl, from the Reflections series, 1990Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
Reflections on Girl, from the Reflections series, 1990
Lithograph, screenprint, relief, and metalized PVC collage with embossing

Posted by Heritage Editorial

This article was written as a collaborative effort by multiple experts within the category at Heritage Auctions.

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