Stories The View from The Hamster Cage
Excuse my mess
As this is my first entry, an explanation of the title would seem to be in order, except to anyone who has seen my office. Things have a way of accumulating behind my glass-walled domain. The title comes from my girlfriend’s pet-name for my offices (at home and at the museum), to her eternal dismay.
My plan is that this blog will provide a way of sharing some recent answers to basic information queries received through our web site, on the assumption that if it’s interesting to one person, then others might be curious, too. My first post has to do with a popular and still mostly affordable collecting niche.
Over the past few years, prices have soared for old phonograph records for which Warhol designed the packaging or simply provided illustrations, most recently for Volumes 1 and 2 of the “Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish” series of language instruction publications. Consequently I’ve fielded many questions from people hoping to strike a little vinyl gold. Sometimes they do, but most often they do not.
Buy the book
The current published authority on this subject is “Andy Warhol / The Record Covers 1949-1987 / Catalogue Raisonné” (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and Prestel, 2008). It’s very useful in helping budding collectors to identify both Warhol’s various styles of illustration and many of the recordings in which he had a hand in one form or another (the book’s criteria for what constitutes a work by Warhol was very broad). Each image of the 50 covers in the Cat Rais is printed very large, about the same size as a 12-inch LP. The author Paul Marechal admits that more recordings will probably be discovered, and that’s already been proven to be true.
Don’t forget the other book
The Cat Rais of record covers was sold together with the catalogue to the exhibition Warhol Live: Music and Dance in Warhol’s Work. It includes excellent essays by professors Branden Joseph (on the Druds, a band that Warhol and many other pop artists formed in about 1963), John Hunisak (on Warhol’s love for opera), Roger Copeland (on dance), and Melissa Ragona (on Warhol’s audiotapes), and by the three co-curators (Stéphane Aquin of Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Emma Lavigne of Centre Pompidou, and myself).
Soon after these catalogues were published, I was contacted by two collectors asking about items in their collections that were not included in the book. When I saw images of the objects, it was clear that they were Warhol’s work: his stylistic “fingerprints” were all over them.
Byron on Bluebird
These include a 12-inch LP recording by Hugo Winterhalter and his Orchestra, with Byron Janis, the Pittsburgh-native pianist (a pupil of Vladimir Horowitz) performing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Ferde Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite, released by RCA Bluebird Records (LBC-1045) in the 1950s. In the illustration reproduced on this recording’s packaging, Warhol’s blotted-line technique is clearly seen in the drawing of a grand piano, with the pianist and orchestra.
Another is a privately published 7-inch recording by a Swedish band called RATFAB, in 1984. Warhol did this illustration as a favor to a friend whose grandson was in the band (lucky for them!). The songs on this recording are Det brinner en eld and Mörka ögon (“A fire is burning / Dark eyes”). Warhol’s work consists of the band’s name in his handwriting, repeated vertically three times in primary colors on a black ground. It was released in a small edition; probably fewer than 300 copies were made. If you’re wondering, RATFAB is an acronym for “Roland And The Flying Albatross Band.” Obviously, RATFAB is so much better!
Guy et Richard
I was very pleased to be able to identify Warhol’s work on these recordings, and also to receive copies of them as gifts to the museum from the collectors Guy Minnebach (of Belgium) and Richard Forrest (of Sweden). Guy also donated copies of two additional Warhol-illustrated record jackets which are included in the Catalogue Raisonné: a 7-inch recording of Waltzes by Johann Strauss, Jr. on Camden Records from the 1950s, and the 12-inch LP Four Divertimenti by Mozart, performed by the Wind Instrument Ensemble of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and released as Epic’s LC 3081 in 1956. Richard also supplied excellent backstory information on the RATFAB record for our collection database. My thanks to both of them!
Because of their generosity, we were able to add these pieces to our presentation of Warhol Live in the summer of 2009). If you’re in Nashville this summer of 2011, look for this exhibition at the Frist Center for Visual Arts, in the heart of Music City.
Read more at warhol.org: The View from the Hamster Cage