In June 1986, the German Federal Road Haulage Association (BDF) was to host the 20th World Congress of the International Road Transport Union (IRU) in Frankfurt am Main. It was for this occasion that the BDF commissioned Andy Warhol in 1985 to produce a set of screenprints depicting a cargo truck. The German art dealer Hermann Wünsche (1941-1993) acted as the co-publisher and go-between to the artist. Wünsche had been running his gallery out of Bonn and later the neighbouring town of Königswinter on the Rhine since 1971. Back then, Bonn was the capital of West-Germany and two of the most dynamic art centres in Europe, Cologne and Düsseldorf, were in the immediate vicinity.
Hermann Wünsche was one of the first gallerists to bring Andy Warhol to Germany. In 1976 he had arranged for Warhol to make a portrait of Willy Brandt, Germany’s first Social-Democratic Chancellor after the war, and went on to commission portraits of other prominent Germans, such as the president of the Cancer Society, Mildred Scheel (1980), and the goalkeeper of the national football team, Toni Schumacher (1983). Wünsche was a colourful figure, who also ran a small and exclusive nightclub in Bonn called Nachtigall (‘Nightingale’), and it may have been there that the two met. They became friends and collaborators and as early as September 1980 Warhol noted in his diary: “Hermann-the-German Wunsche was just in off the Concorde. He’s doing a catalogue of the prints since the beginning. Lunch for Hermann.” (Pat Hackett (ed.), The Andy Warhol Diaries, Penguin, London, 2010, p. 447.) He was indeed to prepare and self-publish the first catalogue raisonné of the artist’s prints that same year. Apart from the Trucks, Wünsche also published the prints series of Cologne Cathedral (1985) and, just before the artist’s death, Ludwig von Beethoven (1987).
For the German Federal Road Haulage Association to commission a series of prints the established but still controversial American pop artist was a bold and forward-thinking decision. Presumably it was the road hauliers who supplied the artist with photographs as basis for the project, since it is evident that the truck depicted is of a European, not an American, type. In fact, the truck depicted is a MAN F8 19.361, one of the most-used lorries in Germany during the 1980’s.
The subject was very much in line with Warhol’s practice to work with everyday objects and images, such as soup cans, washing powder boxes, advertising posters, and iconic figures, real or fictional. The image of a cargo truck combined a certain quotidian blandness with charisma and visual force, and must have suited him to a tee. After some experimentation with the lines and colours and a number of unique trial proof were printed, the artist and publishers decided to produce a set of four prints in different colour combinations, with backgrounds in yellow, blue, red and black. These were printed in an edition of sixty impressions respectively, plus a small number of proofs and 15 hors commerce-impressions. The distribution was shared between Hermann Wünsche, the Federal Road Haulage Association and the International Road Transport Union.
The present hors commerce-set, numbered 7/15, comes from the archive of the Federal Road Haulage Association, today Bundesverband Güterkraftverkehr Logistik und Entsorgung (BGL), who have decided to part with it.