Andy Warhol’s family plan to auction off 10 art school paintings
When Andy Warhol left Pittsburgh for New York, he traveled lightly.
“My uncle left Pittsburgh in 1949 and he didn’t leave with much, just a brown paper bag of clothes and a few of his essentials,” said James Warhola, the son of Warhol’s older brother, late Paul Warhola.
Personal effects left in the family’s Oakland home included 10 paintings made during his student years at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon University – among them “Nosepicker 1”, which sparked an irony ( or a finger in the nose) self-series of portraits.
Paul Warhola took charge of these works, which are now part of the heritage bequeathed to his seven children. They were exhibited at the Andy Warhol Museum on the North Side of Pittsburgh and in the recently concluded international traveling exhibit, “Andy Warhol: Lifetimes.”
This fall, James Warhola and his six siblings will begin selling the collection, with “Nosepicker 1” and “Living Room” being the first paintings to be auctioned.
“In a way, I was the guardian of the family art collection that my father kept when Andy left for New York, but they are shared by seven of us, because they make part of my parents’ estate,” said Warhola, a famous illustrator of children’s books and book and magazine covers. Warhola’s primary residence is Clinton Corners, NY, although he frequently returns to Pittsburgh and maintains a residence in Oakland.
“Our parents passed away several years ago, so that’s one of the reasons we had to consider selling them,” he said. “It’s not something we wanted to do, but it’s the only way to split an estate, and many of us need a few extra bucks.”
Warhola said he was negotiating with major auction houses to determine who would handle the sale. The plan is to sell the two most important coins first, starting in November, and then sell two more every six months thereafter.
Andy Warhol Museum communications manager Charlene Bidula said the museum does not comment on auctions.
“It’s a unique position to occupy. Usually you sort through the furniture and figure out who gets the house or if you sell the house, and here my parents left us these 10 beautiful paintings,” Warhola said.
“My parents always thought they would be valuable and useful to us after they left, so I’m kind of fulfilling their wishes,” Warhola, 67, said. 70s – so this will be very useful to us.
He thinks the sale will generate a lot of interest in the rarefied world of art collecting.
“They’re really special because they showed my uncle’s aspirations as a young art student wanting to be a good artist,” he said. “I always say before there was the soup can, there was the ‘Nosepicker.’
“The paintings themselves are very wonderful and unique, and I’m glad my father recognized my uncle’s genius and talent as a painter in his early years,” he said. “They really show the sensibility of a very mature artist. From what many of his classmates told me, he became like an art star even in the 1940s in his own quiet, gentle way.
“Everyone was eager to see what he would bring to show because it always drew attention.”
His uncle’s influence was one of the main reasons Warhola decided to pursue a career as an illustrator.
“He did commercial art for at least 10 years before going into fine art,” Warhola said. “I used to watch my Uncle Andy illustrating shoes and things like that and doing really nice designs, and I yearned to be like him.
“A lot of people thought that if you wanted to be an artist, you had to suffer a little; but because my uncle was very successful as an artist and made a good living from it, my parents were very open to allowing me to pursue art in a serious way,” he said.
As with so many things related to Andy Warhol, there is a story behind “Nosepicker 1”.
While Paul Warhola served in the United States Navy during World War II, James Warhola’s mother and older siblings lived in the family home where Uncle Andy also resided.
“While my dad was telling the story, the little kids were still picking their noses, and my uncle was very upset about it,” James Warhola said. “When he saw my father, he said, ‘Can’t they stop?’
“Of course my uncle decided to do a painting of a nose picker, and somehow it turned out to be a self-portrait. It got a lot of attention,” he said “In the art world, you didn’t want to be offensive with your art, but my uncle thought being offensive could work. He has a sense of humor.
AetE | Editor’s Choice | local | Art & Museums | North side | Oakland | Pittsburgh