Varchola had so many possessions that it took Sotheby’s nine days to auction everything off – fabulous antiques, extraordinarily valuable art. The sale was the largest single collection sold by Sotheby's since it was founded in 1744, grossing more than $25 million; the sale catalog comprised six volumes. Calvin Klein bought the canopied four-poster bed from the master bedroom (right); Andrej used to hide jewelry in the bed hangings. At the time of his death, Varchola’s estate was worth more than half a billion dollars. His trendy social circle in NYC was surprised to learn that Andrej was a religious person. Most of his friends learned only after his death that he was a practicing Ruthenian Rite Catholic, attending mass almost daily, and that he regularly volunteered at homeless shelters.
In 1991 a museum opened in Medzilaborce in eastern Slovakia, near the Polish border, where Andrej's parents and two of his brothers were born. Ján Varchola delivered 17 original works of art by his famous brother to this town of 7,000 ethnic Rusyns, who were embarrassed to learn that their most famous son was a homosexual drug abuser. The art is displayed in a former concrete Communist era cultural center with a leaky roof. Because of its remote location, few foreign visitors seek it out. A more accessible $12 million museum, which opened in Pittsburgh in 1994, also displays only Andrej's works, a 12,000 piece collection valued at more than $100 million. This museum, which attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year, is the largest U.S. museum dedicated to the works of a single artist: Andy Warhol.
Evolution of a name:
Andrej Varchola = Andrew Warhola = Andy Warhol
Trained as a commercial illustrator, Warhol’s output celebrated pop culture and consumerism. His 1964 exhibit, “The American Supermarket”, was held in a gallery in NYC’s Upper East Side. The show was presented as a typical U.S. supermarket environment, except that everything in it – from the produce, canned goods, meat, posters on the wall, etc. – was created by prominent pop artists of the time. Warhol's painting of a can of Campbell's soup cost $1,500, while an actual autographed can sold for $6. His now iconic images of Campbell’s soup cans had been painted by hand on pre-stretched canvas onto which a projected image had been superimposed, a technique he used throughout the 1960s. The exhibit was one of the first mass events that directly confronted the general public with both pop art and the perennial question of what art is – or is not.
It was during this decade (1960s) that Warhol made paintings of iconic American objects such as dollar bills, mushroom clouds, electric chairs, Campbell's Soup cans, Coca-Cola bottles, celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando, Troy Donahue, Muhammad Ali and Elizabeth Taylor, as well as newspaper headlines or photographs of police dogs attacking civil rights protesters. During these years, he founded his studio, "The Factory" and gathered about him a wide range of artists, writers, musicians, and underground celebrities. Warhol coined the widely used expression "everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes", and his artistic output became popular and quite controversial.
Tragically, Valerie Solanas, a crazed member of SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men), shot Warhol in the chest, seriously wounding the artist in June, 1968. A lesbian psychologist, she had written the SCUM Manifesto, which urged women to "overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex." Leaving California for NYC, she worked as a writer, beggar and prostitute. She met Warhol and asked him to produce her play, Up Your Ass. She gave him the script, which he misplaced, while seeming indifferent to her play. After she demanded financial compensation for the lost script, Warhol hired her to perform in two of his films. On June 3 she approached Warhol at his Factory office, shooting at him three times as he was talking on the phone. The first two shots missed, but the third bullet went through his lungs, spleen, stomach, liver and esophagus. She later told detectives that Warhol had too much control over her life. An interesting aside is that Solanas was buried in 1988 in St. Mary’s Catholic Church cemetery in Fairfax, Station, VA, just a handful of miles from where I live.
Warhol recovered to the degree that he was able to found Interview Magazine the following year, continue to produce movies and issue works of art.
Heat (1972 film)
French Art Deco pieces arranged by Jed Johnson at their townhouse on E. 66th St., NYC.
In 1980, Jon Gould (a bisexual V.P. for Paramount Pictures) became Warhol’s boyfriend, and their relationship lasted until 1985, when Andy began to focus his attentions on 19-year-old Sam Bolton – Warhol was 57 at the time. Gould died of AIDS in 1986, and Jed Johnson died at age 47 in the TWA Flight 800 explosion in 1996; Johnson’s gay twin brother Jay took over the interior design firm, which today serves well-heeled members of the business community.
Today Warhol’s art often fetches prices in the millions, and his personal furnishings (from the Sotheby’s sale in 1988) are displayed in museums scattered throughout the world. In 2008, the silkscreen Eight Elvises sold for $100 million.
Even Warhol's early 1970s brown and black Rolls Royce is considered collectible.
Trivia: Andy's mother tongue was Rusyn, the East Slavic language spoken by his immigrant parents.