Newly Discovered Andy Warhol Art Up For Auction

Dec 2, 2017
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

There's some newly discovered artworks up for auction this weekend in Massachusetts. They're by Andy Warhol, who died more than three decades ago. We don't know how much the works are worth until they sell, but we do know their value to Andy Warhol and to the man to whom he originally gave them. Member station WBUR's Maria Garcia has the story.

MARIA GARCIA, BYLINE: At McInnis Auctioneers' big showroom, auction director Dan Meader stands in front of dozens of Andy Warhol works. They range from a silkscreen of a New York Post cover on aluminum sheeting to male body sketches and stitched photo collages. But Meader thinks the most important piece is a work he's calling "Abstraction." It's the corner of a stretched canvas that's been broken, reshaped into a sculpture and painted with streaks of red, yellow and periwinkle blue. It was a gift from Warhol to Jon Gould.

DAN MEADER: He presented it to Jon and gave it to him in 1983. So you look at this, and you think of what's going through Andy's mind at this point in their relationship.

GARCIA: Meader discovered the art when he was hired to go through the estate of Jon's mother, Harriett Gould. Jon Gould and Andy Warhol met in 1980. Gould was a 27-year-old movie executive living in Los Angeles as a straight man. Warhol was 51, an emblematic figure of queer identity in New York. Biographies of Warhol show he tried to impress Gould with glamorous outings at Studio 54 and expensive gifts, including a Rolex watch. Tom Sokolowski is the former director of the Andy Warhol Museum.

TOM SOKOLOWSKI: He was not someone who gave presents to people because he was a working-class guy from Depression-era Pittsburgh, and he really believed in hard work. But he would say in his diaries things like - oh, what can I give Jon to make him like me more?

GARCIA: Gould moved into Warhol's New York apartment. He told people the two didn't have sex. But Warhol was clearly obsessed with Gould. He took more photos of Gould than anyone else - by the thousands - Gould smiling, tanning at the beach, working out in Central Park.

SOKOLOWSKI: He was feeling, you know, like the ugly duckling that he always referred to himself as. And then here was this young man who was interested in him and was just everything that Andy wanted to be, in a sense.

GARCIA: In 1984, Jon Gould was hospitalized and diagnosed with AIDS. Eventually, Gould moved back to Los Angeles and stopped speaking to Warhol. He died in September of 1986. Scholars think Gould's death deeply inspired Warhol's later work - paintings of attractive male figures or collages with the term, the big C, referring to gay cancer.

Here's Jessica Beck, a curator at the Andy Warhol Museum.

JESSICA BECK: It brings to light that he was a person in love and fearful, just like many people were in the '80s, at a time when, you know, it was mass epidemic happening across the U.S.

GARCIA: Warhol died six months after Gould of complications from gallbladder surgery.

Back at the auction house, the Warhol art is ready to be bought by collectors, its value deepened by the story of two men in love at the end of their lives.

For NPR News, I'm Maria Garcia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.