In the years since Andy Warhol’s death on February 22, 1987, the art world still cannot decide whether he was, as one critic claimed, “the most brilliant mirror of our times”, or was he little more than a purveyor of pop culture mediocrity who Robert Hughes described as “one of the stupidest people I’ve ever met in my life”?
Regardless of what decision is eventually arrived at twixt the galleries, the auction houses, and the ivory towers of academia, the most elemental truth is that even by the time of his premature demise, Warhol had already become a corporate logo, a super artist in the supermarket; as much of a brand name as Coke or Pepsi and as much of a star as the icons of Hollywood he idolized and lionized.
Perhaps nothing symbolized this fame outside the confines of the art world intelligencia, not even the recent stratospheric prices his works now demand and which are greeted with cries of amazement and outrage, than the fervor and anticipation in 1988 of the auction of the contents of his home and personal collection at Sotheby’s in April of that year.
An inveterate collector of fine art, furniture, jewelry, decorative arts, and just plain junk masquerading as kitsch, Warhol’s twenty-seven room townhouse was overflowing with what can only be called ‘stuff’. In his own words, Andy was “always looking for that five-dollar object that’s really worth millions” and now people were looking to buy those same mundane objects believing that they would now be transformed from garbage to gold simply because of who had owned them.
Before the townhouse was to be dismantled and its contents shipped across town to auction, however, the Observer Magazine in London was able to gain access to photograph the interior, sending internationally-known photographer David Gamble to give a glimpse into the very private sanctuary of an artist who had lived a very public life.
Basically, Gamble is able to offer a stunning reflection of the Warhol the public rarely saw, whether it’s in the series of photographs featuring Andy’s wigs (colorized to emulate his trademark repetitive printing techniques), the townhouse’s pretentiously gaudy entrance hall, or the medicine cabinet filled to the brim with medications, skin creams, and balms, all testifying to Warhol’s reputation as a world-class hypochondriac.