Andy Warhol Mercedes-Benz W196 silkscreen heads to auction.Enlarge Photo
Classic cars fetch millions of dollars at auction, but what about classic car art? Mercedes-Benz W 196 R Grand Prix Car (streamlined version, 1954), an Andy Warhol silkscreen depicting the legendary Mercedes racer, is expected to bring up to $16 million at auction, Hemmings reports.
Measuring more than 13 feet long and 15 feet wide, the piece features repeated images of the W196, in a similar style to Warhol's famous Marlyn Monroe diptych. The W196 piece was part of the Cars series of silkscreens commissioned by Mercedes to highlight milestone cars from throughout the company's history.
Warhol saw the repetition of images of a desirable consumer good as a comment on American materialism. Mercedes must have seen it as free advertising.
Mercedes reportedly commissioned 80 silkscreens depicting 20 different cars, but only 36 pieces depicting eight cars were completed before Warhol's death in 1987.
The W196 grand prix car was driven by such racing luminaries as Juan Manuel Fangio and Sterling Moss. The 1954 version featured a streamlined body designed for high-speed tracks like Rheims and Monza. The actual 1954 W196 driven by Fangio sold for $29.7 million last year.
While he never had a driver's license, Warhol was a bit of a car fan. In addition to the large Mercedes project, he did a smaller series of four pieces in 1986, inspired by the company's centennial. He also painted a BMW M1 for the Munich-based automaker's famous series of art cars.
Daimler currently owns W 196 R and the rest of the Cars series. It says it's selling the works to secure their long-term future. The silkscreen will cross the block at Christie's Postwar and Contemporary Evening Sale in New York City on November 12. The auction house estimates a pricetag of $12 million to $16 million. While that might be a record for car art, the most expensive car ever sold--a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO--went for $52 million.