$80 Million Andy Warhol Elvis Painting Elbowed at SFMOMA

A painting from the same series was the subject of recent controversy.

Andy Warhol, Triple Elvis [Ferus Type] (1963), similar to the one at SFMOMA sold for $81.9 million (estimate in the region of $70 million). Courtesy of Christie's.
Andy Warhol, Triple Elvis [Ferus Type] (1963), similar to the one at SFMOMA sold for $81.9 million (estimate in the region of $70 million). Courtesy of Christie's.

The new SFMOMA, with its ambitious $300 million expansion, has been open for barely two weeks, but apparently that’s long enough to fall victim to a freak accident. A museumgoer tripped and hit the surface of Andy Warhol’s 1963 Triple Elvis [Ferus Type] painting on June 2 while visiting the new San Francisco museum.

Kron4 reports that the painting was removed from the gallery on Friday morning, and it is currently in the museum’s conservation studio, where it is being thoroughly evaluated.

The painting—one in a series of 22 silkscreens that Warhol did in the 1960s depicting Elvis Presley as a cowboy—belongs to the collection of Doris and Donald Fisher, whose donation of their massive art collection inspired SFMOMA to expand in order to be able accommodate and display the artworks from their trove properly.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Courtesy the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, © Henrik Kam.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Courtesy the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ©Henrik Kam.

The museum stated it wouldn’t be issuing a press release regarding the incident, but according to Kron4, conservators think the contact between the elbow of the museum goer and the painting was “minimal.”

The work is similar to one that sold in November 2014 at Christie’s New York for $81.9 million, according to the artnet Price Database. That work came from the state funded collection of North Rhine-Westphalia, and was owned by the German casino conglomerate WestSpiel, a subsidiary of the state bank of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW Bank), which has been accruing losses for years.

News of the plans to sell this and another work by Warhol sparked a huge backlash in Germany, with 26 German museum directors launching a petition to halt the sale, calling it a “controversial political issue with considerable ripple effect.”

German culture minister, Monika Grütters, replied to the outcry at the time, saying that the works would not be used to pay off the casino’s debt. However, an investigation by the German paper FAZ showed that the proceeds were in fact used to pay off the state-owned casino’s considerable debt despite previous denials.


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