Andy Warhol – Two Biographies.

As readers of this blog may have read, I started researching the circumstances of Andy Warhol’s death. I planned to write a scientific article aimed at publication in a reputable medical journal and and had, basically, finished writing the article.

However, in my studies I found references to Andy Warhol having been admitted to hospital in 1973 for “kidney stones”. I wanted to find out more about this and and an Internet search turned up a reference to Bob Colacello’s 1990 book “Holy Terror-Andy Warhol Close Up”. For those who may not recognise Colacello’s name, he was headhunted by Warhol in 1970 and made editor of Warhol’s Inter/WIEW (the original spelling of what became Interview magazine). He was a close associate of Warhol’s from then on, until Warhol died. So I had to get hold of Colacello’s book to find the reference.

Holy Terror
The cover of Bob Colacello’s “Holy Terror-Andy Warhol Close Up”.

While doing so, I saw an advert for Victor Bockris’s 1989 Warhol biography “The Life and Death of Andy Warhol”. Well, well; I thought I had better read this to see if it shed more light on the circumstances leading up to and the consequences of Warhol’s untimely death.

Life & Death of AW
Victor Bockris’s “The Life and Death of Andy Warhol”.

Both these books were published relatively soon after Warhol’s death and included interviews with his many associates. As soon as I started to read Bockris’s fantastically well researched book, I realised there was a lot more medical history that I had hitherto included in my medical paper. It really was a case of throwing out my original manuscript and starting again.

The Warhola family were immigrants to the US from Miková in Slovakia. Andy’s father, Andrej (1886 – 1942), had married Julia Justina Zavacá (1892-1972) in 1909 (and she gave birth to a daughter in 1914, who died just six months old). Andrej emigrated to Pittsburgh at about that time and could not afford to send for Julia until 1921. As Bockris points out, the Warhola family lived in pitiful conditions in prewar Pittsburgh. Andrej worked hard, travelling far and wide after work as was often away from Pittsburgh for weeks or months. Despite his travels, he and Julia had three sons, Paul (1922 – 2014), John (1925 – 2010) and Andrew (1928 – 1987). Andrej died when Andrew was just 13.

The younger Andrew was a sickly child. He had swollen eyes when he was 2 years old and when he was four he fell on streetcar tracks and broke his right arm–but it wasn’t treated until several months later! At six he caught scarlet fever and developed rheumatic fever and chorea (St. Vitus’s Dance”) afterwards. He was initially kept in bed for four weeks and was thought to have got over it but when he was about to return to school he didn’t want to go and his legs gave out under him. It wasn’t appreciated that he had a relapse and he was back in bed for a further four weeks, during which time Julia encouraged him to draw.

Andrej was a thrifty man and saved as much as he could. However, the family could not afford to educate their two older sons, but when Andrej died he made Julia promise that his savings should be used to send Andrew through college. Julia fulfilled this promise.

Andy stated that he had had three nervous breakdowns as a child. It is impossible to decide exactly what he meant by “nervous breakdowns, but he remained an anxious child with several phobias. Most prominent among these was his fear of hospitals that probably developed when his mother was operated on for colon cancer in 1944, when Andy was 16, and forced to have a colostomy. And later, his fear of flying. He was also afraid of the dark, and this would allow him to work (or party) into the early hours. In addition, he developed strange dietary habits, living mainly on candy. And even as an adult, he would refuse to eat ordinary food. Andy began to lose hair relatively early and started to wear wigs from about the age of 25. He also felt he was ugly and that his nose was too bulbous and, in 1956, he had a nose job (which he felt made matters worse). He complained that his skin was blotch and he had rashes round his genitals, which was said to make him sky of showing himself nude and thus affected his relationships.

As Bob Colacello revealed, Andy’s “kidney stones” were, in fact, gallstones–the first time he developed symptoms of the disease that would force him to submit to an operation fourteen years later. Warhol was always careful t avoid fatty foods or those with cream in case this gallbladder problems would recur.

Towards the end of 1986 he was in almost constant abdominal pain. In January 1987 he went to Milan for the opening of his Last Supper paintings exhibition. He was really unwell during the trip and on his return contacted his dermatologist (who was treating him with fillers) on St. Valentines’ day to ask for painkillers. She refused to give him stronger tablets and convinced him to get an ultrasound scan, which confirmed that his gallbladder was enlarged and that he needed an operation. He saw Dr Bjorn Thorbjarnarson, a well-renown surgeon who had removed the Shah of Persia’s gallbladder, on 17th February. The same day, despite his pain, he took part in a celebrity fashion show and was photographed together with Miles Davis looking rather haggard.

Andy didn’t want an operation and said that he would make Dr Thorbjarnarson rich if he didn’t operate. However, Andy was admitted to the New York Hospital on 20th February for operation the following day.

That is Andy Warhol’s somewhat expanded medical history. Blake Gopnik is said to be writing yet another Warhol biography that promises to me more racy, delving deeper into Warhol’s sex life to dispel the image of Warhol’s celibacy. Stay around for further reports.


My Collection of Andy Warhol’s Record Cover Art — Is This as Far as I Can Go?

I have been collecting Andy Warhol’s record cover art more seriously since about 1982. Once Ebay started I found research into Warhol’s 1950s cover art easier and in the early part of the 2000s could collect some rare covers quite reasonably. But, I suppose it was in about 2006 or 2007 that I got to know Warhol collector Guy Minnebach, who gave me amazing help to boost my collection.

In around 2007, I had the (not too original) idea of putting on an exhibition of ALL of Andy Warhol’s record covers and it came about in time for what would have been Warhol’s 80th Birthday in 2008. The exhibition, at Piteå Museum, in northern Sweden, wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Jan Wimander and, of course, Guy Minnebach–who lent me several extremely rare covers to photograph for the exhibition and who helped hang the covers. Little did I know at the time that the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was planning a major Warhol retrospective entitled “Warhol Live!” that concentrated on his connection to music and film and included what would have been the first properly curated exhibition of Warhol’s record cover art had we not pipped the Montreal Museum at the post, by opening a couple of months earlier!

Our exhibition included sixty-five covers. The Montreal exhibition showed Paul Maréchal’s wonderful cover collection that included the “Night Beat” box, that neither Guy nor I had seen. In addition, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts launched Paul Maréchal’s book “Andy Warhol – The Record Covers, 1949-1987. Catalogue Raisonné”, the first serious attempt to document Warhol’s record cover art.

The discovery of the “Night Beat” box, together with Guy Minnebach’s earlier discovery of the “Waltzes by Johann Strauss, Jr.” EP showed that there were probably more previously unrecognised Warhol covers out there, and, only a month after our exhibition in Piteå closed, I was tipped off about a cover by the Swedish band RATFAB (Roland and the Flying Albatross Band) that Warhol had drawn in 1984. Since then more covers have been found and motivated an updated version of Paul Maréchal’s catalogue raisonné, this time renamed “Andy Warhol–The Complete Commissioned Record Covers, 1949-1987”.

I have several times in blog posts warned against saying a collection is “complete”–as  new items usually turn up immediately one says a collection is complete. So, even with Paul Maréchal’s book!

My list of Warhol covers includes bootlegs and records and CDs released after Warhol’s death in 1987 and today has 248 separate items. 228 of them are currently in my collection, with only five of the twenty omissions that I would call “essential”–the pink version of Prokofiev’s “Alexander Nevsky” (from 1949), the “Night Beat” box (1949 or 1950), the Japanese EP of Mendelsson’s “Scherzo” (with the “Cool Gabriels artwork) , an original “Giant Size $1.57 Each” cover (1963) and the limited edition Keith Richards bootleg LP “Unknown Dreams” (1977).

I have made facsimile editions of the “Night Beat” box, the five versions of the “Giant Size $1.57 Each” cover (with white, red, yellow, green & orange backgrounds) as well as a version of the unreleased “Progressive Piano” EP and 10″ LP and the recently “discovered” “Voices and Events” box. I’m toying with the idea of making a facsimile of the pink “Alexander Nevsky”, which shouldn’t be too difficult, but I don’t have a decent high resolution image for the “Unknown Dreams” album cover to be able to make one of those. So, is this as near completion as I can get?

I’m Talking – “Lead the Way”, an Australian Single With a Warhol Cover.

Warhol cover collectors are constantly on the look out for previously unrecognised records with Andy Warhol’s  art on the cover. Warhol Cover Collector Club (WCCC) member Kevin Kinney seems to have an eye for them. He recently reported an 1985 Australian single by a band (improbably) called I’m Talking that reproduced Warhol’s print from around 1962 titled “Marilyn’s Lips”

Andy Warhol’s “Marilyn’s Lips” print.

I’m Talking was formed in Melbourne, Australia in 1983 and had top ten hit singles in Australia with  “Trust Me”, “Do You Wanna Be?” and “Holy Word” Their 1986 album, “Bear Witness” made the top 15 in the Australian album charts. The band released ten singles between 1984 and 1986 and the “Bear Witness” LP in 1986 (there was also a compilation album “Dancing”, released in 1988). “Lead the Way”, the band’s third single was released in 1985 as a two-track seven inch and a limited edition three-track twelve inch maxi single, both with the same cover.

Lead the Way-7"
I’m Talking’s “Lead the Way” 7″ single cover.

While each panel of Warhol’s original has 84 (12 x 7) images, the I’m Talking cover only shows 77 (11 x 7) images, but the cover art is unmistakably based on the left-hand panel of Warhol’s original(note the two sets of lips at bottom right on the cover, that match the botton two lips on the left-hand panel of Warhol’s original.) There is, however, no credit anywhere on the cover or record. I suppose that as the record was only released in Australia and New Zealand, Andy Warhol would not have heard about the use of his image on the cover.

Thank you Kevin for tipping us off on this one.

Warhol’s Portrait of Prince – Another Law Suit.

Andy Warhol painted his portrait of Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016) in 1984 and it appeared in the November issue of Vanity Fair that same year and was used for the cover of Conde Nast’s 2016 memorial magazine “The Genius of Prince”.

The cover of Condé Nast’s Prince commemorative magazine.


Warhol always worked from photographs, usually, though with some famous exceptions, using ones he had taken himself–most commonly with his Polaroid camera.

Andy Warhol’s portrait of Prince.

However, Prince was less than pleased with it, reportedly saying that Warhol’s portrait of MJ (Michael Jackson) was much better!

One photograph that Warhol did not take, however, was the basis for his Flower silkscreens in 1964. He found Patricia Caulfield’s photo of hibiscus flowers in a 1964 issue of the magazine Modern Photography and appropriated it.

Patricia Caulfield’s hibiscus flower photograph.

Two years later Caulfield sued Warhol for infringement of copyright and in a settlement, Warhol offered her two sets of the Flowers prints; an offer Caulfield refused preferring a cash settlement.

Lynn Goldsmith (2013).

In 1981, photographer Lynn Goldsmith had taken a publicity photo of Prince. Warhol’s portrait image looks suspiciously like it is copied from Goldsmith’s photograph and Goldsmith tried to achieve a settlement with the Warhol Foundation for the use of the image. However, the Warhol Foundation, in a preemptive move, decided to sue Goldmith to prevent her from taking legal action against it.

Court comparison of Goldsmith’s photo (left) with Warhol’s portrait (right).

It seems that fair use laws in the U.S. mean that an artist may use other artists work as the basis for their own work and that Warhol’s art is protected under these laws. It seems that Lynn Goldsmith will not benefit from Warhol’s possible use of her original photograph.


Andy Warhol’s Death – Probably Unnecessary.

Thirty years have passed since Andy Warhol died on 22nd February 1987 after what newspapers called “a routine gallbladder operation”. The upcoming anniversary stimulated retired surgeon Dr. John Ryan, of Seattle, WA, to research the circumstances of Warhol’s death, which he presented on the 19th February 2017 at the annual meeting of the Pacific Coast Surgical Association. Dr. Ryan’s findings suggest that the operation was far from “routine”.

Warhol was pathologically afraid of hospitals and wanted to avoid being admitted to hospital or being subjected to any operation. He had a personal physician, a Dr. Denton S. Cox who looked after him for many years. Warhol had symptoms of gallbladder disease for at least fifteen years prior to being admitted to the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center on 20th February 1987. He had increased symptoms in the weeks or months before his admission and had barely eaten in the month before seeing renowned surgeon Dr. Bjorn Thorbjarnarson on 17th February. Warhol reportedly said to Dr. Thorbjarnarson “I will make you a rich man if you don’t operate on me.” At the time Warhol who was 5′ 11″ (about 180 cm) tall, weighed 128 lbs (58.2 kg). He was also anaemic and dehydrated.

So, why was the cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) not “routine”? On 3rd June 1968 Warhol was shot in the chest by playwright and actress Valerie Solanas (1936-1988) who had loaned Warhol a copy of the manuscript to her play “Up Your Ass”, asking Warhol’s opinion of the play. When in May 1968 she asked for the manuscript to be returned, Warhol told her he had lost it. Solanas borrowed $50 and used the money to buy a 32 calibre handgun. She returned to The Factory early on the morning of June 3rd, and was met by Morrissey who asked her what she wanted. She said she wanted to see Warhol, but was told that he would not be at the Factory that day. However, Solanas would not leave, but hung about and eventually Warhol arrived and they got into the lift together. Once inside the Factory, at about 2.00 p.m. Warhol received a telephone call and while on the phone, Solanas fired three shots at him. The first two shots missed, but the third hit Warhol in the chest, puncturing both lungs, his spleen, stomach, liver, and oesophagus. She then turned the gun on art critic Mario Amaya shooting him in the hip and then tried to shoot Warhol’s manager, Fred Hughes, but luckily the gun jammed.

Warhol was seriously injured and taken to the Columbus-Mother Cabrini Hospital where he arrived pulseless. Warhol was pronounced clinically dead at 4.15 p.m. Vascular surgeon Giuseppe Rossi (1928-2016), who had considerable experience in operating on victims of gunshot wounds, was on duty.

Dr. Guiseppe Rossi, photographed in 1969, the surgeon who resuscitated Warhol.

Dr. Rossi found what he thought was a homeless old man, pale and without circulation and started heroic resuscitation. He opened Warhol’s chest and performed open heart massage while transfusing him with 12 units of blood. He then operated for five hours to repair Warhol’s internal injuries, removing the lower lobe of Warhol’s right lung and his spleen in the process. Miraculously, Warhol recovered, but was marked by the event, developing an incisional hernia which forced him to wear a corset for the rest of his life. It is said he also had a constantly weeping abdominal sore. Richard Avedon took a famous photo of Warhol the following year and Robert Levin took a much less well-known photo of him in May 1981, showing him wearing his hernia corset.

Three days after the appointment, Warhol finally allowed himself to be admitted to the New York Hospital and Dr. Thorbjarnarson performed the cholecystectomy on the morning of 21st February 1987. At operation, Warhol’s gallbladder was found to “be gangrenous” and fell apart as it was being removed. Dr. Thorbjarnarson decided also to repair Warhol’s hernia at the same time. Despite the complicated procedure, Warhol recovered well. He spent three hours in the recovery room before returning to his private room where he was in good spirits and in the ecening watched television and at 9.30 p.m. phoned his housekeepers. His nurse, Ms. Min Chou, checked on him at 0400 h on the 22nd February and saw all was well, but at 0545 she found him “blue and unresponsive” and stared “respiratory manoeuvres” and called the hospital’s cardiac arrest team. Despite resuscitation efforts Warhol was pronounced dead at 0631 h.

A post mortem examination was performed and found Warhol to weigh 150 lbs (68.2 kg), significantly more than when he entered the hospital. His lungs were filled with fluid and his trachea was filled with pink, frothy fluid, signifying pulmonary oedema. The cause of death was ascribed to “ventricular fibrillation”. However, Warhol’s death certificate, registered by his brother John Warhola, on 26th February stated simply “pending further study.

warhols death cert
Andy Warhol’s death certificate.

At autopsy the cause of death was said to be due to “ventricular fibrillation”. Warhol’s lungs were found to be filled with fluid and his trachea brimmed with a pinkish fluid, signifying fluid overload. It was later said he died of a heart attack secondary to the stress of the operation and fluid overload.

An inquiry into Warhol’s death was held in April 1987 and concluded that his care was unsatisfactory. Warhol had not been properly examined or adequate tests taken before he was operated on. The inquiry found no fault in the surgery.

In 1991, Warhol’s estate (his two brothers and the Warhol Foundation) sued the hospital for lack of care and after a settlement were awarded a sum assumed to be $3 million.

Dr. Guiseppe Rossi knew nothing about Andy Warhol or about Pop Art. Warhol rewarded him with several prints and a complete folio of Soup Cans II. Dr. Rossi didn’t know what to do with them and they were stored under his bed for decades. Since Dr. Rossi’s death in 2016, his family decided to sell the prints and Christies will be auctioning them on 24th-25th October 2017. Warhol also sent Dr. Rossi a cheque for $1000, which bounced

Andy Warhol’s cheque to Dr. Guiseppe Rossi, dated September 1, 1968.

and was returned to Dr. Rossi, who had it framed and hung it on his wall.


This post is based on the following articles. Prints gifted by Warhol to the doctor who saved him. October 2017. (

Choplik, Blake: Andy Warhol’s Death: Not So Simple After All. New York Times, Feb 21, 2017.

Farber M. A. Warhol Received inadequate care in Hospital, Health Board Asserts. New York Times. April 11th, 1987.

Choplik, Blake:The Surgeon Who Saved Andy Warhol’s Life Has Died. The Daily Pic. March 14th 2016. (

Sullivan, Ronald D. Care Faulted in the Death of Warhol. New York Times, December 5th, 1991. (


“3D and the Art of Massive Attack”–A New Book on Rock Art.

Robert del Naja, a.k.a 3D, is a musician, artist and composer probably best known as being a founder member of the trip hop group Massive Attack. He has also other musical projects. del Naja was born in Bristol in 1965 and has been credited as the the city’s first graffiti artist and Banksy has named him as a major influence–it can be noted that suggestions have been made that del Naja IS Banksy! A real fact about him is that he is colour blind. Something that caused him problems in his early works–painting a self-portrait with green hair and brown Christmas trees.

I really liked the deceptively simple cover art for Massive Attack’s “Mezzanine” album, with its stag beetle image. Otherwise I had not paid particular attention to the group’s cover art. I was completely unaware that del Naja had a separate career as a record cover artist. He admits to have been designing covers for Mo’ Wax records for eight years–I once owned the 1994 Mo Wax vinyl samplers “Headz 1” and “Headz 2” with cover paintings by del Naja, though I then had no idea who he was.

Just recently, The Vinyl Factory published “3D & the Art of Massive Attack” by Robert del Naja and Sean Bidder–a 400 page book of Robert del Naja’s art. There are two versions, a popular edition selling for £50 or a limited edition of 350 signed copies selling for £350. I have the popular edition, which came sealed in cellophane with the Vinyl Factory sticker with bar cove on the outside. The book only contains pictures of del Naja’s artworks with no text apart from a three page interview in a separate 12-page booklet included in the package. Reviews of the book state that Banksy has written the book’s introduction, but I couldn’t find it in my copy–perhaps that’s only included in the limited edition…

Art of 3D-fr
The cover of Robert del Naja’s new book.

I was fascinated to find out that Robert del Naja has cooperated with photographer Nick Knight to produce record cover art. The “Mezzanine” cover is one example.

The “Mezzanine” front cover. Photo by Nick Knight.

Del Naja again approached Nick Knight for the cover photo for Massive Attack’s “best of” compilation “Collected”.

Nick Knight’s photograph on the cover of “Collected”.

Nick Knight’s most famous cover photographs are probably David Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” cover, Björk’s  1997 “Homogenic” or Nick Cave & The Bad Seed’s “The Boatman’s Call” covers, but he has also photographed Miguel Bosé (see a previous recordart post for another Miguel Bosé album) for the cover of his 1987 album “XXX” among many others.

I was disappointed with the book at first, but it lead me to start looking for more examples of Robert del Naja’s record covers and that has proved to be an interesting journey. I will have to try to contain my interest and NOT start collecting his covers.

The Capoeira Twins “4 x 3 / Truth Will Out” promo 12″.

I have an almost complete collection of records and CDs with cover art by the enigmatic Banksy. I started collecting Banksy cover in 2008, when prices were usually very reasonable–with many records costing as little as £6.99. A few rarer items cost up to £100. The only exceptions were the two covers ostensibly sprayed by Banksy himself. These are the 1999 12″ promotional single “Four (4 x 3)” by the Capoiera Twins and the promotional double LP “Melody A.M.” by Röyksopp. In July 2010 I was contacted by a DJ who was getting married and offered me his copy of the Röyksopp album, which I, naturally, snapped up. By 2016 I had almost all the records and CDs with Banksy cover art with the exception of the original Paris Hilton CD (the one with the sticker on the outside of the front of the jewel case), and the Capoeira Twins 12″.

4 x 3-fr
“Four (4 x 3)” by the Capoiera Twins (BLOWP008).
Numbered promo for Röyksopp’s 2001 album “Melody A.M.” – handstencilled by Banksy.

When, in April 2016, I was invited to show my collection in the major Banksy retrospective “War, Capitalism & Liberty” at Rome’s Palazzo Cipolla, these missing covers irked me. I had made a limited edition copy of the Capoiera Twins cover–almost indistinguishable from the real thing–and that would fill one of the gaps. Suddenly two copies of the first pressing of the Paris Hilton CD appeared on Ebay and I was lucky enough to get one in time for it to travel to Rome with the rest of my collection.

I have been looking for a copy of the Capoiera Twins’ 12″ ever since I first heard about it in 2008 without success. I missed a couple of copies early on, but then no further copies seemed to turn up other than in art galleries at inflated prices, until August 2017.

The stencil used for the cover art was also used on a wall in Bristol–I presume after it had been used for the record covers–at Portland Square (post code BS2 8SA).

Portland Square-Banksy
Banksy’s Capoeira Twins stencil in Portland Square, Bristol.

According to a seller of a copy of the record, Banksy gave 25 copies of the white label promotional record to friends and supporters, while the remaining 75 copies were sent to DJs and reviewers with no indication of the band name or the record title on the cover or record but with an A4 letter that Blowpop asked to be returned a couple of weeks prior to the release date. The record was a trip hop single that failed to garner much attention when it came out. I suppose the DJs who received copies played them a couple of times and filed them away or–as was common in the nineties and early 00s–sold them to secondhand record shops (one owner owned up to selling his copy in the early 2000s £1,99), or simply chucked them away. And–had it not been for the Banksy cover–would probably never have been heard of again.

A couple came up for sale on Ebay in around 2008 and, if I remember correctly, sold for £400-600. In the last couple of years the prices of vinyl records with Banksy art covers has increased dramatically and suddenly four or five copies of the Capoeira Twins “4 x 3” have been auctioned off for amazing prices of £5000-6000! Another sold in October for a bargain £4223.23. A further two copies appeared in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, in November and I snatched one of them, the other selling for £6,500.

There is another hand sprayed Banksy cover that has also increased dramatically in price recently. I refer to Röyksopp’s “Melody A.M.” promotional double LP.

Just as I was about to buy my copy of the Capoiera Twins record, a new record with Bnaksy art appeared. This was another white label 12″ single “Funk tha Police” by a band called Boys in Blue that had Banksy’s “Rude Copper” as its cover art. This is said to be a limited edition of 100 copies, so I duly invested.

Funk Tha Police-fr
The cover of the Boys in Blue’s 12″ single “Funk tha Police”.

Thus, as of November 2017, my collection of records and CDs with Banksy art is complete. I’ll have to keep watch for newer covers, of course, but it feels like my job is done here.

Record sleeve art by artists I collect