Local shock rock legend Alice Cooper has decided to auction his rare Andy Warhol original. On October 23, Scottsdale-based Larsen Art Auction will sell it to the highest bidder and will donate a portion of its commission to Cooper’s nonprofit Solid Rock Foundation, which offers community support to local teens. With an estimated value of $2.5 million to $4.5 million, the painting will likely fetch the highest selling price for any artwork in the history of Arizona.
The piece was famously rediscovered several years ago in the garage of Cooper’s Scottsdale residence, much to the surprise of the art world and the musician himself. “This silkscreen was given to me during some crazy years and I had completely forgotten I even owned it,” said Cooper.
The piece is a vibrant red Little Electric Chair (acrylic paint and silkscreen ink on canvas) from Warhol’s Death and Disaster series (1964-65). The painting is based on a press photo from the 1950s of the death chamber at Sing Sing prison, where Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for conspiring to pass atomic secrets to the Russians. Warhol used source material from newspapers and police photo archives for this body of work, with subjects including suicides, car accidents, executions, etc.
In the early ’70s, Cooper met Warhol at the NYC watering hole Max’s Kansas City, and they became fast friends. “I met Andy Warhol when I lived in New York City, and it was just when I was becoming the scourge of rock n’ roll, and of course that attracted the whole Warhol crowd. You’d go to clubs like Max’s Kansas City and they were all there and we’d hang out. It was a very surreal time, Andy was always taking photographs of everyone or making movies. He had a whole crowd of people around him all the time, and my girlfriend [at the time] Cindy Lang was really connected into that group,” said Cooper.
It was Lang who gifted the painting to Cooper all those years ago. As a part of Warhol’s circle, she’d purchased the piece for $2,500. With its current value at at least $2.5 million, the painting is a testament to the potential of art as an investment.
“Years ago, I was talking to Dennis Hopper who said he was selling a couple of his Warhols. I said, ’Wait a minute, I think I have a Warhol somewhere.'” Cooper recalled. “So I went digging around and found it, and it was in perfect condition. I mean it was sort of in a time capsule [stored in a poster tube], which I think Andy would have appreciated because he loved doing the time capsule as an art piece. So there it was, it had lived by itself for many years. We took it out and had it looked at, with the intention of displaying it, but then just decided it was time to move on, time to release it to the world. I’d had it all this time and had almost forgotten about it – let’s let someone else really enjoy it.”