AN EXCITING STORY FROM A MIR CLIENT, OWNER OF AN ORIGINAL WARHOL!
Once, as art appraisers, we begin to dig into the layers of any cultural material and matter, the roots of things we see on a deeper level often times come enmeshed in a lovely way. So it is with focusing one’s attention on a particular era or a particular artist. (Jonathan Richman, who began my March on my headphones, played a show with Patti Smith once in California, I learned at her reading that I mentioned in part 1.) Beyond witnessing tiny coincidences, I delight in the stories of the 1960s and 1970s artists in New York, and read about their fruitful gatherings in important arenas such as Max’s Kansas City. I also learned that our dear client with the Warhol silkscreen print actually worked there himself, and worked up what would become a dazzling provenance for his own future Warhol piece, pictured above. In fact, the original photographic image used in the Marilyn silkscreen series is a publicity shot for the film Niagra.
MAX’S KANSAS CITY
Pat Hackett relates the scene at Max’s Kansas City: “Every night, celebrities of the art, fashion, music and ‘underground’ filmmaking crowds jammed themselves into favorite corners of the back room at Max’s and monitored each other’s clothes, makeup, wit, and love interests while they received ‘exchange’ celebrities from out of town—directors and producers from Europe or Hollywood—and waited to be taken away from ‘all this’ (New York notoriety) and put into ‘all that’ (global fame). Andy’s art hung on the wall” (Hackett ix).
Max’s Kansas city in the words of Warhol himself: “In September  we started going regularly to a two-story bar/restaurant on Park Avenue South off Union Square that Mickey Ruskin had opened in late ’65. It was called Max’s Kansas City and it became the ultimate hangout…Max’s Kansas City was the exact place where Pop Art and pop life came together in New York in the sixties—teeny boppers and sculptors, rock stars and poets from St. Mark’s Place, Hollywood actors checking out what the underground actors were all about, boutique owners and models, modern dancers and go-go dancers—everybody went to Max’s and everything got homogenized there” (Warhol 186).
OUR CLIENT’S STORY
Our client’s friendship with Roy Lichtenstein helped to land him a job as Mickey’s full time assistant/accountant/financial manager (at times, 14 hours per day, seven days a week). He became intimate with the scene there, witnessing such notable artists and regulars as Andy Warhol, John Chamberlain, Frank Stella, Jim Dine, Jasper Johns, and Larry Rivers. Our client even suggested Mickey install the coveted VIP backroom, where Warhol and his entourage could glitter. Warhol rarely paid any bills in cash, and Mickey frequently accepted artwork as payment for enormous outstanding bills from regulars (at one point, Warhol had an outstanding bill of $15,000, and would trade art or even send Nico up on stage to sing as payment).
The Velvet Underground and Nico
In 1968, Warhol traded 3 Marilyn silkscreen prints to pay down some of his debt; Mickey was short on money to make the payroll, and offered our client one of the Marilyns in lieu of a paycheck—he got to choose the one with the colors he liked best (many of the substantial works of art by various artists in the Max’s scene went up in what started as a kitchen fire, yet our client’s Marilyn had been removed and was safe, unscathed).
For the next 42 years, the original Warhol silkscreen print has remained in his sole ownership.
OUR CONSIDERATION OF THE PIECE
We at MIR feel honored to be the witnesses and protectors of countless stunning cultural artifacts that arrive at our door. When the owner of this Warhol contacted us, we were struck by the power of the remarkable provenance of the piece. Although the print wasn’t signed (Andy Warhol many times gave away unsigned silkscreen prints—extras from a run), we wanted to research the piece, make friends with it, come to understand it in its proper cultural context of the 1960s and today.
Our client sent us images and eventually the print itself from the east coast. While some appraisal companies might shy away from working with an unsigned piece, we love a challenge, and we adore the rich texture of anecdotal detail. We feel lucky to hear the stories that surround our clients’ treasures.
Please visit our blog site again soon! Next week, I will talk a bit about the evolution of Pop artist Andy Warhol.
Written and Researched by Jessica Savitz
MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.
Principal Appraiser: Farhad Radfar, ISA AM
307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308
Chicago, IL 60601
Hackett, Pat. The Andy Warhol Diaries. Warner Books: New York, 1989.
Warhol, Andy and Hackett, Pat. POPism: The Warhol Sixties. Harcourt Brace & Company: New York, 1980.