Live Now on Artnet Auctions: Learn How Robert Longo Created His Iconic ‘Men in the Cities’ Prints

'Meryl and Jonathan (complete set of 2 works from Men in the Cities)' capture the emotional potency and grandeur of American capitalism.

Robert Longo, "Meryl and Jonathan (complete set of 2 works from Men in the Cities)," 1988. Available now in Premier Prints & Multiples on Artnet Auctions. Est. $60,000–80,000.

Over the course of his career, Robert Longo has made drawings, photographs, sculptures, and performances depicting scenes from the Occupy Wall Street movement, Black Lives Matter protests, refugee migrations, and more. However, no series has brought the Brooklyn-born artist more recognition and acclaim than his “Men in the Cities,” which renders businessmen and women in states of suspended animation.

Meryl and Jonathan (complete set of 2 works from Men in the Cities) (1988) is an exemplary piece from the highly acclaimed series and, now through October 14, it is available in the “Premier Prints and Multiples” sale on Artnet Auctions.

Longo found inspiration for “Men in the Cities” from neo-noir crime movies and the jerky dance moves of punk rockers. To create his iconic images, the artist invited friends and peers, including photographer Cindy Sherman and gallerist Larry Gagosian, to his New York City studio, where he photographed them dodging tennis balls and being pulled by ropes. Longo cropped out the images’ contextual information, leaving spectacularly contorted poses, many of which the artist himself could not have imagined. He then worked in collaboration with Edition Schellmann to create technically challenging large scale lithographs from his hyper-realistic charcoal drawings of the photographs. 

In Meryl and Jonathan (1988), Longo expressed the figures in subtle and moody tones of grayscale. The hand shading and modeling is evident, as the figures are silhouetted against the cream white paper with dramatic negative space. “Men in the Cities” captures the emotional potency and grandeur of American capitalism with narrative clarity illustrative of the 1980s, yet still relevant today. Prints from this series also appear in the 2000 film American Psycho, adorning the walls of protagonist Patrick Bateman’s apartment; Longo’s film Johnny Mnemonic (1995) further reflects his cinematic inspiration.

Lots from Longo’s ‘Men in the Cities’ series consistently sell for more than their high estimate, signaling a high demand.

These prints are among Longo’s top performing works at auction. Since 2004, the average sale price for works from this series has outperformed its mean estimate. So far in 2021, 68 percent of works from the series that have appeared at auction have sold for higher than their mean estimate. Longo’s overall market is increasingly strong, too, with 55 percent of works selling for more than their high estimate so far this year. 

Meryl and Jonathan (1988) presents the exciting opportunity to collect two large-scale lithographs from what is arguably the artist’s most important body of work. Estimated at $60,000 to 80,000, do not miss this chance to add this significant work to your collection. Bidding is live through October 14.

Contact the specialist for this work, Jannah Greenblatt, with any questions or concerns.

+1 (212) 497-9700 ext. 247

[email protected]

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.