January 5, 2011
We've all been there. It's late, you're at home and you're spooked by one of your works of art – an Andy Warhol screen print of a smiling, smug Chairman Mao – so you pick up a gun and shoot it. One as a warning, the next through his eye.
In truth, only the late actor Dennis Hopper was there and it was the 1970s, a time when he was taking drugs in order to sober up quicker so he could start drinking again. Certainly his friend Warhol didn't mind, cheerfully annotating the two bullet holes.
As a result the work became a Warhol-Hopper collaboration, and it will be sold by Christie's in New York for an estimated £20,000-£30,000 next week, part of a sale of some 300 items of memorabilia and Hopper-owned art that filled his Venice Beach home from floor to ceiling. Many of the items are estimated in the low thousands of dollars and it follows the sale of Hopper's expensive stuff last November when 30 works were sold for a combined total of $12.8m (£8m) including a Jean-Michel Basquiat which went for $5.8m.
Hopper, who died last May aged 74, was a voracious collector from the 1950s onwards – encouraged by the actor Vincent Price – and a friend and patron to many artists as well as being a photographer and painter himself.
A family friend and trustee of Hopper's estate, Alex Hitz, described the Warhol incident. "One night in the shadows, Dennis, out of the corner of his eyes, saw the Mao and he was so spooked by it that he got up and shot at it, twice, putting two bullet holes in it.
"Andy saw it, loved it and annotated those holes," labelling them "warning shot" and "bullet hole".
Also included in the sale is a painted letter from the artist Jean Tinguely, brilliantly illustrated with familiar Tinguely motifs and the message – 'Thank you for the 3-phone calls. I am looking for to be in L.A!' There are also mementos from his films and career – a Waterworld-themed pinball machine anyone? – and numerous posters for movies including Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now, Blue Velvet and Speed.
Most of the art is 20th century, although there is the odd incongruous item. For example, if you want to own Hopper's 300-year-old Italian walnut buffet it will cost someone in the region of $1,000-1,500.
Other lots include a 1955 photograph of Hopper as doe-eyed pretty boy taken by fellow actor Roddy McDowell and a peculiar portrait of Hopper with a vampiric Christopher Walken taken at the Chateau Marmont hotel, LA, by Annie Leibowitz.
The collection is being sold on 11-12 January by Hopper's four children and they are, said Hitz, following their father's wishes.