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Celebrity Art
by Baird Jones
 
     
  The number one selling "branded product" at the Andy Warhol Museum store in Pittsburgh is a condom that comes in a package printed with a detail of a Warhol camouflage painting. "It's a great novelty item, and it saves lives," said Rick Armstrong, museum product manager. The condom retails for $1. Other branded products include t-shirts, tote bags, pens and pencils along with lip-shaped pasta (modeled on the Marilyn image) for $4.99 and a Warhol audio CD, featuring "sounds from Warhol's life and work," for $10. For more info call (412) 237-8303 or go to the museum website at www.warhol.org. The Warhol family has also entered the vending game with its own website at www.warhol.com. There are science fiction prints by Andy's nephew James Warhol; chicken-footprint images by Andy's big brother Paul Warhol, a retired scrap-metal dealer; and silk-screened clothing from the Warhola Wear line by Madalen Warhol, Paul's daughter.

The latest rock star to make a splash in the fine art world is Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres, who opens a retrospective of his paintings and sculpture on April 9 at the Florida Museum of Hispanic and Latin American Art in Coral Gables, Fla. Torres is perhaps most celebrated for his bronze sculptures depicting the grips of leading athletes like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Martina Navratilova. His cast of the hands of Billie Jean King is on view at the U.S. Tennis Association in Forest Hills, N.Y. Individual sculptures sell for $25,000; a complete set of 10 casts of golfers' grips is $250,000. The series is scheduled to go on view New York at Alfred Dunhill on May 18.

Dutch curator Abigail Esman has organized a retrospective exhibition of drawings by John Lennon on the 30th anniversary of the famous "bed-in" of the late Beatle and his wife Yoko Ono at its original site, the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam, Mar. 26-Apr. 5. The exhibition includes drawings from the erotic "Bag One" series made during the week-long event back in 1969. "They're lovely, witty and intimate drawings showing scenes from the couple's wedding and their honeymoon. It's great to be able to show them in the context they were first created," Esman said. "Yoko is very enthusiastic about the show as a reminder of their protest for peace in an era of such great violence." Sheets of lyrics are also on view, as are sketches drawn by Lennon for his son Sean when he was a child.

Does Pope John Paul II like graffiti? In Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Holy See, the Pope compared graffiti to "the soul crying out against indifference."

Woodstock MC Wavy Gravy (aka Hugh Romney), dubbed "Clown Prince of the Counter Culture" for his years with Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters (and since then namesake of a Ben & Jerry's chocolate fudge hazelnut caramel cashew almond Brazil-nut ice cream), has a show of collages at the Firehouse Gallery in Bordentown, N.J., Apr. 3-26, 1999.

It's a little late for Easter, but an auction of goose eggs decorated by celebrities is scheduled for Apr. 24 in San Diego to benefit the Big Sisters charity. Bob Hope doodled pink and green flowers in magic marker on his egg, while Magic Johnson put an L.A. Lakers logo on his pink and red egg. Whoopi Goldberg's egg is set in a nest of lime green raffia, while Garfield cartoonist Jim Davis did a drawing of his famous cat on his egg.

An Australian auction house is selling the remnants of a porcelain dinner set once owned by Adolf Hitler. Of the dictator's 48 piece-set, only two vases survive, both decorated with delicate images of pretty mountain flowers. Though Hitler was hardly known for his taste in the decorative arts, the presale estimate is a hefty $150,000.

Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman star Jane Seymour was caught eyeing a portrait of Catherine of Aragon for sale at Sotheby's London. The painting, expected to go for almost $50,000, originally hung in St. Catherine's Court, the actress's home near Bath. Seymour changed her name from Joyce Frankenberg to that of Henry VIII's third wife when she launched her acting career.

Museums are turning to celebrities to record their "acousti-guides." George Takei presents the exhibitions at the Japanese-American National Museum in L.A. (where he is also a trustee) and ex-Julia Roberts hubbie Lyle Lovett can be heard on the artphone presentation at the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston.

The London Times notes that the prices of Campbell's Soup paintings by Andy Warhol vary depending on the flavor of the soup depicted. This discrepancy is particularly evident in print sales. A Warhol tomato soup, selling for $10,000, costs collectors more than a green pea or a chicken noodle, while a black bean goes for as little as $4,000. "People have a connection to certain flavors," says a Manhattan gallery owner. "Maybe it goes back to childhood memories." Needless to say, celebrities sell for much more, Marilyn Monroe especially.

R & R Enterprises in Bedford, N.H., offered up four interesting celebrity drawings at last month's auction. An 7 by 10 inch self-portrait by Norman Mailer with heavy eyebrows went for $125 (minimum bid $75); a self-portrait by Robert Mitchum went for $68 (minimum bid $50); an 8 by 11 inch two-color self-portrait by Janet Leigh of herself in a shower with red blood running down the drain went for $134 (minimum bid $100) and a two-color 7 by 10 inch self-portrait as a cleaning woman by Carl Burnett went for a surprisingly high $113 with only a minimum bid of $50.

Michael Caine, who once said that he appears in a movie every time his wife needs a new carpet, might not have to take any more film roles after he sold nine paintings from his collection at Sotheby's London, including a Picasso for $112,866. Among the works which came under the hammer were two Picassos, a Modigliani and an Alberto Giacometti.

Vivienne Westwood, traditionalist? She told SOMA magazine that she thinks the paintings at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles have been ruined by overcleaning. "Some nerd has cleaned them," she said. "If I took your skin, I wouldn't recognize you, now would I?''

The marketing craze has also hit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, which was originally intended to preserve the ambiance of Peg's palazzo, says Town & Country. After looking at the pictures, the tourist can browse in the gift shop, which features such items as outsize Peggy Guggenheim sunglasses for $85; a version of the leopard-printed velvet handbag that she loved so well for $119; and "handsome butter-soft kid mule shoes, like the ones designed and worn by Guggenheim herself" for $156 a pair.


BAIRD JONES is a New York curator and writer.