If you picked up a priceless Andy Warhol painting at a yard sale recently, congrats; that painting is about to become worthless.
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts revealed earlier this week that it intends to dump the remaining pieces of Warhol's estate in one fell swoop, selling off over 20,000 (TWENTY THOUSAND) works, including silk-screen paintings, drawings, photographs, and archival materials, at auction, beginning this fall.
Foundation chairman Michael Strauss explained the logic to the Wall Street Journal: "We're converting art into money."
This is a great thing to say any time you sell a good or service. "I'm converting donuts into money," says the donut baker. "I'm converting sex into money," explains the prostitute. "I'm converting fibs into money," says the president of a for-profit online business school.
Strauss added that the foundation will use the proceeds from the auctions (estimated to fall in the $100M range) to increase its $225 million endowment, which, again, is the same kind of obvious statement as, "I'm going to take the money that I make and add that to the money I already have." It's just good business. (Strauss says the fire sale will free up more money for philanthropic efforts by eliminating the costs associated with storing and insuring the art.)
One group of people less keen on this funny business, the Journal reports, is anyone who has ever paid money for an Andy Warhol painting/print/photograph/drawing/collage/wig/whatever.
Alberto Mugrabi, a New York dealer whose family owns at least 800 Warhols…worries the foundation will "dilute" the Warhol brand by flooding the market with too material at once. "It's ridiculous—they have a great product, and they're pushing it out into the market like cattle," he added.
Soon Andy Warhol silk-screens will litter the streets of New York like cigarette butts. We'll use them as packing peanuts to protect other, more valuable artworks, like a velvet painting of Aaliyah floating above a sunset. We'll wrap the Campbell's soup can series around our tin cans of soup, because it will literally be cheaper than paying to have soup can labels manufactured.
The estate sale has been timed to coincide with the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Regarding Warhol retrospective, which opens September 18th and runs through December. The auctions will begin on November 12th at Christie's in New York, meaning you can treat your Met visit not as a trip to an iconic cultural institution, but as a walk through an IKEA on a Saturday afternoon. Bring a notebook with you and write down the names of all the pieces you want to lay on your carpet to cover up that dark spot, then head over to Christie's and pick them up for peanuts, wooden nickels, a joke—anything; we've gotta move this stuff.
Following the November auction, most of the remaining items will be sold, for lower-prices, at a series of online auctions beginning in February and ending 1,000 years from now after everything has been sold. Other sales will be brokered privately.
The silver lining for collectors is that none of the estate's remaining material has ever been seen by the public, meaning there's a slim chance you could find something really valuable, like a penny that's been flattened out by a train or a copy of the Declaration of Independence, behind one of the pictures.
The piece expected to draw the highest price is a 19-foot-long silk-screen titled "Three Targets" (scroll down about halfway). Christie's expects the work will fetch at least $1 million.
(In confederate money.)
[Wall Street Journal // Image via Getty]