Warhol by the Book, interview with Matt Wrbican

I keep looking around for news and stuff like that about the current exhibition Warhol by the Book at Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown. Maybe i’m looking in all the wrong places but i’ve not found a HUGE amount of buzz about it so far, but things are just getting started… I did however find a very interesting interview with Matt Wrbican done by a radio station namned WAMC, i think….?

Anyways, the interview is almost half an hour long and since i won’t be able to see the actual exhibition this was a really great listen and with Matt’s enthusiasm and detailed descriptions about it all it almost made me feel like i was there checking it out. When it comes to the dust jackets and book covers he mentions there are 19 known books and that there are probably others that we don’t know of yet. So that’s good news for my goose hunting that even he thinks there might be more… Among all the great stuff he talks about he mentions the design for Pistols for Two which was Warhol’s first dust jacket as a professional and that they have five drawings in the exhibition that relate to that design, as i understand it going through all the steps from draft to finished design, or something like that… He also mentions the misspelling of his name on some covers and of course A LOT of other cool stuff.

Check out the interview here, well worth a listen!

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Where lies the heart?

Well, actually the correct title is Here lies the heart but we’ll get to that… Without putting in an incredible amount of work i’ve been able to find more than a couple of drafts for dust jacket designs that ended up not being used. So i think it’s a pretty safe bet that there are others as well, finding these might be tricky though. But there is one more that i know about, well… at least i know that it exists but i have no idea what it looks like. In one of the letters in Mary Lois Timbes Adheads book Meet me at the butterfly tree Robert E. Bell mentions that he has five original drawings that Warhol did for the cover. So that would mean there are an additional four designs for that cover, god only knows where they ended up…

Anyways, that’s not what this was supposed to be about. This is supposed to be about a Warhol cover design that was completed but ended up not being used at all. At least i think it should be considered finished, it sure looks that way to me. The title of the book is Here lies the heart and was written by Mercedes De Acosta and published in 1960. I first came across this cover a while ago and at first i found it odd that i could not find the actual book with this cover anywhere, and there was also no mention of this among the articles and things that feature other dust jackets designs by Warhol. But as always Guy Minnebach set the record straight and informed me that the design was never used and that looking for it would of course be a complete waste of time. Anyways, as said the design looks finished to me considering that it looks pretty “clean” and has the title and authors name all ready to go… As with a lot of his other designs it shows Warhol’s fascination with hands and personally i quite like this cover. It looks a lot better than the boring “photo cover” that was eventually used on the actual book. There is also a somewhat different design in the catalogue for the exhibition Reading Andy Warhol that i’ve only been able to find a pretty bad image of online. Apart from some discepancies in the typography the major difference between the two i would say is of course the white heart in between the fingers and has the title in it. I think the catalogue has the date for this drawing down as circa 1959 and considering the book was published in 1960 it’s hard to argue with that.

Here-lies-the-heart-warhol

So, how did this cover come to be, and why was it not used? Well, sadly i have no good answer or information really… And the exhibition catalogue does not shed any light on this either, so my guess would be as good any anybody elses. Anyways, as always i at first knew nothing about the author. If you look at all the authors for which Warhol designed the jacket for one of their books i only recognized Leslie Charteris, and that is of course only because of The Saint. So… who was Mercedes De Acosta and how did she come to befriend Andy Warhol? Well, apparently she was and maybe still is quite well known in literary and film circles. She wrote a couple of plays, novels and some poetry but from what i’ve read it seems these might have brought her a little fame but certainly not the accompanying fortune. By most accounts she was professionally unsuccessful and instead she is best known for her many lesbian affairs or relationships with high profile celebrities at the time, the most famous of those being Greta Garbo. And she was also friends with Andy Warhol. Exactly how good friends they were seems to be up for debate with some saying not at all and others, like author Hugo Vickers who writes in his book Loving Garbo that they were apparently close enough to spend thanksgiving together. Vickers also writes that the three of them once met at a picnic where Warhol gave a drawing of a butterfly to Garbo which she eventually crumbled. After saving the drawing Warhol then allegedly had his mother write Crumpled butterfly by Greta Garbo on it, of course i have no idea if this story is true or not and i’ve looked for the drawing online without any luck. But it’s a nice story. Whatever the case i think it’s safe to say that they knew each other in one way or another, not only because Warhol did this design for her book but he also designed the invitations for the party of whatever to celebrate the release of the book. I have no idea how many of these invitations that might have survived but one was up for auction at Christie’s in 2001 and i was shocked to see that it sold for a very obtainable $800 or so. Too bad i wasn’t into this thing back then, had i been i might have tried and bid on it… And maybe the butterfly on the invitation is some “inside joke” in reference to what happened at the picnic, if it happened at all… And what about the book? Well, to my understanding De Acosta got seriously ill sometime in 1960 and in order to be able to pay for medical expenses she decided to write her memoirs which was well-received but it did spark a bit of controversy since she described or at least implied that several high profile people were homosexual and that she had been romantically involved with them. Apparently Garbo was the most pissed off…

Here-lies-the-heart-invitation

Time to wrap things up. I don’t know how things like this work and who has the most say when it comes to what cover design that will be used but if i have to make a guess i would say it’s mainly the publishers decision? Whatever the case i would assume Warhol wasn’t that upset since he did the invitations once the book was finished, or maybe they were already made up before the book was published… For some reason i’m intrigued by stories like this, too bad it’s basically impossible to find any real answers though. It’s a great looking drawing and a shame that it wasn’t used.

Alternative covers for Love is a Pie?

I’m far from an expert on Warhol, especially not when it comes to what went on in the pre-pop days. But i’m trying to learn. I do prefer his early work and as said i’m trying to read up on it. I’m waiting for the book From Silverpoint to Silver Screen that i’ve been told by Guy Minnebach is a fantastic source for these old drawings from the 50’s, so that will be interesting to have a look at eventually. I’m also not really THAT into art in general. So every now and then i come across things that are news to me but that have most likely been collecting dust in others peoples heads for a long time or been featured in some exhibition years ago. And that is what happened last night. I came across some images from an exhibition called Andy Warhol 1950s Drawings that was held at the Anton Kern Gallery in New York at the end of last year. I would assume most, if not all, of the drawings on display are in the previously mentioned book and if so they have also been in at least two previous exhibitions that i know of, one at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark and one at the Teylers Museum in The Netherlands.

And i’m not totally ignorant when it comes to all this, i had seen a couple of the drawings before but i did notice one that i had not seen. And that one was pretty interesting. It appears to be an alternative cover to LovLove-Is-A-Pie-Alternative-Warhol-1e is a Pie by Maude Hutchins and even though both the title and the name of the author has beed crossed over it still looks like a somewhat finished draft.  A bit rough around the edges maybe but still, pretty interesting! As said i’m no expert but it’s interesting that this is not really in the same style or whatever as the drawing that ended up on the cover. This is more of a “boston pops style face” to me whereas the end result has the featureless face thing going on similar to the one on The Runaway Pigeon.

Anywhoooo… This “incredible” find prompted me to start looking for more. Even though i have come across some other drawings that appear to be alternative covers for Pistols for Two and The Runaway Pigeon i never really though about that there might be more for other books. But apparently there are. And eventually i found yet another drawing on the “love is a pie theme” that was up for auction at Christie’s. I haven’t figured out when this was or if it sold but that doesn’t really matter. Unlike the first drawing this does not feel as finished to me, not only because the authors name is missing but i don’t know… it feels to messy too be something Love-Is-A-Pie-Alternative-Warhol-2other than an early draft or whatever. With a good imagination i guess one might consider the space between the two jokers or whatever they are to make out the shape of a heart, but i don’t know… might just be a coincidence.

Call me ignorant or uninformed but “finding” these was pretty cool! And since things have been slow on both ebay and Amazon lately these “new” finds should keep me busy for a while looking for more of these alternative covers…

 

 

Lightning strikes again, and all turns yellow…

Once again there’s the feeling of déjà vu… I keep close to 50 saved search thingys on ebay and they say persistence is a fool’s best asset. For a while now this has almost made me show signs of being in the early stages of developing an OCD. I’ll check them when waking up in the middle of the night due to my daughter yelling or crying in my ear, first thing in the morning and then a couple of times during the day when there is nothing else to do. I’m not sure why i do this though. The chances that one morning there will be a The Nation’s Nightmare or something like that with a BIN of $50 are pretty slim. But i do it for the same reason people play the lottery or bet on horses i guess. And i regularly do both of those so… Anyways, now and then something happens that kind of makes it all feel worth while. And this morning was one of those times.

I don’t particularly like the cover to MTV’s High Priority and this is not the first time i’ve mentioned that. And things haven’t changed, it still feels sloppy, unpolished and unfinished to me. So all this considered it was basically at gunpoint that i decided to eventually get a copy. Then i believe it was Kevin Kinney from the WCCC who broke the news that there was also an “alternative” cover with a slight difference in coloring. I then got lucky at the end of 2013 when i found one of those yellow copies at a bargain price on ebay. I didn’t keep that cover for very long though as i sent it to Richard Forrest as a thank you for some nice mock-ups of The Nation’s Nightmare, Night Beat and some other things that he made for me. Time went on and i didn’t give this cover as much as a split second of my thoughts until it appeared again on ebay last summer. This time it was without a BIN and despite my thoughts and feelings about this cover i still thought i would buy it, if nothing else just to complete the set.

As i recall interest seemed low with not that many watchers and no real bidding was going on until the end. But oh my, when things started to happen there was a small explosion and it ended up selling for $444(!). I couldn’t believe my eyes and felt like the biggest moron on the planet who had just given away what was now apparently a pretty damn desirable album! Call it what you want but in my opinion words like crazy, ludicrous, ridiculous or insane comes to mind…

popsike

As i’ve said before i really don’t want to take any kind of credit for things when it comes to all this. Frank Edwards had posted about his copy long before i did and Richard Forrest also mentions the yellow variant on his list on Rateyourmusic. However there has been quite a few hits on the post i did about it so i don’t know… maybe i helped raise awareness a little bit. And if so that was pretty stupid in the end since i would never ever cough up close to $500 for this record. But it’s safe to say that in one way or another fellow collectors are now aware of this alternative cover. It’s even gotten to the point where sellers on discogs mention that it’s a “red version” in the description as you can see below. I guess they are fed up with what they feel are crazy and irrelevant questions about what color the stupid shading on the logo is. And i don’t blame them, but it’s pretty funny. It was also pretty funny to see what happened right after this copy was sold as a lot of sellers thought what they held in their hands was pure gold and you could see red versions listed for hundreds of dollars for a while…

discogs

Time to cut to the chase…. as is common practice i was checking my saved searches this morning and among many blue dots there was one next to the one for “mtv high priority lp”. Certainly not the first time this has happened and naturally it didn’t get me all super excited but once i saw what was there my fingers started fiddling all over the phone and i couldn’t click things fast enough… I think it’s a least a bit remarkable that this is now the second one of these i have gotten for a BIN of just $10. However, in all my haste i didn’t pay attention to the shipping cost which was three times the cost of the record, but oh well… you can’t win them all. I don’t know if i should be happy though, and i definitely don’t feel like i just won some kind of lottery. This is still a train wreck of an album cover to me. But at least i didn’t have to pay hundreds of dollar for a piece of crap. And i am a little bit surprised it was still there for the taking, i would assume i am not the only one who has kept an eye out for it. But i ain’t complaining.

Maybe someday someone will come along who will want to trade this “gem” for a nice book, who knows…

MTVHighPriorityYellow