Andy Warhol’s Muhammad Ali complete portfolio includes four screenprints of the renowned boxer. The screenprints are based on Polaroids that Warhol took of Ali, though originally he did not want Andy Warhol to photograph or make screenprints of him. However, later in life, Ali acquired a complete portfolio of the series himself. Warhol met Ali in 1977 while working on a commissioned photographic series based on celebrity athletes, which contributed to his interest in the boxer and subsequent collaboration published in 1978.
Prior to his Muhammad Ali complete portfolio, in 1977, Warhol photographed Muhammed Ali for his Athletes series. Richard Weisman, who was both an art collector and a sports enthusiast, initiated the project, which included athletes like soccer player, Pelé, and golfer, Jack Nicklaus. Even though Warhol wasn’t a fan of sports himself, he did see an interest in the realm of an athlete’s celebrity and fame. Ali proved to be a difficult subject, but Warhol managed to snap a few photos of him during a marathon session. For Ali, the image of his fist symbolizes his success, his identity and his celebrity. Although Warhol wasn’t a sports enthusiast, he was fascinated by the fame that athletes like Ali had acquired. He recalled: “I really got to love the athletes because they are the really big stars.” The Muhammad Ali complete portfolio includes FS II.179-182.