There is one thing about New York that is definitely a big plus: namely, there are always plenty of exhibits, events and places to explore in order to have a great time – for little or no money. No healthy human has to sit home and twiddle his or her thumbs! Since time flies in Manhattan I always make a point of keeping track of everything in my trusty At-A-Glance Daily Appointment Book.
BUT ONE SLIPPED BY
That said, I kept saying that “we definitely have to see the Andy Warhol (1928-1987) exhibit at the Whitney, it’s the first major American showing of his work in almost 30 years. We can’t miss it.” The exhibit dates were from November 12, 2018 to March 31, 2019 and guess what? We missed it.
I still don’t know how it happened. Then, in one of my favorite publications, Vanity Fair magazine of December 2018 I ran across an intriguing article by Mark Rozzo, titled “Andy’s Meal Ticket” which went into a lot of detail about Warhol and how he became a famous artist. This got my attention at once. I’m often intrigued by how a person or project evolves beyond all expectations. This article begins with two headline-grabbing events.
Andy Warhol looking for one of his favorite soups – photo courtesy of Vanity Fair
HE STARTED IN LOS ANGELES
Rozzo begins by writing, “On February 22, 1987 Warhol died following an operation at a New York hospital. Unbelievably, on the same day, Irving Blum, the Los Angeles gallery owner (who in 1962 had given Warhol his first solo exhibit as a fine artist) was busy preparing to ship the 32 paintings from that show to the National Gallery, in Washington, DC.
For 25 years, Blum had owned the works (each 20” x 16”) that depicted 32 varieties of Campbell’s soups. Blum had visited Warhol in NYC and took the chance of inviting the unknown artist to show the whole set at his Ferus Gallery on North La Cienega Boulevard.” It wasn’t an easy sell.
But Blum won Warhol over when he said, “Movie stars come into the gallery.” Andy replied, “Wow! Let’s do it!” Note: For years, the 33-year-old artist had made no inroads into the New York galleries.
THE SUMMER OF 1962
Irving Blum decided to display the paintings single file along narrow ledges. Blum priced the paintings at $100 each; Warhol got $50 a pop. No two paintings were exactly alike. The press went nuts – and negative. Blum took the paintings and Warhol seriously. (In 1961 Warhol gave his brother one of the few “pre-Ferus gallery” soup-can paintings. In 2002 it sold for $1.2 million). At the gallery, only five of the paintings sold.
BLUM BOUGHT ALL 32
The gallery owner (still with us at 88) persuaded the five buyers to back off. But now admits, “There was a certain amount of anger as Warhol’s prices shot into the stratosphere. But who knew that at the time?” Blum sent Warhol 10 monthly installments of $100 to keep the set intact -- $1,000 total, $31.25 a painting.
THE SUITS AT CAMPBELL’S
These guys threatened copyright-infringement litigation following the Ferus show. And then someone at Campbell’s woke up! Soon the company was love-bombing Warhol with collegial letters and FREE SOUP by the crateful. Now it has a Warhol painting of its soup in the boardroom of its corporate headquarters in Camden, NJ – where it remains today. (I love this story.)
THE SPECTACULAR PAYOUT
In 1996 Blum made a combined gift and sale of the 32 “Ferus Type” Campbell’s soup cans to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) for $15 million or $468,750 per can. In 2012, Blum estimated the combined value at $200 million which, if anything, was a lowball figure. So there you go. We may have missed the exhibit but, all things considered, this is a smokin’ hot soup story.
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I just read an article that sounded – to me at least – like “a canary in a coal mine” or an early warning of danger. This piece, written by Joe Pompeo, appeared in the May 2020 issue of Vanity Fair magazine with the title “The British Tabloid Invasion” and a subtitle that read, “How the Daily Mail is conquering American gossip.”
The paparazzi horde, La Dolce Vita, 1960 – photo courtesy of Vanity Fair
Apparently the good old U.S. is a nation of “not great” sleepers. Really? And I thought I was the only one! According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention it was revealed that one out of three Americans are chronically sleep-deprived. Yikes!
I think we’re all taken by the incredible mystique of the famous French fashion house, Hermès that has been with us for two centuries and is still owned and operated by the same family. From its beginnings in fine equestrian leather goods, they are – in the tumultuous year 2020 – best known for their handbags and many other items.
My image of Hermès has always been rarified products at equally rarified prices so imagine my surprise when I recently received a very stylish publication of theirs in the mail.
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