NEW YORK -- At 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 22, 1987, John Warhola of Pittsburgh made his customary weekly call to his younger brother in New York. "Where's Andy?" he remembers asking. "Andy's dead," came the answer.

Warhol's chief business associates had been notified at 6:30 that morning of the art megastar's death after routine gallbladder surgery, before either John Warhola or his eldest brother Paul.

But this was no ordinary man who had died. This was Andy Warhol and there was an empire at stake. The machinery to control what could be the largest estate for an American artist in history -- roughly estimated at $100 million -- was set in motion that very day.

Tomorrow at Sotheby's, the liquidation of the estate's assets will begin in the first of a 10-day series of auctions to sell more than 10,000 things he collected. The sales are expected to bring the estate between $10 million and $15 million, but given the Warhol mania that has developed, those figures are probably low.

In his will, Warhol specified that the vast bulk of the estate would go to establish the grant-making Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The only other bequests were $250,000 each to John and Paul Warhola -- and $250,000 to Frederick W. Hughes, Warhol's longtime front man and business manager and now the sole executor of his estate.

"The will was simple but thoroughly done," said Hughes, "with just enough money for the relatives, but not too much."

But nothing involving $100 million could be quite that simple. And so there are hurt feelings and a family rift, agreements not to contest the will and rampant art world speculation as to who will get all that money.

The Players

Fred Hughes, 44, a close Warhol friend and aide who saw the artist the day before he died, is now executor of the estate and president of the foundation. It was mainly Hughes who lured the international jet set to have photo-silkscreen portraits made at the Factory, Warhol's legendary studio -- at $15,000 to $25,000 each. Warhol made millions on them. Now Hughes stands to make millions. His executor's fee alone is likely to top $2 million, and as of May 1, he will begin to receive an annual salary in the mid-five figures as president of the foundation. Hughes, who is given extraordinary power in Warhol's will -- as well as extraordinary assets -- has the power to set salaries for himself and the two other foundation officers named in the will: John Warhola, vice president; and Vincent Fremont, secretary-treasurer. Hughes' vision for the foundation has it aiding existing arts institutions and, in the future, individual artists. There is, he said, "no need to use money to advance Andy's reputation. That's self-perpetuating."

Edward W. Hayes, 40, is Fred Hughes' colorful personal lawyer who is the model for the wily lawyer Killian in Tom Wolfe's bestselling novel "The Bonfire of the Vanities." Wolfe even dedicated the book to Hayes. Hughes called Hayes within minutes of hearing of Warhol's death early that February morning, and asked him to come on as general counsel to the estate. A former assistant district attorney in the Bronx homicide bureau, he went to work instantly securing and pinpointing assets, fending off a contest to the will from the two brothers, and managing the cash assets, which he and Hughes had luckily decided to move from stocks to bonds before the October crash. He also has filed a malpractice and wrongful-death suit seeking an unspecified amount of money from New York Hospital and 11 doctors and nurses involved in caring for Warhol.

The street-smart son of an industrial salesman from Queens, he had been a self-made, high-society bachelor-about-town until his recent marriage to a fashion model. He is also well on the way to becoming a high-profile lawyer's lawyer: "Guys hire me to get things done," said Hayes. At one point during an interview, he refused a call from hotshot painter Julian Schnabel, saying he would call back. "I don't see myself as a lawyer for celebrities," Hayes said. "There's no money in that. One thing I definitely am not is a not-for-profit organization." Hayes would not say how much he's being paid, but he did say he's well compensated: "It's a good job for a lawyer -- a very good job."

Vincent Fremont, 37, is the amiable operations chief of Warhol Enterprises, where he -- like Hughes -- began sweeping floors, painting walls and running Warhol's film to the lab nearly 20 years ago. Fremont was named alternate executor, should anything happen to Hughes. He got nothing else in the will. "Fred does the deals; Vincent makes it work," said a longtime observer of Warhol Enterprises -- now the Warhol estate. Said Fremont, "Everything here is the same as before, except that art is no longer made. What we're doing now is earning money and transforming Andy's assets into cash that will fund the foundation."

John Warhola, 62, is a retired Sears appliance parts clerk who has lived all his life in Pittsburgh, where he was raised with his two brothers. He remained close to Andy, visiting him four times a year. Named as a vice president of the foundation, which will give him an salary set by Hughes, he and his brother disagreed about how to deal with the questions of the will. The two have not spoken since. In his official role, he will have input into how the foundation spends its money. "I'm going to try to do everything Andy would have liked," he said.

Paul Warhola, 65, now retired to a farm near Pittsburgh after years in the scrap metal business, has no position on the foundation, and he is still troubled by what he calls "too many questions" about his brother's death. He wept openly during a phone conversation as he recalled the events of the week following the death, and what he called "crude" and "insensitive" behavior on the part of Hughes and Hayes. But he was most deeply hurt, he said, over the estrangement with his brother John. John signed the waiver agreeing not to contest the will while Paul was still exploring the matter with his lawyers. Said Paul Warhola, "That's not the way Mother brought us up."

Andy Warhol, 58 when he died, emerges as a real person only very slowly from the myths that surround him. As a child, he was afraid to go to school and when forced to do so, came down with the first of three bouts of Saint Vitus' dance, a nervous disorder. As a 14-year-old, he hid under his bed when his father died after drinking polluted water. And as an adult, he remained a shy, frail, often frightened and lonely man, who said prayers and lit candles every Sunday and was, according to many close friends, probably celibate. He didn't smoke or take drugs, and became increasingly impatient with those who did. He ate sparingly and carefully (in large part to avoid the gallbladder surgery that ultimately killed him), and wore wigs because he was bald, makeup because he was ghastly pale (with blotchy skin). In the early '80s, he installed weight-lifting equipment at the Factory, and is said by Fremont to have been pressing as much as 90 pounds in daily workouts before his death. His worst addiction: sweets. "He used to eat chocolates, and spit them back into a paper bag or paper napkin without swallowing them," said Brigid Berlin, an old friend and one of his film stars. And he was a brilliant businessman who left behind $100 million.

The Will

The day Andy Warhol died, Paul and John Warhola flew to New York. The following day they went to a lawyer's office, where they were presented with copies of the will mentioning the $250,000 each would receive at the discretion of executor Fred Hughes, and John's appointment as a director of the foundation. They were asked to sign a waiver, according to both Hayes and Paul Warhola, saying they would not contest the will. Paul and John each sought separate counsel in Pittsburgh, and two independent deals were struck. According to the brothers, each received an additional $334,743 -- half the assets of several pension plans said by Hayes to have been found in Warhol's home safe, nestled in among a lode of jewelry, silver and a large collection of $2 bills. John also received $110,000 from another pension plan in which he had been specifically named as beneficiary.

At the reading of the will, both brothers asked about the possibility of receiving paintings and they said they were told by Hughes that everything belonged to the foundation, but they might get a few "small ones." (They received none.) They said Hughes told them they might get some of their brother's personal effects and gave Andy's two prayer books and a crucifix to John.

"Our position," said Hayes, "is that Andy wrote a will and gave the brothers substantially different positions. We tried to respect that and treat the family respectfully."

In fact, the will was very clear. Virtually everything was left to the Andy Warhol Foundation. The assets were immense, including not only the items Sotheby's will auction, but vast wealth in the form of real estate and securities. To say nothing of Warhol's own paintings and prints. Warhol was also running a multimillion-dollar business empire that included film, video and publishing (especially Interview magazine) -- all now functioning as a cash cow for the foundation.

The real estate includes the present Factory, a 24,000-square-foot former Con Edison substation just off Fifth Avenue between East 32nd and 33rd streets that was purchased and renovated by Warhol in 1982. The cavernous block-long building, which joins Madison Avenue through an L-shaped leg, is worth a fortune in itself today. "The idea was to put everything under one roof, including the video studio," said operations chief Fremont, whose special domain has been film and video production. "Andy was very keen on knowing what was going on with his various companies. People think he didn't care, but he did. He'd wander through all the time, checking on things."

The image of the Factory as a sex and drug-riddled purgatory where Warhol filmed Western civilization in what seemed its final throes, is now years out of date, a relic of the '60s. Hayes and Fremont both wear dark, conservative three-piece suits and gold wedding bands, and both keep snapshots of their wives and daughters prominently displayed on their desks. Only the stripes on their shirts go in different directions.

"The impression that the Factory was a bunch of nutty people running around is widespread, even today," said Fremont. "In the early Factory, on East 47th Street, there were a lot of nuts. But later on, Andy became more organized because he had to. His art business became very important, and had to be controlled. You can't start a publishing company and not know where anything is. Fred {Hughes} was very important in this."

The Factory is only one of many Warhol real estate properties. His baronial town house on East 66th Street, from which he walked to work every day, is expected to bring an estimated $5 million. There are other Manhattan properties, including the Park Avenue town house where Andy and his Czech immigrant mother lived for 20 years and that is now occupied by Fred Hughes; a property on Bowery Avenue where painter Jean-Michel Basquiat now lives; 19 acres of beachfront in Montauk, Long Island, with a house; and land in Colorado.

The directors are bound by law to maximize estate assets on the foundation's behalf, and so far, they appear to have done well. Franchising the rights to Warhol's name and images, which they have done for T-shirts, posters and much more, could bring in millions. And the decision to auction Warhol's possessions at Sotheby's not only promised to bring in further millions, it also saved a small fortune in security, storage, cataloguing and insurance fees by getting Sotheby's to bear those costs. The estate will not have to pay the customary (but negotiable) seller's commission, saving hundreds of thousands more.

Ed Hayes' largest contribution to the estate may well be his proven ability to manage money, and optimize the millions rolling in -- a skill he said "comes from being born broke."

"This is a guy who got wealthy in commodities," said Hayes of Warhol. "Art is a commodity, a scarcity item. Right? And in manufacturing, because he basically manufactured his own commodity, which is art. Right? And he was also in real estate and publishing, and films and video. This was an empire!

"Andy was a very shrewd man, and I think he had a very clear vision of what he wanted," said Hayes, who never knew the artist. "Look what he had in the inner circle: He had a brilliant director of operations, Vincent Fremont; and he had Fred Hughes, who was in charge of acquisitions, product development and developing and maximizing assets. He surrounded himself on an intimate level with the best people, and the place worked like a charm -- like IBM in the art world, or Cap Cities, or Berkshire Hathaway -- any one of the really terrifically managed companies.

"It all meshed, and they created a lot of wealth, and good jobs for a lot of people, and now that wealth is being used for a good purpose. That's what businesses are theoretically for."

The Art

Even Fred Hughes, who masterminded the Sotheby's deal, couldn't have anticipated the Warholmania that has broken out with the simultaneous launch of Warhol home videos, film festivals, books, $13,500 Warhol-designed watches and exhibitions of his art. Inevitably, it is bound to translate into even more power and cash for the Warhol Foundation, and higher prices for the Warhol art that remains in the estate -- the potentially largest but iffiest asset in terms of market value.

How much of Warhol's art remains is a secret -- though much of it is recent. For now, it is being held, not sold, with the expectation that it will rise in value. Whether, ultimately, it will be given to museums or sold has not been decided.

"It will probably be a bit of both," said Fremont. "Warhol had a number of art dealers in Europe, and a few Americans. The Germans were among the biggest fans of Andy, and some of his best paintings are in Germany. The American museums, to this day, still don't have major pieces."

American museums, however, are lining up. "We started getting solicitations three or four months after Andy died," said Fremont, "which we told them politely was slightly premature."

Some have had the grace to wait, but have clear desires: "We deeply admire the 1963 Warhol 'Mona Lisa,' " said National Gallery curator Nan Rosenthal, noting that the loan of Leonardo's masterpiece that year from the Louvre to the National Gallery may well have inspired the painting. John Caldwell, curator of contemporary art at the Carnegie Museum of Art, dreams of having "one of the car crashes, or the electric chairs," but would be happy with a "Liz," or "Marilyn," or a Campbell's soup can.

Caldwell said, "Andy's work had a lot to do with death." Until proven otherwise -- perhaps by the Museum of Modern Art retrospective due in early 1989 -- most people are likely to think it had more to do with money.

The Foundation

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts is the largest, but not the first, of the proliferating foundations being set up in the wills of successful American artists to help other artists. The first was established by Mark Rothko (spent largely on lawyers before being dissolved), followed by Adolph Gottlieb, and then the Pollock-Krasner Foundation with assets of $23 million. The $79 million Georgia O'Keeffe estate had been the largest of an American artist before Warhol's, but the foundation that resulted from a family contest to her will is devoted chiefly to disposing of her works.

Nobody knows what the precise value of Warhol's estate ultimately will be, but by law, the foundation must give away 5 percent of its assets each year, which could mean $5 million -- making it one of the largest charitable visual arts foundations in the world.

Hughes refused to be interviewed in person or to be photographed for this article. "It's just work," he huffed on the telephone, "and if I'm out giving interviews, or yakking on the phone, I'm not working."

Yet he talked on. "The foundation idea was going when Andy was still alive. There's a statement of purpose: To support and award grants to both cultural institutions and organizations, and individuals in the United States and abroad."

The "visual arts" that are part of the foundation's official name, he noted, include painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, film, video, decorative arts and art publishing, along with aspects of performing arts that incorporate plastic arts; parks and landmark preservation -- a special interest of Warhol's.

"It's broad, but just broad enough to give us leeway where needed," said Hughes, whose first big decision was to set up a "nonoperating foundation," which means that the money goes to existing institutions, rather than establishing a new bureaucracy.

"We may, in the future, perceive the right thing to do is make individual grants, but for now we will concentrate on visual arts institutions and organizations," said Hughes. "And we know from our experience which institutions and programs are appropriate."

Though no grants are likely to be made for some months, Hughes did say that early possibilities include the Whitney Museum; the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, where Andy took Saturday morning classes as a child; and the New York Academy of Art, a seven-year-old free school in Manhattan devoted to teaching traditional art skills in a rigorous, inflexible academic curriculum. Warhol was a trustee and Hughes continues to be.

John Warhola, one of the foundation's three directors, said for his part, "One thing I'm going to be favoring is Pittsburgh, because this is where Andy was born and raised, and he liked Pittsburgh ... I know Andy had a really hard time going to work right after the Depression, so if there are youngsters out there who have a lot of talent, I hate to see them have to take a job, when they could be famous just like Andy."

He seems, in fact, to be the only foundation officer who will articulate a real philosophy of how the Warhol money might best be spent. He is especially enthusiastic about the new Pittsburgh Children's Museum, which is installing a portfolio of Warhol's "Myths" (Superman, Mickey Mouse, Uncle Sam and other characters well known to kids) next to a silkscreen lab where children can experiment with Warhol's medium, see his art and examine the whole idea of myths in our society, according to the museum's director, James O. Loney.

"Right now, we're basically waiting for money from the auction and some real estate to fund the foundation," said Hughes. "Meanwhile, we're studying, getting good advice and arranging ourselves regarding grants. Andy had this vague personality thing, but he wasn't vague. It was convenient for him to hide behind me, but he knew what he wanted. A lot of people were surprised that there even was a will."

Others were surprised to learn that Warhol's millions will be going to charity, but Eugene Thaw, director and founder of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, welcomes it.

"If Warhol's estate is going to benefit visual arts institutions, isn't that all to the good," said Thaw, "especially from a man as uncommitted to any social purpose as Warhol in his public career?

"In a way, it's a social apotheosis of the whole atmosphere around Warhol -- a curious footnote in history that seems to me charming and remarkable."