Gems 188 by Andy Warhol is one of the four pieces in our complete Gems portfolio. This print beautifully depicts a large emerald, a precious gem that is emblematic of wealth and glamour. Warhol rendered the print in contrasting pink and orange colors in the background to help the gem’s colors pop, along with touches of white to imitate the reflection and sparkle of a jewel.
Warhol himself became an avid jewelry collector, however his impressive collection wasn’t discovered until after his death in 1987. He published this series towards the end of his career, marking his expressive turn. This portfolio showcases the individuality of four gems through Warhol’s Pop variation on traditional still life. Semi-precious gems such as rubies and diamonds embody the idea of beauty and glamour that resonates with the rest of Warhol’s work, which contrasts with the mechanical aesthetic of his earlier work, such as the Campbell’s Soup series..
In Gems 188, Warhol subverts traditional still life with his Pop Art aesthetic. This experimentation reflects the development of his career, beginning as a freelance commercial illustrator for fashion magazines such as Glamour, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar in the 1950s. In this series, Warhol returns to depicting inanimate objects. However, these gemstones are significantly more glamorous than the shoes and everyday fashion accessories he started off drawing.
Andy Warhol became a collector of jewelry after his success. He often wore elaborate pieces by Cartier or Harry Winston when attending parties, displaying his love for precious gemstones. The Gems prints, featuring emeralds and rubies, is a series Warhol created later in life. Gems 188 series has an autobiographical dimension in that Warhol had a secret love of feminine things, which he sometimes concealed by wearing his jewelry under his clothes. Warhol’s appreciation of all things decadent comes across in this series and other works he did around the same time, including After The Party 1979, Shoes 1980, and Reigning Queens 1985.