Andy Warhol (1928-1987) is probably the most famous artist associated with the Pop Art movement of the 1950s and 60s and one of the few artists to achieve success and renown while still alive and producing work. His artwork, now among the most iconic of any American artist, evolved over the years from commercial illustration to multimedia pop art, and, shortly before his death, he helped pioneer early digital art technology. Because of his considerable recognition and the value associated with his many pieces, Andy Warhol collectibles remain a hot commodity.
Due in part to the celebrity status of some of his art subjects and also to the celebrity status he himself achieved, collecting Andy Warhol memorabilia has remained a popular and accessible endeavor. This guide serves as an introduction into Andy Warhol collecting. Of course, original pieces, like any famous artist, will command top dollar and are of the highest scarcity, but for collectors just beginning their collection, this guide will give you some idea of where to begin.
Original paintings can go from several thousand dollars up to millions, with the highest paid pieces being Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), which sold for $105 million in 2013, Eight Elvises, which sold for $100 million in 2008, and Turquoise Marilyn, which sold for $80 million in 2007. Because interest in purchasing these works of art should go through art dealers and auction houses, the collectibles featured in this guide will be more focused on items that can be found regularly on online auctions or marketplaces.
Andy Warhol was the subject of many books during his lifetime, as well as posthumously, many of which feature photographs of his most famous works, but he was also the author of several books which have gained considerable value. Warhol published a memoir, Popism, in 1980, and issued a very rare pop-up book entitled Index in 1967.
Like any book collection, you should be seeking first printings in the best condition possible but if your search only yields first editions in terrible quality, don’t let it slip away. Further, first editions autographed by the author are the most valuable. The following list features a a small sampling of some of the books you should pursue.
Collect Andy Warhol Books
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If you find this book for cheap, it’s probably not real. 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy was the first of many self-published collections of Warhol’s work and is limited to 190 hand-numbered copies. The books, which were often given as gifts by Warhol himself, are hand colored and have sold at auctions for thousands of dollars.
As with the paintings, the sale of these very limited books is usually handled through private collectors, dealers or auction houses, but, if you are looking for the artwork contained in these pages, there have been reprints that can be easily found and have maintained a certain level of value for themselves. There have also been several other products issued that feature the artwork of this book, making it a collection within a collection.
Beyond this, there are other self-published books to be collected and each of those books has spawned their own products such as stationery, nesting boxes, or framed prints, and their reprints, although not as valuable as originals, can still maintain value.
a, A Novel is Andy Warhol’s first commercially published book, but to call it a novel is a bit of a stretch. Comprised entirely of transcriptions of taped conversations between Warhol and Ondine — an actor with close ties to Warhol — that was recorded at Warhol’s studio, The Factory. This book features cameos from several people associated with The Factory and Warhol, including Lou Reed of The Velvet Underground.
The transcriptions were done by four different people who formatted their work in different ways. The publisher of the book simply used copies of these transcripts to publish the book without editing errors and typos or standardizing the format. In some sections, the “characters” are identified by name, and, in other sections, the dialog is simply a free-form expression with no notation of who was delivering the speech.
First editions of this book pop up with a fair amount of regularity and signed first editions will set collectors back several hundred dollars.
For collectors seeking maximum art for minimal cost, exhibition catalogs from the many shows of Warhol’s work are a great place to start. Not only do these catalogs feature the artwork of Andy Warhol but there is often historical context and details on the media used for each piece. Because many art shows are themed, these catalogs often collect similar pieces of work into one edition.
Exhibition catalogs are all limited editions and some are quite rare. Just like published books, a catalog signed by Warhol can fetch several hundred dollars, but it is possible to find editions for $25-30, especially the more recent exhibitions.
True lithograph prints are incredibly time consuming and difficult to produce, often requiring the original artist to reproduce their work in layers as opposed to simply photographing the original artwork. Because of the time that goes into one of these prints, most lithograph runs are short prints and Andy Warhol has a number of limited edition, often signed, lithograph prints to obtain on the secondary market.
While these limited runs can be valuable, buyers should be wary of “signed” editions that are selling for low prices. Often times, Warhol’s signature is printed on the lithograph just like a brand name. That does not diminish the value of the print as it is still a numbered, limited edition, but it does not add to the value and some sellers will post it as a “signed” copy even though it truly is not. Buyers should also be careful of auctions that say Andy Warhol in their title because the lithograph is in the style of Warhol but not actually one of his works. For example, if you find a Sex and the City “Warhol Lithograph,” it’s probably not really one of his since he died well before the show was ever released.
That said, there are plenty of authentic prints that are actually signed by Warhol himself if you are eager to spend the extra money for something truly limited, but for those who want faithful reproductions of his work at a reasonable price point, lithographs are a great way to go. With that in mind, key options are featured below.
Collect Andy Warhol Lithographs
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Aside from all the work he did on his own, Andy Warhol provided album art for over 100 different LP’s and singles. The most iconic of his covers probably belongs to the debut album of The Velvet Underground, an album he produced for a band that he managed.
Collecting these pieces is a bit of two collections in one, as vinyl collecting is also very popular at the moment. If you’re only interested in the artwork, seek out covers in the best condition possible. Although they’re all suitable for framing, covers without the ring of LP wear, sale stickers, frayed or damaged corners, and grass stains are obviously ideal. Further, if you’re also into collecting vinyl for listening, track down copies with clean, unscratched, warp-free records included.
With so many covers to his credit, a full collection of Andy Warhol album art will yield an incredibly eclectic and diverse record collection, the highlights of which are included here.
Collect Andy Warhol Album Covers
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Considered among collectors as Warhol’s first album sleeve — he was 21 at the time — the cover features a small illustration on the left side, amidst a great deal of type face.
Collecting vintage jazz vinyl can be a very lucrative and rewarding endeavor and Count Basie’s 1955 self-titled album has the benefit of being a Warhol cover design. There is also some historic artistic significance to this cover as it is one of the earliest known pieces of celebrity art designed by Warhol.
This classic rock masterpiece may be equally as famous for its cover as it is for its music. Originally the LP featured a working zipper that revealed a pair of tighty-whities when unzipped. To this day it is unknown who appears on this package, but it is known that Mick Jagger is not one of the possible models.
Ultimately, the zipper was a cool idea but it damaged the vinyl so subsequent pressings had the zipper half unzipped and eventually it was just removed from the packaging.
This was the second album of John Lennon’s work released after his murder in 1980. The album is, for lack of a gentler term, a money grab featuring rehearsal takes and cutting-room-floor scraps, but the artwork, which was based on a picture not taken by Warhol, was completed in 1980, prior to Lennon’s death.
Considered one of the landmark albums of the 1960's, The Velvet Underground and Nico was produced by Andy Warhol, although it is widely believed that his production was strictly financial and that he had little to do with the music aside from bringing in Nico. The band was also managed by Warhol and this debut album features imagery that is most often identified with the artist.