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Elaine Sturtevant, the artist who turned imitation into originality

2 min read  · 19 Jun 2023

Sturtevant, Triptych Marilyn (2004) Sturtevant, Lichtenstein Girl with Hair Ribbon (1966–67). Copyright artist’s estate. Courtesy of Thaddaeus Ropac

Elaine Sturtevant, the chameleon artist who turned imitation into a unique form of originality, is on the HENI News radar.

The late US artist Elaine Sturtevant has seen her HENI Score—a unique artist sentiment—increase a remarkable 98% after a string of impressive auction results and solo shows in London and New York of her versions of works by famous male Pop artists.

Sturtevant's auction sales have totaled $11.76m over the past two years, notably her Study for Warhol Marilyn (1973), which sold for $2.42m at Phillips in May 2023, more than one and a half times the high estimate. The same month another early work, Oldenburg Store Object, Pie Case (1967), sold for $355,600, more than five times its upper estimate at Sotheby’s.

In 2022, Sturtevant’s Lichtenstein But It’s Hopeless (1968-70) sold for $2.2m at Christie’s, more than two and a half times its upper estimate. A 1965 preparatory drawing and college for a Jasper Johns work sold for $48,000 the same year.

Warhol was relaxed when Sturtevant first made her versions of his works in the 1960s, providing a screen when she asked, whereas Oldenburg was not amused when she opened her version of his The Store in 1967, not far from the original installation in New York.

Undaunted, she carried on appropriating others works, a term she rejected, including Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns and later on Keith Haring.

Thaddaeus Ropac in London and Paris and Matthew Marks in New York, which co-represent the Sturtevant estate, have organised solo shows of her works over the past two years. In 2020, Société in Berlin organised a Sturtevant show of her versions of Flower screenprints by Andy Warhol Flowers, with which she first made her name.

Sturtevant, Lichtenstein Girl with Hair Ribbon (1966–67). Copyright artist’s estate. Courtesy of Thaddaeus Ropac

The artist moved to Paris in the 1990s and re-started making versions of other male artists’ works as well as video installations of appropriated images. Sturtevant always stressed the conceptual originality of her un-original works. She died aged 89 in 2014, just before a major survey show opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “Sturtevant: Double Trouble” confirmed the artist’s place in the historical canon alongside the artists she riffed off.

To get a deeper understanding of Elaine Sturtevant’s career visit her HENI Dashboard; a unique graphical data tool illustrating an artist’s auction sales, shows, profiles, mentions and their HENI Score. You can search for any one of the 100,000 Artist Dashboards to quickly appreciate their trajectory as well as sharing via email, text and WhatsApp.


Elaine Sturtevant