Saturday, September 23, 2006

I had just finished watching the first two hours of the documentry on Andy Warhol by Ric Burns, on PBS' American Masters...The second two hours were shown on Thursday--9pm to 11pm. here in Los Angeles. It was a fascinating documentary, to say the least.

It got me to thinking and remembering because I was around New York during the late 50's when Warhol was the premiere commercial designer for places like Bonwit Teller's, (one of the greatest and most stunning clothing stores of a certain period in New York City), and I had moved to Los Angeles in February of 1961 and saw Warhol's very first One Man show anywhere, at The Ferus Gallery on La Cienega Blvd. in July of 1962.

And this being his first show the paintings were the now infamous Campbell's Soup Cans....I remember clearly at the time saying that I thought these were ridiculous paintings and I didn't get what he was doing at all. But I did keep going back to see them and I brought people into the gallery to see them and to kind of make fun of them.....They were selling some of them for $200. each, at the time. (I so wish I had bought one....that would have been my ticket to financial freedom! If I had held onto it, that is...) Irving Blum, the owner of The Ferus Gallery was interviewed for this documentary and he reminded me of something I had forgotten. There was a very fine Art Gallery three doors or so up the street from Ferus run by a man name David Stuart and he had gone to the super market and bought 32 cans
of Campbell's Soup and put them in the window of his gallery with a sign that said, "Buy the real thing here for $.27 cents a can"... Blum told this story to explain not only the indifference to Warhol's work but the disdain, as well.Irving Blum also told how these paintings came into being and how that first show came into being, as well. What I had never heard before was that the critical response to that group of paintings was singularly indifferent. Blum then went on to say that after living with the paintings for about two weeks, day in and day out while sitting in the gallery during that show, he came to feel that they were incredibly fantistic and that what Andy Warhol had done was deeply profound. He felt the 32 paintings should stay together and should never be seperated..,and he asked Warhol how much money he would want for the whole collection of 32 paintings, and Warhol said $1000. One Thousand Dollars! Amazing.

He then promised Warhol that not only would they stay together forever, but that he would make sure that they would go to a great great Museum. Remember, this was said in July of 1962 two weeks after the show opened....Well, in this documentary Blum went on to say that he eventually sold the complete collection of 32 Campbell Soup Can Paintings for $15,000,000 to the Museum of Modern Art. An interesting point here: He "sold" the Soup Can Collection..he did not donate it to the Museum Of Modern Art...always the business man, I guess. I certainly might have done the same thing...but somehow this promise that he made to Warhol about the 'collection' going to a great Museum---this promise did not cover---"And if the paintings go way up in value, etc., etc., etc.....". In reading an extended interview with Blum...he had sold three or four of these paintings to individual people here in Los Angeles for $100. each...but after he had his epiphany while sitting there in the gallery for two weeks, he convinced them all to return them to him so this great collection of 32 could stay together. I wonder if these people receieved anything for their largess all those years later when he sold it to MOMA for $15 mil. ? (Just sayin'....)

As those first years went on---the years of Warhol's most productive and inovative work period starting with the Soup Cans---I came to admire his work in a way that surprised even me. The Electric Chair paintings, for instance, in my opinion, are deeply moving and in the simplicity of those images lies a horrific statement about the death penalty...I would say a profound statement. That lonely chair sitting in a lonely room....the paint used in those silk screen images dark and brooding---but even when light colors were used....this is an image one can never ever forget.

I never again had the opportunity to buy a Warhol painting at such a reasonable price....and if I had had the opportinity I don't know that I would have bought it anyway. Irving Blum said that at the same time he showed the 32 paintings (The number of paintings was decided upon by Warhol because that was the number of different kinds of soups made by the company at that time..) he showed some other single soup can paintings in that show...(Maybe those were the ones that were $200. a piece..I know that was the price of the painting I considered buying)....He went on to say that recently one of those single soup can paintings had sold for over $2,000,000 at auction. I'm not sure what the moral of this story is, but I still am deeply sorry I didn't buy one of those paintings when I had the opportunity.

And as an aside: I did have some dealings with Irving Blum (Not as an artist, but as a collector)...which I may write about sometime....I cannot say these dealings were particulatly 'nice', but I did greatly admire a number of artists that he showed during the years of The Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. Ed Ruscha, Ed Keinholz and Kenneth Price just to name a few....Blum certainly had the pulse of that time in the Art World, weather one liked it or not....

I did read a funny story which I just have to share with you.

Sometime in the last ten years or so...I'm not sure of the timing here, Irving Blum attended a dinner party in Santa Fe, New Mexico and was asked by one of the dinner guests, if he had shown the Elizabeth Taylor silk screen paintings at Ferus Gallery, 'back in the day'...and he said yes, that he had. Another guest asked if he had ever shown them to Elizabeth Taylor, herself...and he said, no, that he hadn't but somebody he knew had and that she wasn't particularly interested in them, at all. A third dinner guest said, 'Oh, I think you are wrong about that.......and Blum said...'And what makes you say that?' and the third dinner guest said, 'Well because she has it hanging in her bedroom and absolutely loves it....' and Blum said again..."And how do you know that? " And the third dinner guest said..."Because I am her son."

It was Michael Wilding, Jr. one of Elizabeth Taylor's two sons.
I love this story....

Seeing this four hour documentary added a great deal to my understanding of Warhol's thrust in life as a person and as an artist. I still have this vague feeling that he pulled off the greatest "Emperor's New Clothes" of the Art World in the 20th Century....They say you cannot argue with success, but....I'm not sure about that. And yet, I still think those Electric Chair paintings are the most powerful pieces of his work that I have ever seen. There was a retrospective show many years ago and it was pretty amazing to see so much of his work in one place at the same time...and that was a powerful experience, too....He was a strange and rather sad creature in many ways if this documentary is accurate and I believe it is....and he certainly had more than his 15 minutes of fame and he couldn't have been more correct about that evaluation! If he could have just seen these many shows on television today....Everyone is getting their 15 minutes of fame, as he so prophetically predicted all those many years ago....

More To Come.....

Links to this post:


had this to say:

WOW - i mean, really! just W.O.W.

i'll be back for more!!

michele says hello

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 8:36:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Here from Michele's.

I did see part of that documentary this week, I wish that I ahd seen more. Warhol is an amazing artist, not just with his paintings, but with everything else he did as well.

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 10:16:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Fascinating stuff! Doesn't it kill you when you know that you could have forked over $200 and been set for life? It's like when I thought about buying AOL stock in 1994 for about $30 a share.... ay yi yi. I'd be a freakin' gazlillionaire.

I may have told you my Warhol story: I was drinking in a bar on 49th and 1st in 1977-78 when Andy came in, literally propping up a TRASHED Truman Capote. They sat down next to me (I was dating the bartender whom they knew well..he also provided coke on tap, if you catch my drift.)

They were so weird but funny, and Truman was drawing little cartoons on a napkin. WHY OH WHY did I not take that napkin before I left the bar??

I guess we were not meant to be gazillionaires, you and I. ;)

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 10:25:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi? Do you have children? If you do, I sure hope they appreciate your knack for telling a story as much as the rest of us out here in BlogLand do! Honestly... you just make your life (and your memories) sound SO fascinating! I'm sure as you "lived" it, it was just as hum-drum as the rest of our lives -- but in the TELLING of it, you put so much pizzaz! This tale of Warhol and your memories of his work is such a great example of it! How many of us have gone into galleries or Art shows and NOT bought a painting.... and of course most of them DON'T go on to be renowned... but on occassion they DO. And similar such activities. Hum drum. If those soup cans had NOT made it big, you might not have even remembered having made the decision NOT to buy one! You just make it all fascinating! And I loved the Liz Taylor story too! Thanks!

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 12:22:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Disregard my prior comment! I just read your 100 Things About Me -- and there has never been nor will there ever BE anything HUM DRUM about your existence! ROFL! (and I now know you have no children also!) YOU are an A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. woman! I am honored to be amongst your blog friends!

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 12:56:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, what an incredible story! I know very little about Warhol, but he always seemed such a larger than life public figure. Thanks for sharing.

Michele sent me!

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 2:23:00 PM PDT 

Anonymous jo
had this to say:

I watched a bit of that documentary. I was sorry I was too tired to watch the entire thing. Thanks for your review! Love the blog BTW.

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 4:22:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

This is another fantastic post. I just want to give you a big hug for all of the beautiful things you have been sharing with the blog world.

Happy weekend!

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 4:32:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I know this is a story about Warhol but that Liz Taylor story is hysterical lol.. You never really hear anything about her children, so that was nice.

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 4:33:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Honestly speaking, I really don't know who Warhol is but I do know Campbell soup. They were my dad's favorite soup.
Thanks for your lovely comments.

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 5:08:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Hindsight is always 20/20 isn't it. Love the Micheal Wilding story that is classic.
Personally I use that Andy Warhold 15 minute quote a LOT ;)

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 7:42:00 PM PDT 

Blogger srp
had this to say:

Oh, yes. Why do we not know those who are to go on to greatness when they first appear? Now this is the big question. One picture of a soup can for 2 million dollars? This tells you that there are a lot of impractical people out there with more money than sense..... that two million could have fed quite a few kids, yes?

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 8:27:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I LOVE Warhol and he was a very fascinating character. I don't think he was much appreciated in those early days, but innovative artists usually aren't. In his art AND his life, he was the epitome of "avant-garde".

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 8:44:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

That was so interesting. I wonder if they'll re-air the docu....I'd like to catch it. I don't know hardly anything about him, but loved the Blum/liz taylor story!! Priceless. You never cease to amaze me with your stories, memories, and experiences. I am so glad you are here to enlighten me!! Truly, i am!!

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 9:42:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Dang! I wish I had remembered to see that. I heard about it, but just forgot. :(

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 9:54:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

If I had a buck for everytime I could have bought a painting cheaply, I would be a gazillionaire now (wouldn't we all?). Problem is - we don't have foresight like that guy did. Of course, I wouldn't have given you a plug nickel for a painting of a soup can - and I still fail to see the significance of them - but it would be nice to have my finger on the pulse of the art world and know who/what would be famous.

I love the Elizabeth Taylor story, and I always loved her.

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 10:08:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

fascinating! warhol always seemed larger than life and your story made him that much more interesting. too bad that documentary hasn't reached our shores yet. the michael wilding anecdote is something only you would be able to share. ;)

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 11:54:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I love the Emperor's New Clothes metaphor for Warhol's work. Like you, I have never 'got' the soup can thing.

But yes, his electric chair pictures are incredibly provoking, but then, so is that particular piece of furniture!

Wonderful post, as ever, honey :-)


Sunday, September 24, 2006 at 3:01:00 AM PDT 

Blogger mar
had this to say:

Warhol is an amazing artist, love the Liz Taylor portrait, loved your post and don't remember now what Michael Wilding Jr. looks like but I remember thinking he was very, very handsome!

Sunday, September 24, 2006 at 10:50:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

If someone would have told me 50 years ago that you could become rich and famous by painting a HUGE picture on a can of soup. I would have said, "YOU ARE NUTS!" I guess they would have had the last laugh! ~ jb///

Sunday, September 24, 2006 at 10:51:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I won't be able to look at a can of Campbell's soup now without thinking of Warhol!! I knew nothing about him until now!! You are such a wealth of information Naomi.

Your blog is so interesting!!

Too bad you didn't buy the painting but we just never know about those things at the time!!

Another great post dear Naomi! (Give Sweetie a rub on the head for me!)

Sunday, September 24, 2006 at 10:52:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

If we all only knew THEN what we know now...
We'd all be very rich!! It's funny that those paintings became so incredibly valuable. I think they are good paintings, for sure, but one can never tell why certain artists' works sky rockets in value.
I can appreciate most art, even if it is not something I would purchase. I have seen some art that makes no sense at all, and shows no real talent. Andy Warhol did have talent.
GREAT Liz Taylor story!!!!

It rained BIG time here yesterday. We are trying to dry out today. Happy Sunday!

Sunday, September 24, 2006 at 1:19:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Another great story, Naomi.
I think that Andy Warhol was a talent artist and I like so much Elizabeth Taylor's painting!
I think also that his statement about "15 minutes of fame" was prophetic! You made a great job in this post, as always you do!

Sunday, September 24, 2006 at 2:09:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

This is great Naomi.. Have you thought about writing a book, with all your wealth of knowledge ?
Is it ok if I print it out and take it to school?
Im always excited to read the next installment.. you never know whats coming.. :)

Sunday, September 24, 2006 at 4:05:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I got to see the portrait Warhol did of Steve Wynn while in Vegas last fall. What an interesting guy! They broke the mold with him. I enjoyed your post.

Sunday, September 24, 2006 at 6:17:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

We are enjoying the Masters series on PBS so much, Naomi. We saw the one on Leonard Bernstein and were fascinated. I'm sorry we missed the Warhol one now. Thank you for sharing all that!


Sunday, September 24, 2006 at 6:48:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

CONGRATULATIONS on your WIN!!! I hope I'm the FIRST! Speech! Speech! *g*

And thank you for blogrolling me! I'm actually fixin' to add YOU too -- and several others tonight! I've been meaning to do it for quite some time and just never get around to it! You guys reminded me tonight that I wanted to DO it! ... thanks!

Sunday, September 24, 2006 at 7:35:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I will keep an eye out for that documentary - now that I've joined Netflix, it will be easier to see movies and shows that I miss. Good to "see" you again, it's been since your birthday, I think!

Sunday, September 24, 2006 at 8:53:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

As ever, ehat a wonderful story. I have always had the same inkling that Warhol was the 20th century Emporers New Clothes but there is no denying his significance as a result. I think the grafitti artist turned mainstream artist 'Banksy' is the 21st century version of Warhol. There is no denying his talent as a grafitti artist but I simply do not 'get' his painted elephant!

Like everyone else I too loved the Liz Taylor story :0)

Monday, September 25, 2006 at 5:25:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I enjoyed reading this. I wish I had seen that documentary as well. We live close to the Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh and I hope to visit it soon.

Monday, September 25, 2006 at 3:47:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

that was an interesting piece on Warhol. I don't know what I think about him as an artist. He did unique work for the times though. I think often with art, it's like the Emperor's New Clothes and if the 'experts' say it's art, everybody else says how wonderful. Determing what really was great often takes the next generation to decide and once money enters the picture, that becomes the criteria

Monday, September 25, 2006 at 6:48:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Oh my goodness, I just can't believe ONE of those warhol paintings sold for soooo much! I thought you were exaggerating a bit when you said you would have been financially set for life if you had bought one, but then I read on and saw you weren't exaggerating one bit!!

Ah well...who says $$$ make us happy?? :)

Never really been into Warhol myself, I probably wouldn't have bought one either!!!

Monday, September 25, 2006 at 10:27:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Never been into Warhol too much, but it is a fascinating story! And loved the Liz Taylor story too!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006 at 1:46:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I watched some of this show too and found it fascinating. Mostly because I love to see what makes people tick, especially artists. But I also agree with you about the suspicion that Warhol pulled of an emperor wore no clothes.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006 at 7:53:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I really enjoyed reading this post & will likely reread it. :-)

I both despise & admire Warhol's work.

Visiting from Wendy's blog.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006 at 12:03:00 AM PDT 

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