SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Stories like this one are as rare as an Andy Warhol painting. Full of rock and roll, celebrities, lost and found treasure-this is a story of fascination and intrigue. It begins in the 70s with an encounter between famed rocker Alice Cooper and influential contemporary artist Andy Warhol.
"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," said Cooper in a press release.
As the story goes, they met at a party one night, and by the time the evening ended, Warhol was gifting Cooper with one of his paintings. At the time, Cooper believes it was valued at $2,500.
"You'd go to clubs like Max's Kansas City, and they were all there, and we'd hang out," he explains. "It was a very surreal time. Andy was always taking photographs of everyone or making movies of everyone. He had a whole crowd of people around him all the time, and my girlfriend Cindy Lang was really connected into that group," says Cooper.
In an interview in 2017 for The Guardian, Cooper says he vaguely remembers the evening, a night filled with partying, but definitely remembers being worried about having something so valuable inside his home. That's when he decided to roll up the painting, put it in a tube, and place it in storage. And, there it sat for 40 years.
"This silkscreen was given to me during some crazy years," says Cooper. "And I had completely forgotten I even owned it."
According to the 2017 article, Cooper's mother reminded him that he had stored it away. Leave it to good 'ole mom. But, he also says he was reminded of the painting after a conversation with Actor Dennis Hopper.
"One day a few years ago, I was talking to Dennis Hopper, who said he was selling a couple of his Warhol's. I said, 'Wait a minute, I think I have a Warhol somewhere.' So I went digging around and found it," he explains.
The musician famously re-discovered the piece in the garage of his Scottsdale residence, much to the surprise of the art world and the rocker himself. Just by luck, it was well-preserved. "It was in perfect condition," he says. "I mean, it was sort of in a time capsule, which I think Andy would have loved because he loved doing the time capsule as an art piece in and of itself."
The painting is a vibrant red "Little Electric Chair" acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, from Warhol's Death and Disaster series from 1964-65. Warhol's Little Electric Chair 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 series, including suicides and car accidents.
"So there it was," Cooper recalls. "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 I just decided it was time to move on, time to release it to the world," he says. "I figured I'd had it for all this time and had almost forgotten about it - let's let someone else really enjoy it."
The piece will be auctioned this October 23, 2021, at Scottsdale's Larsen Gallery. And if it fetches the $2.5 to $4.5 million of its appraised value, it could become the most expensive piece of artwork ever to sell in the history of Arizona. What are the odds of it selling at auction? The Larsen Art Auctions have historically sold greater than 90 percent of lots with registered bidders from almost every state and more than 40 countries. But, to provide a little give back to the Arizona community, the gallery plans to donate a portion of its commission for the painting to Cooper's non-profit Solid Rock Foundation, which offers support, community, and music education to local teenagers.
For more info:
Oldtown Scottsdale- Near 2nd Street & Scottsdale Rd.