andy warhol – bananas (1978)
i wrote of my friend amie valentine here and her email dispatches that arrive several times a month from all over the world. they’re always titled lesson ###
and read a bit like short stories even though they’re all true. her writing is often brilliant and outrageous (follow the link up there) and my wife and i look forward to the epic ones like this:
Lesson No. 321
It is difficult, in a mentally annotated, self-observed life, to pinpoint when, exactly, you decided you had to have (house downpayment fund be damned) a Warhol.
When did it REALLY happen?
When it happened, or when you got the mailer for the exhibit, two weeks prior, and carefully took the kitchen scissors to it, cutting out your favorite pieces from the show and taping them to a separate piece of paper you’ve been carrying in your purse ever since.
There’s nothing wrong with flirting, right? And what if you really fell in love with one? But you’d have to meet them in person first before your feelings got carried away.
Yesterday. Brisk winter day with dry pavement. Perfect day for a walk in New York, with a few free hours after a photo shoot and before a meeting back at the office.
You go to the gallery. It’s your favorite: Paul Kasmin Gallery. It represents James Nares and Elliott Puckette, among others. (Long time fan of Puckette, you gasped audibly in a theatre once when you saw one of her paintings as set dressing in a scene of The Royal Tenenbaums. It wasn’t a particularly dramatic part in the movie and a few heads turned in your direction, like “What’s YOUR problem?”) But the Warhols aren’t up. “They’re in our annex location, around the corner.” So you go. A tiny space. With 70 framed polaroids on the wall.
You didn’t know this: Warhol took polaroids as studies, before he made his paintings. And these thoughts half formed are, for you, so much better. The process more interesting than the final product. Like the Richard Prince study you bought many years ago, a partial birth that gestated into his “joke painting” series. The Prince study is just a penciled one liner on a piece of paper maybe 7″ x 10.” But it became a 7′ x 10′ painting you saw at the Guggenheim last year, for the first time. And it felt, a little, like meeting your mother.
There’s a polaroid of soup cans and Brillo boxes.
Polaroids of Halston shoes. (You email Nicole Miller and tell her she should buy one. She, after all, is rich enough to have a private chef for her showroom.)
A cleaver. That one’s pretty cool. A gun. Poinsettias. Eggs.
(You call Chris Craymer before he boards a flight to Paris. “You’ve got to see these when you get back.”)
And so the courtship begins. “Is this show from a private collection or are these for sale?”
“They’re from the foundation. Most are still available.”
You shift the weight in your hips and sway a little. The woozy dance of someone soon to be separated from their bank balance. Your voice goes up an octave. “Really?”
“What about this one? Is that available? And this one? Hmmm?” The crosses are sold.
But you suspect they’re out of your league anyway. They’d HAVE to be, they’re WARHOLS. It’s all just cock tease until you build up the courage to ask “What is, um, the price range?”
“They’re all $$,$$$.”
Voice up another octave. “Reeeeeeally?”
Now you breathe again. You have visions of your hard won money market balance. And your buy-this-against-all-odds-logic begins. The internet has kept you up at night for months with stories about the devaluation of the dollar. And Warhol is the next best thing to gold bullion. Maybe better. $$,$$$ is doable. It will set you back on the house thing a bit, but a girl’s got to eat, and there’s a polaroid of bananas on the wall making you drool.
“And this one…has IT sold?”
“Let’s see…that one…is available.”
Then you retract. Maybe that’s not the one. You go back to each wall and look at your favorites again. Since each is the same price, you weigh other factors. Which would look best with your other art? (Bad train of thought…that’s decorating, not collecting.) Which is most iconically Warhol and thus a better investment? Which has the most personal resonance (the Brillo box, since you’re in advertising…the Halston shoes, since you work with fashion clients…the “human heart” – actually a sheep’s heart – since you are mortal…)?
It’s too hot in the gallery. You’re feeling faint and losing focus. A woman named Kara has been summoned from across the street in the main gallery to tell you more about the provenance of the final contenders. She says Warhol did polaroids for his celebrity portraits as well, and the gallery has some of those at Art Basel right now.
“I think I’ve made up my mind. It has to be THIS one. How could it NOT be?”
You ask if they can send it to Pennsylvania, where your brother lives. You’ll save $,$$$ in sales tax right there. You can pick it up when the show’s down in January – AND visit your brother. How perfect is that? This was clearly meant to be.
You look again at the inert objects frozen in their emulsion. That odd ‘roid coloration that comes off somewhat sickly. And droll.
Droll or not, the polaroid’s so cute for such a heavyweight in the art world. Four by three and a quarter inches. A pocket Warhol.
The one you’ve fallen in love with is food….a phallic symbol…and the Velvet Underground…all in one.
It’s from 1978.
And it’s mine.
unbelievable huh? congratulations ms. valentine.
such perfect timing too as i’m currently reading andy’s autobiography popism: the warhol 60s, and i can’t help but thinking my pal amie v. would’ve fit perfectly into the factory scene around 1965 had she been born to a different time.
more proof i think, that it’s going to be a great winter.