Art Insight – What Becomes a Legend Most

One of the most famous advertising campaigns of the 20th century began in 1968: the series of full-page, black-and-white print ads for “Blackglama” furs. The campaign was an instant success thanks to the (at the time) new formula of combining a brilliant tag line, with a glamourous and famous icon to promote a luxury item. 

“What becomes a Legend most?” is the memorable slogan for Blackglama furs.  

Something that has always intrigued people about the brand name is: why the GLAMA in Blackglama, is not GLAMOUR? The whole campaign started when approximately 400 mink ranchers from the Great Lakes Mink Association (a.k.a. GLMA) were looking to revamp the image of their product. Ad executive, Jane Trahey of Jane Trahery Associates in NYC came up with the idea to incorporate the deep black color of the mink and the name of the association.   Thus the name and the memorable slogan were born: “What becomes a Legend most?” (the “L” in legend was always capitalized). 

Famed photographer Richard Avadon was brought on by the campaign to photograph the most important female celebrities of the time. In the first year alone, Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis and Judy Garland modeled for the brand. Every model was gifted an $8,000 Blackglama mink coat. Legend has it that Judy Garland left the studio without even bothering to have hers lined. 

Here below we see Avadon’s contact sheet of Judy Garland posing in her Blackglama for the ad campaign

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This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Blackglama, from Ads, featuring Judy Garland by Andy Warhol. Ever the observer of the times in which he lived, the artist, who began his career as a commercial illustrator in the 50’s was fascinated with the commercial world. Warhol glamorized and transformed celebrities and everyday objects like soup cans and Brillo Pads, into works of art. In the mid 1980’s he created one of his most sought after and iconic sets of screenprints: the Ads Series. Andy Warhol’s work explores the themes and the relationship between artistic expression, and the celebrity culture, advertisement, capitalism and consumerism that were prevalent at the time. The cultural force that was the Blackglama ad campaign fit perfectly into his philosophy and was a obvious choice to include into the Ads portfolio.

This particular version of Warhol’s Blackglama is a unique working proof, outside of the regular edition. It is much different from the one that we are most familiar with. In this work, the most notable difference is the background and the colors of Judy Garland herself. In the regular edition, the background is black and the color blue is the most prevalent for the mink, as well as her hair. In this working proof, there are more colors and the detail of Judy Garland’s face, hair and mink are more pronounced. The slogan at the top even has a slightly different hue. 

Another noticeable difference is the size of this work. The regular edition Blackglama measures 38 x 38 in. This working proof measures 40 x 40 in. If you look closely at the bottom and left margins, you will see traces of regular edition coloring underneath this unique proof. Warhol did this quite often, working out different color arrangements and schemes until he got it just right. 

These working proofs have become quite rare, hard to find and highly sought after. Each proof is different. Each proof is considered a unique work of art. This unique working proof of Blackglama is certified by the Andy Warhol foundation on the verso with its registration number. It is also accompanied with a letter of authenticity by the Andy Warhol Authentication Board. 

The complete Ads portfolio by Andy Warhol: 

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