Velvet Above Ground

Velvet. (Courtesy Christie’s)

You never know who’s going to show up for a press preview at an auction house. The art world’s journalistic bullpen is small, and once you know the faces from Art in America, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, you often find yourself wondering who all those other people are in the room with you, ogling the Giacomettis.

A good number of them are, for lack of a better description, little old ladies. In sweaters and glasses, they eat the preview pains au chocolat with the best of them, and they probably do write for some publication, but let’s be fair, they aren’t exactly beat reporters.

The little old ladies came to be important, comedically, last Friday, as Christie’s postwar and contemporary art development chair Amy Cappellazzo took a group of journalists on a tour of works from the Andy Warhol Foundation in the auction house’s 20th-floor exhibition space. These pieces represent the first installment of an Everything Must Go sale for the foundation—leftovers from the Warhol estate, modestly priced and to be sold over the coming years.

“What did you say that the subject of this painting was?” asked a LOL, standing before a wall-size yellow and brown canvas, her pencil at the ready.

“Piss?” Ms. Cappellazzo said. She whipped her head around and brought it close to the woman so that she might better hear. “I said it’s piss,” she said with a slight hiss. “It’s a piss painting. Warhol and his friends just peed on the canvas.

“And it’s a very fine one at that,” she continued, addressing the group. “Larry [Gagosian] has one in his back room. He’s asking for 5 million,” she winked. “We’re going to let this one go for 800 to 1.2.”

The group moved room to room at a quick pace, past the book of dollar-sign drawings, past the drawings of shoes and a room with a black curtain that had another piss painting and “a very rare cum painting.” (“Not for you, ma’am?” Ms. Cappellazzo asked a LOL who didn’t enter the room.)

She paused before a silk-screen that looked, in its coloring, like it’d be worth a pretty penny if it had been of Jackie or Marilyn, though it was instead of a bighorn ram. “I look at this one,” she said. “And I just know where it’s going to end up: someone’s house in Aspen. Can’t you see it? I know, I just know.”

We soon came to a series of drawings that documented the life of Velvet, a poodle that lives on Park Avenue.

“Did Warhol ever write a text to go with the story of Velvet?” asked one man, fascinated.

“No,” Ms. Cappellazzo said.

Velvet Above Ground