SANTA MONICA, Calif. (ACNI) – Richard Avedon’s silver gelatin photographic portrait of pop artist Andy Warhol exposing his deeply scarred midriff and chest is not pretty. Not even close. But it is darkly compelling, with a subject matter so stark and provocative, it dares the observer to speculate how the photo came about. The photograph is the opening lot in Santa Monica Auctions’ June 18-19 Summer Sale.
Surely intentionally, Warhol’s head is not visible in the composition, but the pattern of scars and surgical stitches on the subject’s chest are as reliable a confirmation of identity as would be tattoos or physical abnormalities. They are a visual documentation of Warhol’s near-death experience at the hands of a shooter who attempted to assassinate him on June 3, 1968.
As the story goes, Warhol became the target of Factory fringe character and feminist extremist Valerie Solanas after she decided that Warhol had “too much control” over her and was planning to steal her work. Solanas had authored a script called the S.C.U.M. Manifesto, which she had given to Warhol to read. Earlier on the day of the shooting, Solanas reportedly had been turned away from the Factory after asking for the return of her script. It had been misplaced, but Solanas did not believe it and hatched a plan to kill Warhol.
Solanas returned to the Factory with a handgun and waited for Warhol in the building’s lobby. When Warhol eventually arrived with a few friends in tow, Solanas fired three shots, wounding art critic Mario Amaya and seriously wounding Warhol. Had Solanas’ gun not jammed, Warhol’s manager, Fred Hughes, might also have been shot.
Surgeons fought to save Warhol by opening his chest and massaging his heart. Although he survived, Warhol never fully recovered, and for the rest of his life was forced to wear a corset to protect his incisions.
Solanas, whose psychiatric evaluation indicated she was schizophrenic, was sentenced to three years in prison.
The incident was front-page news but quickly faded from the public eye because of the Robert Kennedy assassination, which occurred two days later.
In a reaction that could only be described as classic Warhol, the pop-art visionary found a way to extend his “15 minutes” by posing for Avedon the following year, his black turtleneck raised to reveal the shocking physical proof of his injuries.
The photograph to be auctioned is numbered 3 from a 1969-1975 edition of 10, and is signed, numbered and stamped by Avedon on verso. Framed, it measures 71 by 57 inches. Robert Berman, owner of Santa Monica Auctions, expects the famous portrait to make $80,000-$100,000.
View the fully illustrated catalog for Santa Monica Auctions’ June 18-19 Summer Sale and sign up to bid absentee or live via the Internet at www.LiveAuctioneers.com.
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