A selection of early Andy Warhol paintings held in his family for more than 70 years will be auctioned later this year, according to a nephew of Warhol, artist James Warhola.
The 10 paintings were created by Warhol (1928-1987) while attending the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “They really show my uncle’s early years of discovery about how to create art and his aspiration to be an artist,” Warhola told Penta.
Warhol (born Andrew Warhola Jr.) left Pittsburgh for New York in 1949 and worked as a commercial artist for nearly a decade. He achieved international fame as a leading figure in the visual art movement known as Pop art in the 1960s with his iconic paintings of everyday objects, such as Campbell’s CPB soup cans,
Coca-Cola Knockout Bottles,
and Brillo boxes, in addition to bold and vibrant celebrity portraits.
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In May, Warhol’s 1964 portrait of actress Marilyn Monroe sold for $195 million at a Christie’s auction in New York, making it America’s most most expensive artwork sold at auction and the second most expensive work of art sold at auction, behind only Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi”, which sold for $450 million in 2017 at Christie’s.
“It’s hard to believe that the portrait of Marilyn Monroe, painted in her studio that I often visited, became the highest-paid American painting,” Warhola says. “Thanks to my uncle’s imagination, it made our decision to sell our family collection much easier.”
Warhola and his six siblings have been considering selling the group of 10 paintings since their parents died several years ago. After Warhol left Pittsburgh, the paintings were taken over by their father Paul, the eldest of Warhol’s brothers.
“My father had lent the paintings to museums, so the public could see them,” he says.
The paintings were included in a recently concluded international traveling exhibition, “Andy Warhol: Liveswith stops at the Tate Modern in London, the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, the Art Gallery of Toronto and the Aspen Art Museum.
Warhola says he is currently in talks with major auction houses to sell two of the paintings in November, with plans to sell two to three paintings in the spring and fall of next year.
“It’s not easy to value his works from this period, we’ll see where the market falls,” says Warhola.
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The first two works to appear on the market will be “Nosepicker 1” and “Living Room”.
Warhol once entered “Nosepicker 1,” a self-portrait, at a local art show, but was rejected by two of the three judges because they thought it was offensive, according to Warhola.
“Early portraits of him picking his nose have a humorous title, it caused a lot of controversy when it was shown,” says Warhola. “In a way, it showed my uncle’s desire to attract attention: he is a bit shy, he let his works speak for him.”
“Living Room” was a rendition of the living room in the family home in Pittsburgh, which is now under Warhola’s stewardship. “It’s a very interesting insight into his private life when he was going to college,” he says.