The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts has announced that it will divest itself of its entire collection of art by Mr. Warhol. Yes, the Andy Warhol Foundation is selling its Andy Warhol’s, as it evolves into a grant-making organization.
They reportedly will be donating some and selling others worth an estimated $100 million through Christie’s online and live auctions. Paintings, prints, photographs and drawings are included in the collection including, as The New York Times reports “Three Targets,” a large horizontal black-and-white canvas of paint and silk-screen depicting three targets with gunshots, expected to sell for $1 million to $1.5 million; a Jacqueline Kennedy collage from the 1960s, estimated at $200,000 to $300,000; and a “Self-Portrait in Fright Wig” from a ’70s Polaroid print, estimated at $15,000 to $20,000.
On the surface it seems shocking that an organization assigned to control the Warhol estate would divest itself entirely of its art. But with the goal of converting art to cash in order to focus on grants which would fill a marketplace decline in government and private art support, the decision appears to make greater sense. The Warhol Foundation has awarded nearly $250 million in grants to hundreds of museums and other nonprofit arts groups nationwide over the last 25 years, and with an expanded endowment should be able to reach far more.
But what about the art market itself? It seems surprising that the foundation would “dump” such a large cache on the market in such a public fashion. Tempering that argument is the fact that there are few “major” pieces left to sell in the foundation’s collection. And, with prices expected to fetch anything from $10,000 to the millions, the sale would put Warhols in the hands of a broad group of collectors—thus extending the brand out.
“Remove the barrier of location and time, and you open it up to the broadest buying public possible,” said Amy Cappellazzo, the chairwoman of postwar and contemporary development at Christie’s to The New York Times. “I think if Andy were alive, he would have very much liked that.”