Jasper Johns | Three Flags | 1958
Encaustic on canvas, Overall: 30 7/8 x 45 1/2 x 5 in. (78.4 x 115.6 x 12.7 cm).
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; 50th Anniversary Gift of the Gilman Foundation, Inc., The Lauder Foundation, A. Alfred Taubman, Laura-Lee Whittier Woods, and purchase 80.32.
Photograph by Geoffrey Clements
© 2021 Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY
During their first visit to Jasper Johns's studio in 1958, the Tremaines saw the unfinished painting Three Flags, and it was instant desire. They would eventually come to own four of Johns's works over the years, notably White Flag, whose bleached stars and stripes and layers of paint on top of newspaper create a tangible grittiness quite different from an actual flag. Three Flags was sold by the Tremaines in 1980 to the Whitney Museum of American Art, breaking an invisible art world barrier through its sale price of $1 million. It was the highest price paid up until that time for the work of a living American artist. The Tremaines had bought the work from Leo Castelli in 1959, paying a mere $900 for what would become an iconic piece, emblematic of postmodern America.