It has nothing on Orange, Red, Yellow — the abstract painting that reportedly just set a contemporary art auction record with an $86.9 million dollar price tag — but the combination of Andy Warhol and Elvis Presley still proved lucrative when it went up for auction at Sotheby’s on Wednesday.
Warhol’s silkscreen “Double Elvis [Ferus Type]” was sold for a hefty $37 million dollars, according to the auction house. It didn’t live up to the high-end of the predicted $30 to $50 million price tag that Sotheby’s estimated that it could sell for — so maybe, in a relative way, this priceless piece was a bargain.
And the buyer? According to The New York Times, the winning bidder was dealer José Mugrabi, who was once reported to have the “world’s largest private stash” of Warhol paintings — 800 of them in total. The Wall Street Journal profile of the dealer in 2008 included one humorous incident highlighting how hard it must be to keep track of his hundreds of purchases:
When asked how many Warhols he owns, Mr. Mugrabi furrowed his eyebrows and stared off into a corner of the room. “Esty!” he bellowed. “Warhols, how many do I have?” Less than a minute later, his longtime assistant, Esty Neuman, popped through the door from the reception area holding a printout.
“Eight hundred,” she said, matter of factly.
The “Double Elvis” Warhol portrait, as Sotheby’s effusively described it in a news release prior to the sale, showcased Elvis Presley as a Western gunslinger on a silver background. This work, of the 22 Elvis paintings in the series, was created in 1963 and was billed as the “first Double Elvis to appear on the market since 1995.”