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Previously Unknown Original Warhol Silkscreen to Headline Labor Day Sale

by Special to WorthPoint (08/13/13).

The expected top lot of a Labor Day sale to be hosted Col. Kirk’s Auction Gallery is this previously unknown silkscreen work by Pop Art icon Andy Warhol. The silkscreen, a probable one-of-a-kind, is titled “Of Thee I Sing – Nico”—“Nico” being the nickname given to Warhol’s lifelong friend, the fashion model Christa Paffgen.

MILLVILLE, Pa. – A previously unknown and never before offered silkscreen by Pop Art icon Andy Warhol is the expected headliner at a Labor Day sale planned for Monday, Sept. 2, by Col. Kirk’s Auction Gallery, in the firm’s gallery here in Millville, a town in central Pennsylvania.

The silkscreen, a probable one-of-a-kind, is titled “Of Thee I Sing – Nico”—“Nico” being the nickname given to Warhol’s lifelong friend, the fashion model Christa Paffgen. The piece is unsigned, but it was printed on woven paper made especially for Warhol (1928-1987), and is fairly typical of his work, showing a stylized American flag with bold red stripes and a double image of “Nico.”

The silkscreen was purchased sometime in the late 1960s or early ’70s by a well-to-do woman who was a patron of the arts and a one-time part owner of Wonder Bread and Archway Cookies during the Great Depression. She bought it from a gallery in New York City then took it home to Boston, where it’s been kept for decades. It is believed to be the only one in existence.

Only recently did the silkscreen’s co-owners surface and decide to sell, through Col. Kirk’s Auction.

“And that was our good fortune, because with that Warhol, we anticipate having our best Labor Day auction ever,” said Kirk S. Williams, auctioneer and owner of the firm. “In addition to that great lot, we also have period furniture, stoneware, glassware and other artwork.”

Sharing top billing with Warhol in the fine art category will be more than a half-dozen pastels by William Henry Chandler (Am., 1854-1928). Born in New York City, Chandler was a prolific pastel artist and later had a company that probably produced more pastels than any other artist of his time. His works included landscapes, winter scenes, marine and seascapes and still lifes. Chandler was popular in his own time and his style was often copied by other artists.

The auction will also feature many rare early bronze pieces, plus unique one-of-a-kinds. One lot sure to get attention is a Nostradamus Gazing Bowl prototype, signed by the artist Craig Litta, in bronze. Many original oil paintings will also come up for bid, as will a fine selection of clocks, including a marble clock with a solid gold face and two clocks with mercury pendulums.

The sale will also contain Murano figures, many lovely and highly collectible perfume bottles and atomizers, Prussia, Roseville pottery, original Mary Gregory glassware, spouted Yelloware, crystal pieces (including dogs and a lamp), vintage oil lamps, figural elephants and roosters, a vintage vase, a hand-crafted brass creation, and dozens of smalls and decorative items.

This ancient figural bronze of a large cat or tiger, with cub in its mouth, is about 2,000 years old, 13 ½ inches long. It should get paddles wagging during bidding.

But it’s the Warhol that is bound to get the most attention, in part because of who created it and in part for its rarity. In all probability, Warhol made the piece for Christa Paffgen herself. It is unknown as to how it ended up for sale in a New York gallery around the time it was done, and authentication of such works has become impossible. In summary, its history is a mystery.

Paffgen (1938-1988) is a figure as enigmatic and rooted in the culture of her time as the man who immortalized her in his silkscreen. She was discovered in her native Germany at age 16 by the photographer Herbert Tobias, who nicknamed her “Nico.” She worked for Vogue, Vie Nuove and Coco Chanel before coming to the United States at age 17, around the mid-1950s.

In 1965, Bob Dylan wrote the song “I’ll Keep It With Mine” for her. She seemed to have a knack for enchanting nearly everyone she met, and that is no doubt what happened with Warhol. She became active with him in the anti-war movement, which greatly touched him and probably inspired him to create “Of Thee I Sing.” It represented two of Warhol’s passions: Nico and peace.

This beautiful Prussia chocolate set from circa 1930s, consisting of a pitcher, five cups and tray, will find a new home on Sept. 2.

Paffgen was more than just a model, or even Andy Warhol’s muse. She was also a singer-songwriter who collaborated with Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground on their debut album, “The Velvet Underground & Nico” (1967). She was also an actress, appearing in Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” (1960) and Warhol’s “Chelsea Girls” (1966). She died in a cycling accident in Ibiza, Spain, in 1988, at age 49. She will probably be best remembered as a Warhol Superstar.

“Of Thee I Sing – Nico” measures 18 inches by 24 inches. With a professional three-inch mat and frame, the total size is 26 inches by 32 inches.

A 10-percent buyer’s premium will apply to all purchases at the auction. Terms of sale will be cash, a bank-approved or certified check, and major credit cards. A preview will be held on auction day, Sept. 2, from 9 a.m. until the first gavel comes down, promptly at 11 a.m. for more information about this auction, call 570.458.6682; e-mail to akshner@verizon.net or visit the Col. Kirk’s Auction Gallery website.


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