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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Andy Warhol's Homes

Andy Warhol in his Lexington Ave. townhouse living room.
Over the past several months I've been exploring the lives of well-known artists through a closer look at the places they've created for themselves to live, work, and play. Very often an artist's native habitat has a great deal to do with the art which they've produce. In most cases that involves only one major home (as with Monet's Giverny), and seldom more than two, as with Georgia O'Keeffe's Ghost Ranch and her "town" home in Abiquiu, New Mexico. This morning I noticed that Andy Warhol's former retreat in the Hamptons (Long Island, New York) had recently sold for a cool $50-million (the original asking price had been $85-million). It wasn't long before I realize that the artist's Hamptons estate was only one of five homes he had owned or occupied during his career in New York. That piqued my interest. Although many artist eventually become comfortably well-off, even for a Pop icon such as Warhol, homes in the multi-million-dollar price range signify a lot of green (and I don't mean the pthalocyanine hue).
Warhol's estate in the Hamptons. The main house is in
the foreground overlooking the cliffs, while the recently
added horse stables are at the back of the property.
Andy Warhol died in 1987 so he never lived to see his 1972 investment of $225,000 skyrocket to the stratospheric figure the 30-acre oceanfront compound recently garnered (a 70-fold increase). Warhol purchased the remote Montauk estate (which had once been a fishing village called Eothen) as a means of escaping the New York City party rat-race only to import the same party celebrities such as Mick and Bianca Jagger, Jackie Onassis Kennedy, her socialite sister, Lee Radziwill, Jerry Hall, Julian Schnabel, Liza Minelli, Elizabeth Taylor and John Lennon. Andy Warhol, almost single-handedly made Montauk chic. Besides the main house the compound included six guest cottages, to which have now been added a horse stable, extensive riding trails, a swimming pool, and tennis court, to complement the breathtaking ocean views.

Andy Warhol's birthplace, the right half of a two-family duplex.
It sounds trite to say, but Andy Warhol came from humble beginnings--Pittsburgh, 3252 Dawson Street, in the city's South Oakland neighborhood (above). Born in 1928 and raised in Pittsburgh, Warhol began as a successful commercial illustrator. After exhibiting his work in several local galleries in the late 1950s, Warhol began to receive recognition as an influential and controversial artist. He began exhibiting his work first in New York City during the 1950s. He held exhibitions at the Hugo Gallery and the Bodley Gallery in New York. In California, his first West Coast gallery exhibition came in 1962, at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. The exhibition marked his West Coast debut of Pop Art. Andy Warhol's first New York solo Pop Art exhibition was hosted at Eleanor Ward's Stable Gallery in November, 1962. The exhibit included the works Marilyn Diptych, 100 Soup Cans, 100 Coke Bottles, and 100 Dollar Bills. At this time, Warhol was sharing bedrooms with the 1930s dancer Franziska Marie Boa on the second floor of a 1865 era converted firehouse (below). His roommate was the figure painter, Philip Pearlstein. They lived there until they were evicted.

The old firehouse at 323 West 21st Street, would appear
to have been extensively updated since the days when
Warhol and Pearlstein crashed there. It can now be
rented for $33,000 per month.
As Pop Art took hold in the New York art world, during the late 1960s, Andy Warhol took hold of Pop Art. Warhol's painting of a can of Campbell's soup cost $1,500 while each autographed can sold for $6. The American Supermarket, a show held in Paul Bianchini's Upper East-Side gallery, was one of the first mass events that directly confronted the general public with both Pop Art and the perennial questioning of the very definition of art. Warhol's bank account ballooned and with it his need for adequate living quarters, which he found in the 16 1/2-half-foot-wide, five-story townhouse, at 1342 Lexington Ave. between 89th and 90th Streets. He was at the height of his career, in the years 1959 through 1974. It’s where he created iconic works such as his Campbell’s Soup Can designs, some Marilyn Monroe silkscreens and the dollar bill paintings.

Warhol's dining room and studio at 1342 Lexington Ave.
A look at the Lexington Ave. floor plan gives some indication
as to what $60,000 would buy in 1959. The Warhol estate
sold the townhouse in 1989 for $593,000.
Even as Pop Art faded into art history during the 1970s, Andy Warhol's fame and fortune never wavered as he plunged into moviemaking, publishing, music, photography, and other art media. He quickly outgrew his Lexington Avenue home/studio in favor of what was known as the Decker Building, a six and a half story townhouse on East 66th Street(somewhat wider than his previous abode). This studio came to be known as "The Factory," which indeed, it was, turning out Warhol art with the help of assistants at a prodigious rate.

Andy Warhol's fabled "Factory" was also Party Central
for the New York art World.
Actually, the Decker Building on East 66th Street between Madison and Park Avenues was only the first of as many as six other Warhol studios each bearing the same designation. Warhol bought the Decker building in 1974 for just $310,000. After his death in 1987, records show the property remained part of his estate until it was sold in 1991 for $3,000,000. The buyer made a handsome profit, later selling the property for $6.5-million. Today, Andy Warhol's modest-sized townhouse has been listed with a not-so-modest asking price of $38.5-million.

Look what just $38.5-million will buy when a famous artist
has a red informational plaque by the front door. A silvery
statue of the artist (below) just across the street
helps boost the asking price too.
The Andy Monument, 2012. The
shopping bag is from Bloomingdales.

Andy Warhol's library.


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