"Style" (2014) Matthew Couper
In 2010, U.K. tourist Andy Fields purchased some art for five dollars at a Las Vegas garage sale. When a painting was unframed, he found a drawing that looked like the work by a very young Andy Warhol. It may never be authenticated.
The mystery was the subject of an installation at Matthew Couper’s “Horror Vacui” held in May. “Style (or the Unearthing of the Vegas Vallée Warhol, overseen by the spectre of a badly-constructed replica of K. Malevich’s memorial marker)” was just as the title said; The image of Warhol’s alleged portrait of Rudy Vallée exhumed from the tomb of Kazimir Malevich, the Russian painter and theorist.
“A guy from England took a break from gambling by taking in garage sales and found a portfolio of images,” Couper said during the exhibition. “He believed it to be Warhol drawings, coherent with what he was doing as a kid, tracing 8 X 10 photos.” The discolored torn paper of 1930s singer and actor is a size that hints of being traced from publicity photos, which was Warhol's practice when he becoming a teenager.
“He put the drawing on EBay but no one’s taken the bait,” he said.
“I was told by Brett Maly that this is the earliest example of pop art and Warhol did it in when he was 11 years old,” Fields told ABC News a year ago. “I’ve spent two years trying to authenticate this drawing,” Fields said. “And I have found so much evidence tying this work to Warhol.” The drawing was first valued at $2.4 million by a Las Vegas appraiser
HuffPo reported “One reason to be hesitant about the provenance: The drawing was signed ‘Andy Warhol,’ a peculiar signature given the artist didn't change his name from Warhola until 1949.”
Field's explanation? "The way the experts have explained it is that Warhol never used to sign his early work... When he gave work away many years later it is highly likely he would have been asked to sign it." By then he would have been operating under the moniker Warhol.
Besides having the drawing researched and appraised, Fields also tracked down the man he bought the drawing from.
“The gentleman told me that he grew up a few blocks away from Andy Warhol and they used to party together,” Fields said.
The drawing was posted on Ebay in August 2013, according to Field’s website, which updated his search for pop-art authenticity: “After having over 20,000 views and 2,000 watchers and even a successful bid, the president’s office of eBay rang me and told me that they had to remove the listing due to a single complaint. When I questioned this they said that they were sorry but this is their policy. Unfortunately the listing was removed and the auction was cancelled.”
“Vegas might have stained it a bit because things that come out of Vegas are not necessarily real, as in fantasy,” said Couper in May. “That’s what I love, the oddity that Vegas presents.”
Other links for Andy Warhol, who was born on this day in 1928.
"Capturing Celebrity" I Polaroid Museum at The LINQ: "Though these [Warhol] Polaroids were never really meant to be shown, they’ve been exhibited extensively over the past few years in museums from Los Angeles to Poughkeepsie, and a strong selection is now on view at the new Polaroid Museum in Las Vegas. As with most Warhol ephemera, they’re riveting, the postmodern equivalent of Michelangelo’s preparatory drawings. (Whereas Michelangelo is unmistakably present even when depicting Adam or Jesus, Warhol is mysteriously absent even in his self-portraits.)"
From February 2013: Review of 'Warhol Out West' at Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art: "Andy Warhol was always headed for Las Vegas. He was one of the first artists to understand the irrepressible appeal of popular culture. The Bellagio exhibit includes key works from the 1960s, including Heinz Tomato Ketchup box sculptures and Campbell’s soup can paintings. At a time when top international artists were struggling to express inner thoughts and feelings through abstract paintings, Warhol caused an uproar by serving straight-up Americana."
Las Vegas Weekly
From November 2013: Irving Blum on Warhol's Soup Cans making its debut at Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles:
"The prevalent style was Abstract Expressionism and they seemed to me to be not so interesting. However I really enjoyed the talk with Andy. He was incredibly curious about what was going on in L.A. Six months later, I thought I'd visit Andy again and I went to his little house on Lexington Avenue. I walked by a torn-out photograph from a movie magazine of Marilyn Monroe pinned to a wall and leaning on the wall were three paintings of Campbell's soup cans. I asked, 'How come three?' He said, 'I'm going to do 32, all the varieties of soup.' A light bulb went off, happily. He had no representation in New York. I said, 'What about my showing these soup can paintings in L.A.?' He hesitated. I said, 'Andy, movie stars come into the gallery.' A total lie because movie stars never came into the gallery. July 1962 was his first gallery show of the 32 Campbell's Soup paintings."
Above: Stephen Hendee created sculpture for the celebration of 30 years of public art programming in the City of Las Vegas.