Race Riot
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For a guy renowned for his Campbell’s Soup Cans, Andy Warhol’s Race Riots goes a level deeper.

It’s like John Lennon moving from writing songs like "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" to writing songs like "Revolution."

Race Riot is perhaps not the most aptly named painting, since the protest in the painting actually began as a peaceful demonstration and only turned violent when the unprovoked police unleashed German Shepherds on protesters and sprayed them with fire hoses. The protest was  led by Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Ralph Abernalthy, and Fred Shuttlesworth to oppose lunch counter segregation. The photographer Charles Moore, whose photo Warhol reproduced in this painting, described the police assault, saying, “In Birmingham when I saw the dogs I don't think anything appalled me more, and I've been to Vietnam.”

Warhol essentially stole and reproduced the image from Moore without gaining permission. The picture originally appeared as a full page spread in Life magazine. To take the pictures, Moore faced people who “tripped him, jostled him, and threatened to break his camera.” He even got arrested during the protest for disobeying a police officer (by taking pictures) and faced six months in prison as a result. Moore pulled a classic hide and wait-it-out, and he left the state then waited for the ruling to be overturned. Considering everything Moore went through to take the pictures, it feels fair that he sued the pants off of Warhol for reproducing it without permission. They would ultimately settle the case outside of court, but for some reason, this became a trend for Warhol in the 1960s. He seemingly paid little regard to copyrights and permissions, stealing pictures from both Patricia Caulfield and Fred Ward as well.

Warhol included Race Riot in a series of paintings he titled “Death and Disaster." The series began with 129 Die in Jet (inspired by a plane crash) and continued on to include electric chairs, atomic bombs, and wrecked cars.

Race Riot remains one of the greatest symbols of the Civil Rights Movement, even now. It was owned by Robert Mapplethorpe until 2014, when it sold at an auction for $62,885,000, making it one of Warhol’s most expensive paintings.




  1. "Charles Moore, 79, Dies; Photographed Civil Rights Violence." The Washington Post. March 16, 2010. Accessed July 24, 2018.
  2. Nechvatal, Joseph. "Death and Death and Death by Warhol." Hyperallergic. June 24, 2016. Accessed July 24, 2018.
  3. Admin. "Race Riots by Andy Warhol." ArtPaintingArtist. June 01, 2015. Accessed July 24, 2018.
  4. "Stories His Images Told: Charles Moore." Nieman Reports War Teaches Lessons About Fear and Courage Comments. Accessed July 24, 2018.
  5. Tate. "'Birmingham Race Riot', Andy Warhol, 1964." Tate. Accessed July 24, 2018.
  6. "The Art of the Steal: Warhol Didn't Get Away With It. Why Should Richard Prince?" PDNPulse. May 10, 2012. Accessed July 24, 2018.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Race Riot (Warhol)

Race Riot is an acrylic and silkscreen painting by the American artist Andy Warhol that he executed in 1964. It fetched $62,885,000 at Christie's in New York on 13 May 2014.


In 1963 Warhol began preparing for a large scale exhibition at the Sonnabend Gallery in Paris. Anxious to avoid a charge of mass-consumerism at his first major exhibition abroad, he chose a theme he initially called Death in America. These paintings, of subjects such as car crashes, suicides, food poisoning, the electric chair, gangster funerals, and the Atom Bomb, were to become known as the Death and Disaster paintings. In an interview at the time, he explained what had made him start:

I guess it was the big plane crash picture, the front page of a newspaper: 129 DIE. I was also painting the Marilyns. I realized that everything I was doing must have been Death. It was Christmas or Labor Day—a holiday—and every time you turned on the radio they said something like, "4 million are going to die." That started it. But when you see a gruesome picture over and over again, it doesn't really have any effect.

— Andy Warhol, ARTnews 1963

1963 was also the year of the Birmingham campaign in the Civil Rights Movement. Americans were shocked by a photo-essay published in Life magazine that showed young black protesters being fire-hosed and set upon by police dogs. These Life photographs were by Charles Moore, and the then president John F. Kennedy was to say of them, and of similar images by civil rights photographers of the time, that the events they depicted were "so much more eloquently reported by the news camera than by any number of explanatory words". Three of Moore's photographs were of a dog attacking a black man and although the theme was not strictly "Death", Warhol was sufficiently aware of their power to want to include them in his exhibition, consistent with his aim of showing the dark underside of the American Dream: "My show in Paris is going to be called 'Death in America.' I'll show the electric-chair pictures and the dogs in Birmingham and car wrecks and some suicide pictures." In all Warhol made some ten silkscreen painting on the theme. They became known as his Race Riot paintings (counterfactually, in reality the images were of a peaceful march disrupted by police), and they represent Warhol's only overtly political statement, although he himself insisted that Moore's photographs had merely "caught his eye".

The first four of these paintings (Pink Race Riot in the Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Mustard Race Riot, in the Museum Brandhorst, Munich; and two other examples whose whereabouts are currently unknown) were made in 1963 in direct response to the Life magazine photo-essay and feature all three of Moore's attack dogs photographs.Pink Race Riot was the painting exhibited at the Sonnabend Gallery in 1964. The remaining six paintings in the series, which Warhol called his "little Race Riots", date from 1964. Of these Race Riot, at nearly six feet square, is the largest and the only multicoloured example. It consists of four panels each depicting the same Charles Moore photograph of a black man fleeing a dog tearing at his trousers, the middle of the three that appeared in Life magazine. The panels are tinted in red, white and blue, possibly refracting the byline Life magazine gave Moore's photographs, They Fight a Fire That Won't Go Out. The panels are a faithful representation of Moore's photograph, but with heightened contrast expressing a newsprint quality. Warhol used Moore's photographs without his permission, and Moore subsequently filed a lawsuit against him for copyright infringement. The case was settled out of court.

The painting was originally owned by Sam Wagstaff, who gave it to his partner Robert Mapplethorpe. Wagstaff also commissioned a print from Warhol, Birmingham Race Riot, as part of the series Ten Works by Ten Painters published in an edition of 500 by Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Race Riot (Warhol).