John Gotti was a famous mobster from the Gambino crime family. Charged with murder, loansharking, racketeering, obstruction of justice, illegal gambling, tax evasion and more, he was, and is, the most infamous member of the Mafia. In 1986, Time magazine was dedicating a cover to Gotti in their “Mafia on Trial” September issue. It was during this time that Gotti had been arrested and was standing trial for racketeering, for which he was acquitted. Warhol was known for creating portraits of the beautiful and glamorous, so when Time Magazine commissioned him to make this cover, he had new subject matter to add to his portfolio. Although Gotti did not fit into Warhol’s usual movie star-musician-artist circle, he did possess some of the attributes that Warhol loved about celebrity life. Gotti was known as “Dapper Don” because of his personality in front of news cameras and his expensive clothing. He was glamorous in his own right, and a celebrity in his crime driven world. The public knew John Gotti’s name.
John Gotti (Blue/Green/Pink) by Andy Warhol as Part of his Larger Body of Work
Andy Warhol was able to take this monster of a man and turn his image into a colorful and contemporary piece of artwork. He chose to illustrate Gotti based off of a publicity photo where he is in a nicely tailored suit with an intimidating demeanor about him. Much like his Mick Jagger portraits, Warhol applied collaged pieces of paper in the background as well as a combination of photographic imagery and hand-drawn lines. The five unique prints are all on white backgrounds as he utilized the colored paper to create the color schemes. Once again geometry and intentionality comes into play with this work, as Warhol carefully placed the collaged pieces and the lines to create a well-balanced, nicely composed piece of art. He created multiple versions of this portrait, and Time chose the one that they felt best depicted the man in their article, John Gotti.