x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Warhol sale prompts fears the market could go pop

What's Down: Some collectors are concerned that a sale of more than 20,000 Andy Warhol works could damage prices.

Andy Warhol sales are hardly rare: about 200 works go on the market each year. But the auction at Christie's in New York today has an unusual offering.

It is the start of a sale by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts of more than 20,000 prints, photographs, drawings and collages - the remainder of its collection of the pop artist's work.

The sale is being phased over several years to try to limit the effect of "dumping" so many works, but still some collectors are concerned that such a huge sale could damage prices, while others see what could be a never-bettered buying opportunity.

The foundation decided that it no longer wanted to broker individual sales and hired Christie's to conduct a series of sales over the next few years that between them are expected to fetch more than US$100 million.

The proceeds will be used to boost the foundation's $225m endowment to support visual arts.

"We're converting art into money," Michael Straus, the foundation's chairman, told The Wall Street Journal. As well as live auctions, Christie's will also conduct ad-hoc private sales and online auctions starting in February.

Today's sale will include more than 350 paintings and 1,000 prints. And while the collection is not thought to contain any iconic masterpieces such as the Campbell's soup cans or silkscreen Marilyns, some works are nevertheless expected to fetch thousands of dollars.

Three Targets, a 19ft-long silk-screen depicting three bullet-ridden bull's eyes, is expected to fetch at least $1m. Other top lots include Jackie, a red screen print and paper collage portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy, expected to sell for at least $200,000 and Self-Portrait, a Polaroid of Warhol wearing black sunglasses and his trademark silver wig, expected to go for at least $15,000. Polaroids of Grace Jones and Farah Fawcett are also among the lots.

Five years ago, a fan paid $71.7m for Green Car Crash, a record for a Warhol work.

The foundation which was established after Warhol's death in 1987, initially used the proceeds from sales to grow its endowment.

Now, by selling the remainder of its collection, it can cut overheads including insurance and restoration costs to focus on philanthropy. "We want to maximise our grant-giving," said Mr Straus.

The sale comes soon after the September opening of a major retrospective of Warhol's work at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A Warhol exhibition that toured through Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah in 2002 - the first time the artist's works had been shown in the region - proved extremely popular.

lgutcher@thenational.ae