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Alice Cooper Found an Original Andy Warhol Among his old Touring Equipment

Brad Smithfield
Alice Cooper and Andy Warhol

It seems that Alice Cooper finally remembered where he put that Warhol screenprint from decades ago, a thoughtful gift from his then-girlfriend Cindy Lang. The shock-rock legend admits “it was a rock &  roll time,” with the valuable work of art being discovered among some old tour equipment.

The fantastic piece was stored with the singer’s touring collection and quickly forgotten in a mist of substance abuse. Cooper’s longtime manager, Shep Gordon, remembered from a conversation he’d had some years ago with an art dealer, Ruth Bloom, that when she told him how much Warhol’s works fetch today, a memory sparked. With the help of Cooper’s mother, Gordon set out to look for the screenprint. They found it rolled up in a tube inside a storage locker.

Cooper forgot he was even given a genuine Warhol piece, dubbed Little Electric Chair, in 1974. Since then, it was kept in a temperature-controlled tube in an L.A. storage facility, forgotten about until a few years ago, as Edward Helmore reported for The Guardian. Not long after receiving the gift, Cooper admitted himself into a psychiatric ward to receive treatment for his serious alcohol and substance dependence.

Alice Cooper in 2013. By Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 3.0.

Alice Cooper in 2013. By Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 3.0.

Allegedly, Cindy Lang paid $2,500 for the 1964-65 red silk screen, a piece from Warhol’s “Death and Disaster” series, when the pop-artist photographed an electric chair at Sing Sing Correctional Facility.

Warhol visited the death chamber at Sing Sing to take the famous photo that was then used for the series of different colored screenprints. The controversial subject caught his attention during the 1953 execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Julius and Rosenberg were sentenced to death for “conspiring with the Soviet Union” and leaking classified government secrets. Roger Kamholz of Sotheby’s says that the artist gained great inspiration from photographs of car crashes, suicides, and “even tainted cans of tuna fish.”

As the story goes, when Cooper moved to New York City with Cindy Lang, they quickly became friends with Warhol, first meeting him around 1972. Gordon told Edward Helmore about the fast times of the famous rock & roll friendships: “Andy was kind of a groupie, and so was Alice. They loved famous people. So they started a relationship, and they loved to hang out.”

Andy Warhol. Photo credit by Jack Mitchel CC BY-SA 4.0.

Andy Warhol. Photo credit by Jack Mitchel CC BY-SA 4.0.

Since first rediscovering the exciting piece, Cooper has been consulting with various art dealers about the value of the Warhol piece. A different Little Electric Chair print was auctioned at Christie’s for a staggering $11.6 million in 2015, which was issued directly from the Andy Warhol Foundation.

The difference is that the print that Alice Cooper found is not from the foundation. Other prints like this one may catch a $10,000 price at auctions, a very low standard because the print is unsigned by Warhol.

Despite the print being unsigned, art dealer Richard Polsky reports to Artnet: “Everything checked out. Alice and Andy were good friends in the early 70s… Alice went to Studio 54 with Andy on many occasions.”

“Big Electric Chair” by Andy Warhol, 1967. Author: corno.fulgur75 CC By 2.0

“Big Electric Chair” by Andy Warhol, 1967. Author: corno.fulgur75 CC By 2.0

Other details about the $2,500 transaction are a bit hazy: “Alice says he remembers having a conversation with Warhol about the picture,” Shep Gordon reports. “He thinks the conversation was real, but he couldn’t put his hand on a Bible and say that it was.”

Cooper performing live at Wembley Arena in 2012. Photo credit – by Kreepin Deth CC BY-SA 3.0.

Cooper performing live at Wembley Arena in 2012. Photo credit – by Kreepin Deth CC BY-SA 3.0.

The man who wrote “School’s Out” doesn’t seem to mind at all. According to Gordon, Cooper just might hang the brilliant piece in his room, like a teenager would put a poster on his wall for all he cares. He is currently on his UK tour.

Read another story from us: Basquiat: the Neo-Expressionist painter known for his primitive style & friendship with Andy Warhol

Amusingly, during his shock-rock era in the ’70s, the theatrical master would set up electric-chair props on the stage and would emulate an execution, much to the audience’s “shock.” The props were similar to the one featured on Warhol’s print.

Cindy Lang definitely guessed right when she chose the gift for the singer.