Mick Jagger 138 is a screenprint by Andy Warhol from the artist’s Mick Jagger portfolio (1975). A plethora of bands pioneered a wave of cultural liberation during the 1970’s, making the decade a golden age for rock and roll. Formed in 1962, The Rolling Stones were a sexier, wilder act than the Beatles, and Mick Jagger garnered attention for his lewd dance moves and enigmatic stage persona. Mick Jagger 138 features the iconic lead singer of the rock and roll group at the height of this period. Warhol first met Jagger at a party in 1963, the same year he began working on feature length films like Sleep. However, they would not collaborate professionally for another 6 years.
In 1969, Jagger wrote a letter to Warhol asking him to craft an album cover for his band’s upcoming record, Sticky Fingers. Initially, he did not want the album to be too complicated and expressed concern that this could cause irritating delays. “But, having said that, I leave it in your capable hands to do whatever you want,” he avowed.
By this point, Warhol had already produced the Velvet Underground’s first album, The Velvet Underground & Nico. The cover, showing off a banana fashioned in Pop Art bravura, urged the owner to “Peel slowly and see”. When peeled back, the sticker revealed an erotic flesh-colored banana. Taking Jagger’s invitation in stride, Warhol chose to make Sticky Fingers an interactive experience as well. The cover showed a below-the-waist shot of a man wearing a tight pair of Levi’s and included a real zipper that exposed the model’s underwear. Despite its complicated packaging, the album quickly went to Number 1 on the Billboard Chart.
Jagger and Warhol came together again in 1975, when Mick Jagger and the Stones visited his Montauk residence. It was here that they would rehearse for their upcoming tour, and Warhol got a glimpse of Jagger’s appeal firsthand. “Mick Jagger really put Montauk on the map,” Warhol observed. “Two girls with no hair and black cats on leashes followed them all the way to Montauk. Mr. Winters, the caretaker of the estate, found them hiding in the bushes!” Soon after, Warhol took several Polaroids of Jagger that he would eventually turn into a full portfolio. Jagger’s rebellious personality captivated Warhol, but he was also impressed with the rock star’s business savvy. Warhol’s fascination with stardom and commercialism made it the perfect collaboration.
Mick Jagger 138 is unique to this collection as it brings attention to Mick Jagger’s eyes rather than his famous lips. A distinct line drawing further emphasizes one eye, thus drawing the viewer’s mind to Jagger’s internal world. Jagger faces the camera head on, his expression nakedly sincere. Warhol’s use of lighter colors like white, translucent blue and teal bring a continued sense of openness to the work. Yet there is still something mysterious about Warhol’s portrayal of Jagger here. It begs the question: What is going on in his mind?
Warhol had always viewed rock and roll as a transformative force. In his Triple Elvis print (from his most valuable paintings ever sold), he explored the power an enigmatic figure could have on popular culture. Mick Jagger 138 is a continuation of this exercise, an examination of the way one persona can change the world.