Now, you too, can own a Warhol ... maybe

September 7, 2012

The Andy Warhol Foundation is partnering with Christie’s auction house to sell its collection of the celebrated artist’s work. The sale, which will be conducted over the course of years in the form of private sales and live and online auctions, includes works that have never been publicly displayed.

The foundation chose to make the sale in an effort to bolster its roughly $225 million endowment. The sale is expected to bring in roughly $100 million, giving the organization additional funds to support the work of individual artists and art organizations.

“The response has been absolutely fantastic,” said Warhol Foundation President Joel Wachs during a phone call Thursday, “because the arts groups are hurting across the country.”

The combination of two big names — Warhol and Christie’s — may lead some to believe that the art is entirely out of reach for most collectors. While the $15,000 to $20,000 price range for Warhol’s “Self-Portrait with Fright Wig” isn’t exactly chump change, it’s not the $37 million brought in by his “Double Elvis” at a Sotheby’s auction in May.

“I’m excited about the prospect of using the Internet in a way it hasn’t been as fully developed in the past,” said Wachs of Christie’s multiplatform auction and sales plan. “I think this is going to be an opportunity for people not only all over America, but all over the world, to be able to have a wonderful work of art from Andy’s collection that’s affordable.”

The foundation will not only offer its collection up for sale, but will also donate “significant works” to museums, according to a joint release issued Thursday.

The sale is being conducted as the Foundation celebrates its 25th anniversary, and will include thousands of photographs, prints, drawings, paintings and printed graphics. The single-artist live auction will begin in November, with the online auction taking place in February 2013. Private sales will be ongoing.

Founded in 1987, the foundation seeks to grow by half its current endowment, reaching a total of approximately $335 million. This year, says Wachs, the foundation has given out roughly $13 million in cash grants to promote the creation of experimental, avant garde or overlooked work.

Toward this end, the foundation has managed the licensing of Warhol’s work, including to Campbell’s Soup for a campaign in Warhol’s honor. The company produced limited edition soup cans in the style of Warhol’s famous paintings.

As for the foundation’s plans for the new, larger endowment, Wachs says the foundation plans to continue giving money directly to registered 501(c)3 nonprofits and will use the additional funds to power its recently established regional regranting program to provide grants to nonprofits that identify “under-the-radar” artists.

“We think it’s essential,” said Wachs, “because that’s where future Andys are going to come from.”

Read more news about philanthropy and charitable giving.

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