A Scottsdale gallery could have the biggest art sale in Arizona history on Saturday, when an Andy Warhol painting of an electric chair is released.
The red and black acrylic screen-printed canvas, simply titled “Little Electric Chair,” is one of 465 art lots that Larsen Gallery is auctioning – but it has gained worldwide attention and could cost between 2.5 and 4. , $ 5 million.
The auction itself is a momentous event for Larsen Gallery: it is the largest lot of art ever to be sold and comprises 55 lots, 24 of which were created by leading black artists.
Gallery owners Scott and Polly Larsen believe the current owner of “Little Electric Chair” may well push the sale price beyond the piece that currently holds the title of the most expensive piece of art sold in the state. – a painting by Thomas Moran that sold for $ 4.1 million at the Scottsdale Art Auction in 2001.
That’s because Warhol’s piece was owned by rock icon Alice Cooper, who rediscovered the relic he owned 40 years ago four years ago.
Cooper, who rose to fame for his shock-rock tactics on stage that included sitting in an electric chair – obtained an unstretched canvas of the electric chair image straight from the Warhol factory. It was given to Cooper by a girlfriend at the time. “This job was given to me for the roaring twenties, and I had completely forgotten that I even owned it,” Cooper said.
Cooper felt it was important to sell the painting to an Arizona gallery.
“Alice is deeply involved in Arizona with her foundation and he wanted to deal with a local gallery and keep it in Arizona,” said Scott Larsen “We have a few associates who have worked with Alice and we have had relationships with him on other artwork in the past, but it was its business manager Shep Gordon who contacted us about the artwork.
Polly added that Warhol’s play deserves attention – but the Cooper connection didn’t hurt.
“The painting stands on its own and a Warhol collector can appreciate it despite its association with Alice Cooper,” she said. “However, the fact that he was associated with him drew a lot of press and attention.”
The work is part of Warhol’s ‘Death and Destruction’ series from 1964 and 1965 which featured newspaper and police archive sources with footage of suicides, car crashes and other chaos.
Polly said the series was inspired by a conversation Warhol had with a critic who told him, “If you want to be seen as an important artist and an icon in art history, you have to do something else. thing than soup cans. ”
Warhol – then famous for his painting of a can of Campbell’s soup and the portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Pressley – accepted the challenge and created his most striking collection of the time.
The footage was not commercially viable due to its shocking nature, but critics viewed the series as an essential part of its work.
Cooper has become a big fan of Salvador DalÍ’s works.
“Alice isn’t necessarily a big collector of Warhol, so he wanted to give someone who might appreciate her more the opportunity to own it,” Scott said.
The Larsens are honored to collaborate with Cooper on the work and donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of “Little Electric Chair” to the Cooper’s Solid Rock Foundation, which provides support to local teens.
“Little Electric Chair” is one of 11 Warhol lots to be auctioned.
In addition to Warhol’s work, the Larsens are also embellished with a collection of 55 works, including 24 by prominent black artists.
“To me, it’s quite astonishing that a lot of the works we have for sale date back to the early 90s – that is, when these particular collectors were collecting the works,” said Polly. “They were works that spoke of what was going on during their time.”
“What’s amazing is that most of what is said in this piece of art is still happening today,” she said.
The 24 pieces by eminent black artists came from the personal collection of attorney Stanley and Mikki Weithorn.
“Stanley and Mikki Weithorn made a conscious effort to start collecting things that made social statements,” Polly said. “We had been in contact with Mikki over the years and she decided it was time for her to sell the rest of her work.”
The coins have all garnered a lot of attention, but there are two coins the Larsens are excited to auction.
Also on sale is an acrylic and fabric collage created by artist Emma Amos which measures 85 “by 65” and features a unique print of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor sitting in a park on a sunny day, surrounded by the eyes of other prominent historical figures and bordered by the phrase “time will tell”.
There is also a print by Kerry James Marshall which has received much attention and features a woman holding flowers in front of a mural depicting fallen civil rights activists highlighted by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
The Larsens expect to see thousands of bidders bidding on the jobs.
“Auctions typically generate around 3,000 to 4,000 registered bidders, about half of which are online,” Scott said.
Polly expects to see even more bidders than in years past due to all the excitement surrounding the coins.
“A lot more eyes are on the auction this year and we hope to win future shipments,” she said.
Her husband added: “We are delighted to have all aspects of the auction back for the first time since the pandemic. ”