American rock singer-songwriter Alice Cooper has recently (re)discovered a custom art piece from one of his old friends, pop art icon Andy Warhol. The rock star discovered the piece in a storage locker, in his words, ‘rolled up in a tube’, where it sat, forgotten and unknown for more than 4 decades.
The piece in question is a 1964 red silkscreen iteration of Warhol’s the ‘Little Electric Chair’, which is part of his Death and Disaster series. The piece had never seen the confinement of a frame, and was left, rolled up alongside touring paraphernalia that Cooper used back in the early 70s as part of his stage routine, which, incidentally, included an actual electric chair.
According to Alice Cooper’s longtime manager, Shep Gordon, Cooper and Warhol became friends when they met back at Max’s Kansas City in the Big Apple, back in 1972. Gordon said that Andy met Cooper because both were ‘groupies’ they loved the environment of famous people, and the two became close.
Warhol went to one of Cooper’s concerts, wherein part of the performance was Cooper pretending to be executed via electric chair. The image from the silkscreen print, is based on a press release photo of the Sing Sing Prison’s death chamber released early 1953, where Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for selling American atomic secrets to the Ruskies.
After the artwork was made, Cindy Lang, Cooper’s girlfriend, bought the picture from Warhol, which she purchased with money from Gordon. The piece then made its way into Cooper’s touring equipment, where it was promptly forgotten about, only to be remembered recently when Ruth Bloom, an LA art dealer, spoke of how much a Warhol piece fetched for in an auction.
The Little Electric Chair piece remains unauthenticated, for it does not have any identification or signature from Andy Warhol himself, and, as such, will not fetch as much as it should at an auction. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts stopped their authentication services in 2011 following a long legal battle with British collector Joe Simon regarding his self-portrait.
The canvas however, was backed by Richard Polsky, an expert on Warhol pieces, saying that the silkscreen checks out, and that it is a genuine Warhol piece.
Alice Cooper has stated his intention to keep the piece and hang it in his home, to be admired once he comes off tour at the year’s end.
According to Gordon, Cooper’s face was a sight to see when he passed along the estimate from Polsky. Cooper was said to have reacted effusively, asking Gordon if he was serious, seeing as he never expected something like a custom art piece of an electric chair to have such value.